Reviews for Evolution of God

Book News Reviews
A contributing editor at The New Republic, Wright (New American Foundation) explores the history of religion and its future from a materialist standpoint, believing that the origin and development of religion can be explained by reference to concrete, observable factors such as human nature, political and economic conditions, and technological change. He covers the birth and growth of gods, the emergence of Abrahamic monotheism, the invention of Christianity, the triumph of Islam, and God going or not going global. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Choice Reviews 2010 February
Wright (independent scholar) offers a historical narrative of the evolution of the God-concept in the minds, writings, and belief systems of humanity, beginning with a review of primordial faith systems. He focuses on Abrahamic views of the divine. Wright traces God notions among the inheritors of Middle Eastern monotheism with scholarship and insight. Even "if what the Bible says about Jesus isn't true," Wright asks, "does that make him less an incarnation of the Logos?" Scholarly and historical, this book nonetheless shows monotheists how they may learn to live in peace by salvaging what they have in common. Thus Wright gives a sympathetic account of the Koran in his efforts to seek unity behind division and diversity. He reminds readers of the importance of the moral principles emerging from religious sources. Wright argues that beyond the intangible gods and self-affirming prophets who were geographically constructed and culturally constrained, there may well be a divinity out there in an abstract, relevant form of a moral order. Hindu readers may be reminded of the Vedic notion of rita--the cosmic moral framework that sustains the world. This refreshing historical account of God and religion suggests ever so subtly that enlightened religion(s) and science can exist in happy harmony. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 April #2
Wright (Nonzero, 2001, etc.) joins the decade's bandwagon with a tome explaining away God as something people made up over time.Focusing on the monotheistic, "Abrahamic" God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the author trains his critical eye and evolutionary insight on the Bible and Koran and what they represent. In opposition to the Talmudic accounts of Abraham, Moses and other patriarchs, Wright sees a faith adapted by an indigenous people from polytheistic roots for social and even political reasons. "Apparently Abrahamic monotheism grew organically out of the ‘primitive' [religion] by a process more evolutionary than revolutionary," he writes. Extant scriptural accounts are the work of layer upon layer of editors who slowly turned polytheism into monotheism to serve the purposes of the times. None of this is particularly new; what Wright adds is his own language about how God, or rather our view of God, changes morally over time. "Monotheism turns out to be, morally speaking, a very malleable thing," he writes. "Circumstances change, and God changes with them." For instance, Wright argues that Jesus as most people know him, and indeed as the New Testament presents him, is very different from the "historical Jesus" gleaned by scholars from analysis of the texts. This argument has been gathering force for nearly a century, but the author adds an analysis of how supposed additions to Jesus' teachings came about due to moral issues faced by his later followers. Namely, preachers such as Paul wanted the movement to grow, and therefore ascribed to Jesus a love of all peoples and a universal mandate for evangelism. "Traditional believers," as Wright calls them, will find all this a difficult pill to swallow, but they do not appear to be his intended audience.Offers little new scholarship, but the in-depth approach yields original insights. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 February #2
The author of The Moral Animal tracks the repeating patterns in the three great monotheistic religions, whose scriptures reveal "maps of the landscapes of religious tolerance and religious intolerance." Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 July #1

While the diatribes of the "new atheists"-Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and company-have made headlines in recent years, Wright (The Moral Animal, Nonzero) takes a decidedly more friendly approach to human religiousness. Although he shares their materialist, naturalist assumptions, he argues that over time human notions of God have "gotten closer to moral and spiritual truth.Religion hasn't just evolved, it has matured." Making the best recent scholarship accessible to the general reader, Wright follows the historical trajectory from polytheism through monolatry (worship of one god among many) to monotheism, focusing primarily on the evolving vision of God in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an, and ending with a discussion of religion's place in human evolution. In his focus on scriptures, Wright avoids the philosophical terrain covered more intently in Karen Armstrong's The History of God and The Great Transformation. VERDICT Wright's approach will appeal to a broad range of readers turned off by the "either/or" choice between dogmatic atheism and religious traditionalism. Recommended for all readers engaged in consideration of our notions of God.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 May #2

In his illuminating book, The Moral Animal, Wright introduced evolutionary psychology and examined the ways that the morality of individuals might be hard-wired by nature rather than influenced by culture. With this book, he expands upon that work, turning now to explore how religion came to define larger and larger groups of people as part of the circle of moral consideration. Using a nave and antiquated approach to the sociology and anthropology of religion, Wright expends far too great an effort covering well-trod territory concerning the development of religions from "primitive" hunter-gatherer stages to monotheism. He finds in this evolution of religion, however, that the great monotheistic (he calls them "Abrahamic," a term not favored by many religion scholars) religions--Christianity, Islam, Judaism--all contain a code for the salvation of the world. Using game theory, he encourages individuals in these three faiths to embrace a non-zero-sum relationship to other religions, seeing their fortunes as positively correlated and interdependent and then acting with tolerance toward other religions. Regrettably, Wright's lively writing unveils little that is genuinely new or insightful about religion. (June)

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