REVIEW: “The Evolution of God” by Robert Wright

  • Posted on: 1 February 2013
  • By: TedG

In a group of four men who each have a scientific background (two biologists, a chemist, and an ER nurse), you might think that discussing a book on the “evolution of God” would be a short conversation… or not much of a conversation at all. In fact, the conversation was thoughtful and did not even touch on the scientific meaning of the word “evolution.”

In a brilliant move, Adrian suggested we start the discussion by sharing what each of us believed about God. Fortunately, everyone was comfortable with this idea, and it was an interesting round-robin. As you might expect, we all come from some form of Christianity––two Catholics, a Lutheran, and an Episcopalian. Such upbringing shaped our thinking, of course, but our current views on God, religion, and faith are slightly different from when we were younger. 

The four of us were interested enough by Wright’s exploration of religion and God that we generally liked the book. Adrian wondered why it was so focused on the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and did not delve as much into any other faiths. Early parts of the book discussed the development of animism and polytheism, but there was nothing about the current state of these belief systems. Of course, the book is about the “evolution of God,” which is ostensibly intended to focus on the rise of monotheism. It is not really a comparison of world religions. 

We were all looking forward to hearing what the two pastors in our group thought about the book. Unfortunately, neither could make it to the meeting, but one – Art – did send some thoughts by email. 

I really like it... don't agree with all of it, of course, but absolutely agree with most of it. For this Christian, the notion of an "evolution of God"––or I would term it an "evolution of our understanding of God"––is not threatening in the least. Nor does it shake my faith. I think, however, that this book would be regarded as heretical by some of my Christian pastor friends!  Were it not so long, I would use it as the basis for my adult Christian education class so as to help my people think about what they really believe and how they came to [think that way].

Wright does have an enjoyable writing style, which is necessary for a book of this sort. John summed it up nicely: “It's quite readable, but, much like when I read the Bible for confirmation classes, there are a lot of names and places. This is one of those books that you can't just breeze through; you have to pay close attention.” Still, Wright’s sense of humor comes through, and that’s one reason John said he would read another. Adrian and Irv were also interested in reading something else by Wright.  

Average rankings for this book (on a scale of 1 to 5) were 3.3 for Interest and 3.4 for Readability.  

 

Our February meeting would fall two days before the Birkebeiner, so we pushed it into March and will take February off. We will discuss Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire on Thursday, March 7th. We also made a group decision to read The Town of Watered-Down Whiskey by Jim Geiwitz for our April meeting. Aside from being set in Minnesota, there’s a much closer connection: Geiwitz was Ron’s college roommate.  

From the Publisher (http://solbooks.com/blog/?p=617): Minneota, Minnesota. Smalltown, America. For some, growing up in a place where everyone knows everybody evokes memories of grandmothers’ quilts, cruisin’ after school, and leaning in for your first kiss. But for others, a small town becomes a prison and as each year passes, the cell bars grow closer to asphyxiation. In The Town of  Watered-Down Whiskey, Geiwitz taps into the nostalgia and claustrophobia of Smalltown, America, where each citizen learns they have an outlandish, wise, regretful, or tragic role to play, whether they choose it or not. 

Stay warm!