let's talk about substance

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Lisa Miller's "Let's Talk About God" from Newsweek is more a book review than an idea piece. Miller notes that in his upcoming book The Evolution of God, Robert Wright "grapples with God as an idea that has changed--evolved--through history:"

He argues that the scriptures of the three Abrahamic faiths were written in history by real people who aimed to improve things--economic, social, geographical--for their constituencies.

The texts' composition by self-interested people is hardly news, although it is perhaps unusual to see it admitted so bluntly by theists. The capricious, petty, and vengeful character of the Old Testament tribal god was easily surpassed by the New Testament authors' creation of the more morally evolved Jesus; what I've read of the Qur'an doesn't strike me as a continued improvement--but that may be due to the pederasty and other unsavory aspects of Muhammed. The creation of a new holy text today would doubtless illustrate the further evolution of morality--perhaps reflecting the elimination of slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, and monarchy--but that is progress that we've made as a civilization largely despite the effect of religion rather than because of it.

Miller then quotes these sentences from Wright

"You might say that love and truth are the two primary manifestations of divinity in which we can partake, and that by partaking in them we become truer manifestations of the divine. Then again, you might not say that. The point is just that you wouldn't have to be crazy to say it."

and claims that they offer "relief and intellectual ballast" to believers.

That sort of lightweight feel-good supposition may not indicate a break with reality, but neither does it have the heft to withstand the slightest intellectual wind. Austin Cline's piece "Godless Intellectual Values: Intellectual Values are Important, Godless, Secular" lists several intellectual values that can continue our moral evolution--provided that they aren't overwhelmed by anti-intellectualism.

I'd like to see Miller write a column about that.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 28, 2009 10:55 PM.

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