I have been thinking about getting Robert Wright’s upcoming book ‘The Evolution of God’ since his recent article in the Atlantic last month. Not being as cool as Andrew Sullivan I didn’t get an advanced copy, but I did read his review which makes me more interested in reading his upcoming book. None the less, Andrew closes his review with a description of how the questions of the Ultimate, the ones religion is made of, and the quest for truth have played out in his own life. You can see why he (And my boy Drew who blogged this recently) is a blogger-el-bad-a$$.
My own view, as a struggling and doubting person of faith, is that truth matters in whatever mode we find it … but ultimate truth, because we are not ultimate beings, will always elude us. The search for this truth is the point, illuminated in my own faith by Jesus. Humans cannot live without this search, never have and never will. Our consciousness asks questions to which there will never be a complete answer; we are religious because we are human. And the challenge of our time is neither the arrogant dismissal of religious life and heritage, nor the rigid insistence that all metaphysical questions are already answered or unaskable, but a humble openness to history and science and revelation in the journey of faith.
He summaries Wright’s thesis this way:
It’s (the evolution of God) not a linear process … misunderstanding, violence, stupidity, pride and anger will always propel human beings backwards just when they seem on the verge of progress. Greater proximity has often meant greater hatred … as one god has marshalled earthly forces against another. But in the very, very long run, as human beings have realised that religion is nothing if not true and that truth can be grasped or sought in many different ways, doctrines have evolved. Through science and travel, conversation and scholarship, interpretation and mysticism … our faiths have adapted throughout history, like finches on Darwin’s islands.
Wright’s core and vital point is that this is not a descent into total relativism or randomness. It is propelled by reason interacting with revelation, coupled with sporadic outbreaks of religious doubt and sheer curiosity. The Evolution of God is best understood as the evolution of human understanding of truth … even to the edge of our knowledge where mystery and meditation take over.
UPDATE: new interview with Wright