Saturday, July 18, 2009

God as a Figment of the Human Imagination

Author of the Evolution of God, Robert Wright, was a guest on Bill Moyer's Journal last night. Shortly into the discussion, Moyers asked, "So, did god begin as a figment of the human imagination?" Wright answered, " I would say so."

Well, that's no great revelation. Most of us figured that out long ago, after we took a second look at all of the nonsense in the Bible. Wright goes on to explain to Moyers that he feels that the human brain is not capable of understanding the principle of god other than some being like us only bigger and more powerful- on the order of Superman. He says, "In my earlier writings about evolutionary psychology, one thing that became clear to me is that the human mind is not designed to perceive ultimate truth or even truth in a very broad sense. I mean, the human mind was designed by natural selection to get genes into the next generation. To do some things that help you do that like eat and reproduce. And as quantum physics has shown us you know, in highlighting our inability to think clearly, even about things like electrons. The human mind is not designed to perceive truth that go beyond this narrow part of the material world."

It's all about our dinky brains.

Regarding the title of the book, The Evolution of God, Wright says, "the god that is believed in now, first of all, assumes many different forms, even among believers. I mean, the difference between the god I was brought up with in Southern Baptist church and the way god would be conceived by an Anglican priest or something, you know, are very different. And similarly, there's been change over time. And the fact that god can adapt does account for his longevity. And also, at crucial points during that evolution, he acquired features that have proved very attractive."

An adaptable god, able to alter features to become more attractive seems to suggest what rock stars [read Michael Jackson] are able to do. Wright identifies the church doctrine of individual salvation of an eternal afterlife as a tremendous sales-pitch which snagged millions of people in its net. Reminds me of the pitch-man, Billy Mays: 'But wait!"

"The god that I show evolving is undergoing a process very analogous to natural selection. You know? New traits arise, and if they succeed in enhancing the power of the god, by, for example attracting new believers then they remain. And if they don't work for one reason or another, they fall by the wayside. So, god has evolved very much the way, you know, human organism evolved through natural selection, yes." Wright notes that god 'acquired' the traits from different religions; from the Egyptians, god promised an 'after-life' to which Christians are so enamored.

[As an aside, while typing this, I can envision a few of the christian fundamentalists who regularly scour my blog, gasping and reaching for their well-worn Bible, falling on their knees to deny that their eyes ever read such blasphemous words! A double dose of fluvoxamine, stat!]

Wright tells of his 'conversion' to Jesus at age 9 and the 'trouble' that ensued. "I went up to the front of the church and accepted Jesus and was baptized some weeks later. And, you know, and then I encountered the theory of evolution and I had come from a Creationist environment, so that was a kind of irreconcilable threat to my faith. And the theory of natural selection seemed very compelling to me. And my parents even brought a Southern Baptist minister over to the house at one point when I was high school to try to convince me that evolution had not happened. And it didn't work."

He was saved! Praise Isis!

The associated 'guilt' however is long-lasting. He says, "I'll tell you one thing I have not lost is I've never lost the sense that I'm being judged by a being. I mean you know, it's a powerful-- if you're brought up believing that a god is watching you, it's a powerfully ingrained thing."

Guilt. Nothing like a dose of that to keep the 'faithful' in line. Fundamentalists carry it round in a spray bottle in their purses and frequently use it on themselves and on those whom they know 'need it.' I must have evolved a super guilt shield because guilt rolls off of me like water off of a duck in a lake.

Praise Mithra!

Wright closes with a phrase that ought to resonate with a large number of people; he refers to 'a moral axis to the universe.'

[end of Part 1]

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