Written on December 30th, 2014
Christianity, Judaism and Islam are both peaceful and violent. Robert Wright discusses what circumstances bring out the best and worst in religion.
Is religion a force for good or ill?
This question has been more energetically debated over the last few years, globally, due to the West's confrontation with radical Islam, and in the U.S., to the political emergence and activism of evangelical Christians. This was brought to a head with the misadventures of George W. Bush, from Teri Schiavo to Bagdhad.
Robert Wright takes on big questions, and he's taken this one on in his new book, The Evolution of God. He follows the changing moods of God as reflected in ancient Scripture, to see what circumstances brought out the best and worst in religions.
According to Wright, "The moral of the story is simple: When people see their interests threatened by another group, this perception brings out the most belligerent parts of their religion. Such circumstances are good news for violent extremists and bad news for moderates. What Obama is trying to do -- make Palestinians feel less threatened, and make Muslims generally feel more respected -- may now, as it did in ancient times, bring out the tolerant side of a religion."
Wright is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and founder and editor of www.bloggingheads.tv
His books include: Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information; The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life; and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.