Written on December 30th, 2014
Written on July 18th, 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.
We all deal day to day with a lot of questions and a lot of fears – around work, money, health, politcs, relationships. And at some point, we will all deal with the final fears and the final questions – fear of death and questions about what it means and what if anything comes after.
At his request, today’s guest, SARA DAVIDSON met every Friday for two years with 89-year-old RABBI ZALMAN SHACHTER-SHALOMI, the iconic founder of the Jewish Renewal movment, to discuss what he calls THE DECEMBER PROJECT. “When you can feel in your cells that you’re coming to the end of your tour of duty,” in tHe rabbi’s words, “what is the spiritual work of this time, how do we prepare for the mystery?”
Davidson, who describes herself as having a seeker’s heart and a skeptic’s mind, feared death would be a complete annihilation, while Reb Zalman felt certain that “something continues.” He didn’t want to convince her of anything, but to loosen her mind.” Through their talks, he wanted to help people “not freak out about dying,” and enable them to have a more heightened and grateful life.