Robert Wright has written extensively for THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, THE NEW YORKER and TIME magazine, and currently works as a senior editor at THE NEW REPUBLIC.
While the diatribes of the "new atheists"-Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and company-have made headlines in recent years, Wright (The Moral Animal, Nonzero) takes a decidedly more friendly approach to human religiousness. Although he shares their materialist, naturalist assumptions, he argues that over time human notions of God have "gotten closer to moral and spiritual truth..Religion hasn't just evolved, it has matured." Making the best recent scholarship accessible to the general reader, Wright follows the historical trajectory from polytheism through monolatry (worship of one god among many) to monotheism, focusing primarily on the evolving vision of God in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an, and ending with a discussion of religion's place in human evolution. In his focus on scriptures, Wright avoids the philosophical terrain covered more intently in Karen Armstrong's The History of God and The Great Transformation. Verdict Wright's approach will appeal to a broad range of readers turned off by the "either/or" choice between dogmatic atheism and religious traditionalism. Recommended for all readers engaged in consideration of our notions of God.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
In his illuminating book, The Moral Animal, Wright introduced evolutionary psychology and examined the ways that the morality of individuals might be hard-wired by nature rather than influenced by culture. With this book, he expands upon that work, turning now to explore how religion came to define larger and larger groups of people as part of the circle of moral consideration. Using a naive and antiquated approach to the sociology and anthropology of religion, Wright expends far too great an effort covering well-trod territory concerning the development of religions from "primitive" hunter-gatherer stages to monotheism. He finds in this evolution of religion, however, that the great monotheistic (he calls them "Abrahamic," a term not favored by many religion scholars) religions-Christianity, Islam, Judaism-all contain a code for the salvation of the world. Using game theory, he encourages individuals in these three faiths to embrace a non-zero-sum relationship to other religions, seeing their fortunes as positively correlated and interdependent and then acting with tolerance toward other religions. Regrettably, Wright's lively writing unveils little that is genuinely new or insightful about religion. (June) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.