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Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Robert Wright

In the Room with Robert Wright (produced version)

SoundSeen (our multimedia stories)

Philo, Logos, and Non-zero

One of Wright's favorite philosophers, and some background on "non-zero sumness."

Is religion potentially dangerous?

Question to Robert Wright: "Is Religion Potentially Dangerous?"

The evolution of God and women's rights

Question to Robert Wright: "How Does the Evolution of God Relate to the Evolution of Women's Rights and Standing in Society?"

Spiritual but not religious

Wright discusses spirituality vs. religiousness.

A "mature idea of God"

Question to Robert Wright: "What Is a Mature Idea of God?"

Selected Readings

Introduction to The Evolution of God

This first chapter gives a good summary of the ideas behind Wright's newest book.

Excerpts from Three Scientists and Their Gods

Selected segments from Robert Wright's conversations with digital physicist Edward Fredkin and sociobiologist E.O. Wilson.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

If you consider yourself "spiritual but not religious," can you help us understand what this term actually means to you? Does science have something to do with it?

1

His answer to the audience question, “Is religion potentially dangerous?” is one that’s often asked in the context of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

A found image adds a layer to the relationship between Darwin's theory and religion.

About the Image

Krista and Robert Wright on stage at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

(photo: Nancy Rosenbaum)

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Comments

When you speak of the "evolution" of God, could you not call it the "revelations" of God?

If we're genetically wired for compassion...does it follow that some people or peoples are more genetically predisposed to love or extend acts of mercy than others?

I missed the show. Can I listen to or watch it somewhere on your site?

Just finished listening to the conversation with Robert Wright in the most recent podcast. Many thanks for sharing such a thought-provoking dialogue. Many of Wright's ideas about "the evolution of God" resonate with some of my own thoughts about how the interpretations of spiritual texts in religious traditions often fluctuate according to the dynamics within culture and society at a particular point in time.

However, I found myself wondering if his propositions might be a little limited in scope.. He spoke a great deal about how the perception of the Christian God has changed with the development of civilization, but do the conclusions he reached ring quite so true if we take into consideration religions of the East (e.g. Hinduism or Taoism)? Has the perception of Hindu deities become more compassionate as Indian society has moved toward globalization?

Another thought I had relates to his "relentlessly logical" perspective on compassion. I really appreciated Krista's challenging, yet amiable questions to Mr. Wright regarding the limits of his views on religion. I also wonder if something might be lost in conceiving of compassion in such a logical manner... I can know that my neighbor is deserving of kindness or that I am likely to benefit most from acting altrustically, but I would argue that true compassion is not possible without a dimension of feeling that is not based in rational analyses. This "feeling" aspect of compassion may be influenced by the logos that Philo so adored, but it cannot be evoked by logic alone. Emotions are by their very nature elusive of the top-down control of reason and rationality (consider, for example, how a fear response in the amygdala of the brain often "overrides" the activity of the brain's frontal lobes concerned with more rational thought processes). Perhaps there is something that emerges in the ritualistic and communal aspects of various spiritual traditions that serves to connect individuals with the less-logical dimension of compassion.

I have a serious problem with Robert Wright's idea of the New Testament representing universal love. As a Jew, when I read the New Testament, I find it full of hated of Jews. Reading the New Testament makes me feel physically ill, literally.

Robert Wright talks about Philo, but he ingores Maimonides. He also ignores Jewish mysticism completely.

I forgot a major point. Judaism is not an "Old Testament" religion. It is a Rabbnic religion. No Jew reads the Bible without the surrounding commentaries of centuries of commentators and the Midrash. Does he even know these exist? Probably not, most Christians don't. I recommend The Commentator's Bible by Michael Carasik. He has two volumes out so far, Exodous and Leviticus.

As a 66 yr old retired scientist, I've been pondering these issues over many years, especially on the Nordic Track with my eyes closed and my mind attempting to be empty, but failing miserably...Here's what I've come up with so far about 'purpose'. Not much really.
Perhaps one of the properties of matter, at least matter as it becomes more organized into cells, tissues, organs, creatures, is what we call 'consciousness'. At least in this microcosm of the universe, evolution appears to be in the direction of more organization (for awhile). What is the purpose in this? One evolutionary scientist suggests that this is so we can awake and admire ourselves, creation, the universe. Perhaps. I'm not sure, but one can certainly suggest there is a 'direction' in this 'evolution'. I should limit this observation to life on Earth, as I haven't been authorized to speak for any other 'life' forms yet, lol. What we do with this 'gift' when we stop killing each other, is to explore our surroundings. This 'need to know' is what appears to drive us. Maybe consciousness will get us into too much trouble and be discarded like some colossal evolutionary mistake (of which there are many), but I like to think not. We have this penchant for discovering how things work and the 'purpose' may be revealed in this odyssey. It would be nice to think that the purpose is to discover our 'purpose' and return to the source (whatever that means). Sounds like a copout, but that's all I've got. I'm still thinking....

Wright's work, patching up the God concept, isn't necessary outside of monotheism. In the East, there never was "the deal with the Devil" that Descartes made with the church, splitting spirituality and reason. James Burke, In The Day The Universe Changed, explains in the last episode, Worlds Without End, while the West was focused on "outer space" the East was focused on "inner space."

I believe Einstein agreed with him: “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.” --Albert Einstein

This scientific world view is merging with eastern spiritual experience and even Neo-Platonism. This is the truth of quantum physics. It shows the limitations of this Western Cartesian mind.

This conversation between Krista and Wright strikes me as rather "christian chauvinist". To suggest that there is a move toward a universal understanding of god, overlooks Neo-Platonism and Buddhist practice which has always recognized universal consciousness. Not just a dualist notion of a separate god, but access for everyone to the divine within all of us, all of creation, and the universe.

These wisdom traditions were driven out by the hegemony of Orthodox Christianity in about the 5th century, from which it appears from Wright we are slowly recovering.

Supposing it is all moving in the right direction, but this 2000 years of dualism is in fact a kind of zig in the zig zag forward. It will be seen as a very abusive time.

The Buddhists in Tibet or in Thailand have a totally different experience of life on this planet. They haven't pushed the planet to the brink of destruction with their consciousness. That move was a uniquely Western, Judeo-Christian expression, moderated in some ways by Islam which carries more of the indigenous expression, such as forbidding killing fruit trees or destroying water sources. But not sufficiently to avoid this coming cataclysm, which is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy taught in these foundational texts.

The presence of Monotheists everywhere leads to zealously inspired wars from those books. They are the big problem in India now, and Nigeria. The Western materialism of Marxism is what is destroying Tibetan Buddhism, not the other way around. Like the native Americans they could have lived on for a lot longer without wrecking the ecosystem, nor the soul of man, such as happened in the US with neo-liberal economic religion and philosophy destroying cultural traditions and ties dating back to times immemorial. All this in a country where untold millions attend religious services every weekend and hear readings from these texts.

I understand though with donor situations as they are in the US, we can't speak openly about these things on radio. That is the same thing that happened on NPR with the news, so that now David Horowitz gets to slam Howard Zinn in an obit without any factually based remarks against all norms decorum because he is considered to legitimately represent a conservative viewpoint. Without any factual basis that seems to be the conservative viewpoint.

"Christian chauvinism" we will have to live with in the US until the collapse finally shows all this religion for what it has always been. Then the wisdom traditions and quantum notions can finally regain their place 1600 or so years after getting wiped out by Pope Cyril or someone like him. Only those with that access to the divine will survive it! Those bathed in hatred and rage and dualism will reap it upon themselves.

Ms. Tippett,

My wife and I quite enjoyed your dialogue with Mr. Robert Wright. We especially liked the sharing of your views on the blending of science and spirituality. I believe you would find the writings from the Baha'i Faith on the topic of science and religion quite interesting. Below we have added a link for your convenience.

Cheers,

Dan and Amy Haghighi

Dear Ms. Tippet, You probably get Baha'i responses often and know what I'm going to say ! I haven't seen a Baha'i program come by yet, though. A Baha'i precept is to study all the religions, not just our own.

It was interesting to hear Mr. Wright describe much of the Baha'i explanation of religion as being one entity, but more as a mechanic on the exterior.

If already familiar, you know we understand all religions are one revealed, progressive message and guide from God, and the "love and truth" and Divine attributes -- common threads per the author -- are never abrogated, being the "Eternal Covenant" of God with man.

The conflicts Mr.Wright identifies are either the man-made aspects or the impermanent elements of the "Lesser Covenant" that each "Manifestation" of God or founder brings to a certain place, level of human growth, and time. And points of disagreement are a big study.

Each One, limits Their revelation to what can be understood and benefit at the time. For example, look how the simple Genesis story of creation describes how the universe became, but in " seven days" (approx.: dark, light, form, water, life .. )and for apt for a rudimentary human understanding. No Prophet is less than or would repudiate Those before, but are Themselves dependably denied by leaders of belief of their time.

Science now tells it accurately, and a teaching today is that true science does not contradict God - unimaginable that it would. So all "errors" between them have some base to look over.

Above it all, God and religion are one, and in this revelation we are told - and ordered, I guess - that man is one and the virtues, again being revivified, are this time to realize the oneness of humanity and practice it.

To avoid the man-made divisions, Baha'u'llah said we approaching the maturity of humankind, and all must be educated, (girl child in preference to boy child if the resource is limited!), and each person must understand God's will individually and now have no priests, pastors, or other interpretations.

And obviously, there will be more guidance every millennium or so as God guides us out of the next deterioration of the message, and according to conditions and readiness due to our advancement.

Anyway, thank you for your work and programs.

(the photo if it arrives, is on Facebook, under Manuel Dinamarca Valenzuela) the Parish was founded 1824, maybe the church itself was newer.

site for further: www.bahai.org

Warm regards from Chile,
-Bill
Wm N Thompson,
retired 3M engineer from Stillwater/St.Paul, MN

Ramón de la Cerda #437, Casa 3, Limache, Chile
Tel: (56) 33-418901 Cel.: (56) 99-419-0022 Skype: wnthompson Twitter: backtoyoubill

"This handful of days on earth will slip away like shadows and be over. Strive then that God may shed His grace upon you, that you may leave a favorable remembrance in the hearts and on the lips of those to come.

~ Bahá�u�lláh."

I think we're taking a simplistic understanding of evolutionary principles too far! Evolution presumes that enough time has passed for innumerable variations of the species to be "evaluated" by nature with regard to fitness. Can one really make the same claim of human religions? Are the two most widespread religions (Christianity and Islam) that way solely because they were more compelling to minds/spirits/souls (probably the "fitness" we're after here)? Didn't they also rely on the sword/conversions under duress quite a bit of the time? Wouldn't this latter force negate the applicability of Darwinian logic?

When I say I am spiritual but not religious, I usually mean that I recognize
that I am part of a grand Totality, part of a cosmos which, in encompassing all
that is, is infinitely creative and transcendent; and yet, is also a cosmos of
which I am a necessary, inextricable part, even though I am mortal, and thus it
is also a cosmos that is finite, ephemeral, and mysterious--this is my spiritual
nature. What I mean by not being religious is that I no longer subscribe to the
formal orthodox beliefs of organized religions, with all their rites and rituals
emanating from mythic conceptions of the universe. In the age of Einstein and
Darwin I have no need of the God hypothesis as an explanation for the nature of
being. Humans are the symbol using animal, and "God" as a cognitive symbol
(concept) for the Creation, and its implied, though invisible Creator,
originating in the ignorance of our ancestors, is a useless and irrelevant
legacy beside our evolving scientific understanding. But residing within my
being, and resonating AS my being, there is a need for synergy, fusion, one-ness
with, as Native Americans might put it, "all my relations." Spirituality is
about relationship--to the sky, the earth, the flora and fauna that surround me,
the visible and invisible presence of animate and inanimate forces, too numerous
to name, too powerful to ignore. And a framing of the moral temper of my
being's relations to all of that. I have found that while religion may aid in
acknowledging the awesome sacredness of Being, it cannot and does not explain
it, nor is helpful, ultimately, in living sacredly. (By living sacredly I mean
living in the full awareness of the preciousness of life, one's own and that of
the creatures and plants we devour.) Religions' mythic symbolism keeps getting
in the way. One can discover and live a life of sacredness without religion. I
do so. This is what I understand Mr. Wright to be suggesting in his basic
thesis about the Evolution of God. The "Evolution of God" is really the
evolution of humanity towards a more perfect moral order--with or without the
God hypothesis.

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Voices on the Radio

is a journalist and scholar whose books include The Moral Animal and The Evolution of God.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Managing Producer: Kate Moos

Senior Producer: Colleen Scheck

Associate Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum

Associate Producer: Shubha Bala

Technical Director/Producer: Chris Heagle

Online Editor/Producer: Trent Gilliss

Associate Web Producer: Andrew Dayton