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.
More information about text formats