Friday, November 27, 2009

The religious wars

In a NYTimes OpEd piece appropriate to yesterday's Thanksgiving rituals Kristof notes a new crop of books on religion that that he feels are less combative and more thoughtful than extreme fundamentalist (The "Left Behind" novels) or atheist (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens) efforts.
One of these is “The Evolution of God,” by Robert Wright, who explores how religions have changed — improved — over the millennia. He notes that God, as perceived by humans, has mellowed from the capricious warlord sometimes depicted in the Old Testament who periodically orders genocides...Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God,” likewise doesn’t posit a Grandpa-in-the-Sky; rather, she sees God in terms of an ineffable presence that can be neither proven nor disproven in any rational sense. To Ms. Armstrong, faith belongs to the realm of life’s mysteries, beyond the world of reason, and people on both sides of the “God gap” make the mistake of interpreting religious traditions too literally...“The Faith Instinct,” by...Nicholas Wade, suggests a reason for the durability of faith: humans may be programmed for religious belief, because faith conferred evolutionary advantages in primitive times. That doesn’t go to the question of whether God exists, but it suggests that religion in some form may be with us for eons to come.

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