• The Evolution of God

  • By: Robert Wright
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 18 hrs and 25 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (1,041 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this sweeping narrative, which takes us from the Stone Age to the Information Age, Robert Wright unveils an astonishing discovery: there is a hidden pattern that the great monotheistic faiths have followed as they have evolved. Through the prisms of archeology, theology, and evolutionary psychology, Wright's findings overturn basic assumptions about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and are sure to cause controversy.

He explains why spirituality has a role today and why science, contrary to conventional wisdom, affirms the validity of the religious quest. And this previously unrecognized evolutionary logic points not toward continued religious extremism but to future harmony. Nearly a decade in the making, The Evolution of God is a breathtaking reexamination of the past and a visionary look forward.

©2009 Robert Wright (P)2009 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"[An] in-depth approach yields original insights." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about The Evolution of God

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Very heavy reading

The book is the author's theories on how man develped the concept of god(s). It is a very ambitious undertaking and he begins with when 'man' first walked the earth. His approach is scholarly but due to the nature of his topic, he presents portions of his research , study and experiences to try and describe how the concept of god evolved. Unfortunately, although I take his findings at face value, their interpretation is his. He picks and chooses anecdotes from different 'primitive' tribes to makes his case on how god 'evolved'. As a scientist, this is a frustrating approach as he appears to select 'random' facts he has found into a theory. He provides no rationale on how he chose which findings to include and which he did not include. Data is not the plural of anecdote. The presentation is also extremely detailed in parts and it easy to lost in the narrative. He also uses primitive words and names, which I could not even venture a guess on how they are spelled. On one level, the use of primitive vocabularies is interesting but it also makes it hard to follow. The depth of his discussions required my full, undivided attention. This made it very difficult to listen to while driving, and required that I regularly rewind sections. I am not a theolgian or particularly well versed in the history of religions and found this a very difficult book to get through. I confess that I only listened to the first of 3, 4 hour segments and gave up.

49 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting and thought provoking

While this audio book isn't likely to change my beliefs one way or the other, it certainly has be thinking. It details, sometime with hard evidence, sometimes with conjecture, the evolution not only of God (or gods), but the evolution of religion. From the views of the hunter-gatherer to modern man, there's a logical progression of man's view of religion, and God/gods that parallels the natural progression of society.

One of the questions this audio book hints at is whether God created man, or man created God. The latter seems the obvious answer after listening to this book. This does not negate the existence of God, but rather puts Him in perspective. Does Him being different than you imagined make Him any less important to you? If so, you probably shouldn't listen to this one, and instead read something that reinforces your beliefs.

36 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Something to offend everyone (or grow spiritually)

They're are two different schools of thought about a book like this. One, there was something in this book to offend almost everyone from each of the three Abrahamic religions (Christian, Jew, and Muslim). Or, two, by understanding the historical context and development over time of the major ideas about man's image of God and morality helps the listener better develop his own spiritual growth. Put me down in the second school.

After listening to this book, I'll never look at the bible the same way again. For me, the bible has always been inaccessible since I didn't understand its proper historical context. This book has really motivated me to revisit the bible and subsequently I've started listening to "The Word of Promise", the bible read by actors and with dramatization and so far very listenable (and it only cost one credit!).

The author is gifted at explaining generalities by first looking at specific events. One way of further understanding man's image of God is by first understanding the historical events surrounding the times the religious documents were first written.

The author quotes one of the early religious founders as saying that "God loved man very much by giving him an earth that was suited for man". The author would say that man was suited for earth so well because he evolved into this environment. From that point of view, man's image of God has also changed over time.

One note about the reader. Arthur Morey (the reader) is one of my favorite readers and he's one of the few readers who I would buy the book just because he's the reader. As usual, he doesn't disappoint in his reading and he makes me feel like I'm listening to an old friend.






31 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

If God is just god, where does that leave me?

This book is not for the casual reader of religious propaganda. Nor, in my opinion, is it for someone who staunchly believes the Torah, Bible, or Koran to be literally true. On the other hand, if one is prepared to listen with an open mind the author has much to intellectually stimulate you. Or to put it differently, if you are willing to concede that your Sunday school teacher didn't exactly tell you the whole story, and even if the theory of evolution appeals to your intellect a lot more than Intelligent Design, you may still not prepared to believe that we are just a fortunate accident of electro-chemical actions in a primordial soup. If so, Robert Wright wrote this book for you.

He begins as other have by systematically destroying the credibility of all 3 Abrahamic religions as the inspired word of a creator God. He details, as others have, the human editing of the message to fit the political and economic needs of the era in which the text was written. Then when other authors end their book with the demotion of God to god --as if no more needed to be said -- he begins a cautious, although compellingly plausible, case for seeing the finger prints of a designer in the development of mankind. Personally, I don't need a teddy bear god to help me sleep at night, but if you are like some of my very intelligent and scientifically literate friends who are just not emotionally prepared to believe that there is no purpose whatsoever in our existence or in the creation of the universe then I highly recommend that you listen to Robert Wright's The Evolution of God. The narration was professional and moved along without delay.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Evolution of God

This is a fantastic book. If you find the evolution of religious thought interesting, you will enjoy this publication. Anyone that takes the time to read this offering will understand why religions have been with us throughout history. Although, the author may not see religions in a positive light, he does believe they can help people to learn to live in harmony. Read, learn, and enjoy.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Great history, could've done without the theology

About two thirds of this book is great. The author starts by describing early forms of superstition and then goes on to give the history of the Abrahamic religions, explaining how they've evolved from ancient forms of religion into what they are today, and speculating about what may have motivated each change. I found this very enjoyable to listen to and if this was the whole book I would have given it five stars.

It stumbles for me in the other third of the book, where the author gets into what he believes are the theological implications of the history that he describes in the more interesting parts of the book. It becomes clear that the true purpose of this book is not to be a history book, instead it is about promoting the author's theology. Some might find this just as interesting as the rest of the book if they're inclined to agree with it. The problem for me is that it's entirely based on the idea that human civilization's moral progress of the last few thousand years is hard evidence that the universe has some sort of divine purpose. If, like me, you don't buy into this premise then everything that follows is pretty much worthless and quite a chore to get through.

Although if you agree with the author's theology, or are able to work your way through it, (or just fast forward to the good bits) the majority of the book is a worthwhile listen.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

And your point is...?

Even the most ardent non-believer can't help but wonder how it is that religious belief is so widespread, has so long been an important part of human culture and takes on such an astonishing variety of forms. And persists in spite of advances in science that undermine many of the early foundations of religion.

Any book that sheds light on these questions and gives us a framework to understand the evolution of religious thought would be a truly worthwhile read, but unfortunately this book isn't it. I see that many other reviewers found it fascinating, but despite being very interested in the topic, I found it very hard slogging and the reward for sticking with it to the bitter end just wasn't there for me.

The author is obviously extremely well versed in the minutiae of religious history, and the breadth of his knowledge is certainly impressive, but that is likely the problem. He is fascinated by the details but the reader easily loses sight of the forest for the trees. Again and again, after pages of story-telling with no discernible context I found myself wanting to ask the author, "And your point is...?" If he had stated a clear thesis for each chapter and then backed it up with the historical data, that might have worked.

The topic of this book would probably make a really interesting one hour lecture. And maybe the book itself would be a good text for a comparative religion course. But for the average reader, even if sympathetic and attentive, I can't recommend spending the 18+ hours it takes to hear it through.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Worth a read

Perhaps better titled "What Man sees though his culture,history and intellect as God." Not what IS or is not God. Never the less well researched with plenty of interesting information. Roberts comes to many conclusions true or not true, but with food for thought.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very interesting read

I am challenged by Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God in many of the same ways I was by Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. The subject of the evolution of how humans think about a god is such a sweeping subject, and this book appears to be such a scholarly work, that it is difficult for me, a mere mortal, to know what is fact and what is fiction. I will take a couple of examples. Wright makes the point in the book that the Jews were actually the Canaanites, worshipers of Baal, for whom they purportedly annihilated in the bible. What? And, did we know that the el in Israel actually comes from this same Bull God, Baal? This is some pretty heady stuff. I do not doubt for a second that many of what seem to be incredible, and seemingly contrary stories about the past are indeed true. But their veracity is quite beyond my background and study to judge. Did that diminish my enjoyment of the book? Not for a second.

The Evolution of God is an incredible title in and of itself. The concept of such a thing is for at least believers, unfathomable. What does the evolution of God even mean? Firstly, while I do not normally, I am going to capitalize the word God because that is how it is to be understood within the context of this book. God may or may not exist. That is not the point of the book. The book is about how humans have perceived or understood their God, gods or goddesses throughout history. Some of this must be speculative at best and some probably incorrect at worst. How can we know? While we cannot know for sure, that does not detract from a very interesting question and the very nature of this book.

From ancient times of why and when polytheism evolved to monotheism to modernity when, like Pinker’s belief, we are moving toward a more universal concept of God for all religions, I believe Wright makes arguments that sometimes seem esoteric but for the most part are not too terribly difficult to follow. Wright like Pinker sometimes seems (maybe only my own perception) to pick and choose anecdotes from times, places and peoples to make a case for how God evolved. This is possibly unavoidable. How long would a book have to be to be all inclusive.

In parts, the narrative is extremely detailed and it is easy to get lost. The ancient and biblical histories are difficult to follow for one unschooled in such things but maybe this can serve as an introduction into such study. Eventually, however, that which is arcane seems to either be dispelled or the story advances to arcs more ordinary and easily understood.

I have difficulty rating books such as this because while one might seem scholarly, it not always is. In this case, I want to give the author the benefit of the doubt just based on my enjoyment of it. Lastly, I think the narrator was quite good. It would be easy to diminish a book of this nature by a less than excellent narrator. In fact, the narrator was not just quite good, the narrator was excellent. With changes in modulation, as is [too] often the case with Audible, the production was adequate but less than stellar.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Listen

Clear thought and opinion, the author steps through the evolution of God and history with remarkable insight. I was worried this might be a "Religious" book, but I was pleasantly surprised with the author's thoughtful treatment of all of the Religion discussed.

8 people found this helpful

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