Breath-taking naivety or a subtle crusade for political correctness?
Both, if you ask me. But as usual this theme of unifying religions will be lapped up by the chattering classes. The author is Robert Wright – an American journalist and scholar who was born into a Southern Baptist family. He seems to have rejected faith as a young man – leaving Texas Christian University after only one year, switching to Princeton University.
If Richard Dawkins and the ‘new atheists’ have their way, religion will be eliminated. They claim this will be for the universal good because they believe that religion poses the greatest danger to world peace today. But more realistic atheists and agnostics, who recognise that God is too powerful a concept for people to give up, are instead trying to recreate him in their own liberal image so that ‘tolerance’ becomes the god of all religions. In this way, each religion’s own understanding of God will no longer be so unique that it’s worth fighting for, and consequently all religions will be emasculated and their attraction undermined.
This seems to be the secret campaign behind Robert Wright’s book. And to give the idea a veneer of scientific respectability, Wright has called his book ‘The Evolution of God’. Of course, to the so-called ‘fundamentalists’ who oppose his views, the word ‘evolution’ will be a red rag to a bull. But bending evolution to his cause will give Wright’s book an appeal to those more liberal believers who have already compromised their religion by accepting evolution instead of their own creation doctrines.
Indeed, it won praise in a Sunday Times’ review (10 May) by Andrew Sullivan, a liberal Christian: “My own view, as a struggling and doubting person of faith, is that truth matters in whatever mode we find it — but ultimate truth, because we are not ultimate beings, will always elude us. The search for this truth is the point, illuminated in my own faith by Jesus… Our consciousness asks questions to which there will never be a complete answer… And the challenge of our time is… a humble openness to history and science and revelation in the journey of faith… if we are to survive this era of technology with the potential of mass destruction, if we are to endure past the darkness of the Taliban and the religious right, this process of religious reform is not an option. It is a necessity.”
Note Sullivan’s readiness to equate the “religious right”, by which he means Bible-believing Christians, with the Taliban. In that respect, he’s already fallen for the atheist propaganda that sees all fervent believers – as opposed to “doubting persons” –as a bad thing, regardless of whether one group (fundamentalist Islam) promotes violence and the other (Bible believers) denounces it.
Then note Sullivan’s belief that ultimate truth will always elude us, in contrast to the uncompromising words of the Jesus he claims to be illuminated by: “I am the truth. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Note too his readiness to accept “history and science” as well as revelation in his “journey of faith” – as if God’s revelation in the Bible were not enough. In contrast, the Bible claims that all we need for salvation and truth is revealed by God in its pages – and condemns anyone who would seek to add to it.
But liberal Christians like Sullivan have already made themselves vulnerable to Wright’s kind of “religious reform” by losing faith in the authority of the Bible, so it’s not surprising that they should go along with his ideas. In fact, Sullivan is exactly the sort of believer that Wright aims to attract to his ultimately secularist cause. But Wright waits till nearly half way through his book to reveal the real aim of his argument: "Today globalisation has made the planet too small to peacefully accommodate large religions that are at odds. If the Abrahamic God—the God of Jews and the God of Christians and the God of Muslims—doesn't foster tolerance, then we're all in trouble. We need a god whose sympathies correspond to the scale of social organisation, the global scale" (p. 205).
Just like Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris, Wright believes that loyal Jews, Christians and Muslims threaten world peace because their religions give them non-negotiable beliefs. As another reviewer, Dr Benjamin Wiker, explains, “Rather than eliminate these intractable religions, Wright engages in a grand strategy of co-opting all three by vacuuming them up into a larger, comprehensive evolutionary-historical argument, wherein their particularities are magically being transformed into a deity he can countenance—[which is] more or less, Wright himself writ large, a god of universal niceness whose one command is ‘Thou shalt be tolerant of all gods before me, or no gods, or anything in between. Or whatever. Just don't fight.’ “This isn't a real god, as Wright himself admits: ‘The god I've been describing is a god in quotation marks, a god that exists in people's heads.’”
And how should this new god of tolerance be imposed on the world? Well, ironically for a liberal, Wright suggests what can only be described as a totalitarian route: moving from national to international rule. In the interests of world peace, there must be a universal world government that promotes Wright’s new type of monotheism. As Wiker says, Wright’s philosophy is: “One government, one god, and his name is Tolerance… It is wishful thinking of the worst kind: ‘I wish God would go away, but since he won't, let's at least make him useful.’”
But if history and evolution are moving human beings inexorably towards this goal of one ‘god’ of niceness, as Wright claims, why does he need to argue for it? Why not just sit back and let it evolve? Maybe because it’s not happening – human morality is not evolving towards niceness, and Wright needs to persuade us to accept a one-world government to impose this tolerance on all of us (by force if necessary, one assumes). But we have already seen what happens when a global movement to make everybody conform to the same beliefs tries to impose those beliefs by political power – it was called Communism. And not only did it not defeat religion, it moved morally backwards, not forwards. It was responsible for the most un-nice, intolerant, human rights abuses in human history.
Using implausible Darwinian theory as scant cover, Wright basically argues for a political solution to a religious problem. And just as natural selection kills off those unfit for the environment, so Wright’s so-called tolerant utopia will weed out the religious misfits who happen to disagree with him.
Haven’t we heard all this before somewhere? Well, yes. It’s all written in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, where an anti-Christ sets up a one-world government by deceiving the inhabitants of the earth. This anti-Christ will allow only one religion and “cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed” (13:15).
Those, like Wright, who try to hasten the arrival of a ‘new world order’ in the name of peace will find it only ushers in this most terrible dictator of all.
Thankfully, the return of Christ himself will end the reign of this ultimate tyrant, and reveal the Truth in all his glory.
Andrew Halloway www.christianeditor.co.uk