David j. dalrymple book by reza aslan examines new history of humanizing a higher power features williamsondailynews.com grade 9 electricity quiz

Reza Aslan, a scholar of religions, is the author of "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" and is the controversial host of the TV series "Believer." His newest book, "God: A Human History" (2017), is an analysis of our proclivity to humanize the divine. This readable story asks, "Why do we make God in our own image?"

We ask, "Where is the ‘me-search’ in this research?" Aslan grew up a Muslim in Iran, converted to evangelical Christianity after immigration and has returned to Islam as a pantheist in the Sufi tradition. His search appears motivated by his desire to understand our religious expressions.

Aslan draws from evolutionary theory, anthropology and archeology. As our societies have evolved, the "humanizing of God" has changed. He begins with man-beast divinities carved on caves. The gods of ancient Egypt were characterized in human forms with desires, emotions and impulses much like ours. This linear narrative moves from primitive animism, totemism, ancestor worship, polytheism and monotheism to our multiple faiths today. History affirms that "as the politics on earth changed, the politics of heaven changed." Theology conformed to human realities: "the divination of earthly politics."

Ancient scriptures are to be understood as forms of mythology, not necessarily literal histories. Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and the Flood are universal folk memories. We have an "unconscious urge" to project our image onto God. This contrasts with orthodox understandings that we are created in God’s image (Genesis I:27). Aslan notes that scientific understandings of our religious impulse do not devalue the legitimacy of our beliefs.

Aslan’s account for similarities among myths is biased toward diffusion by migration rather than by independent invention in each society. There is no evidence of contact for transmission among all societies with similar myths. As C.G. Jung noted, myths arise spontaneously through the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Parallel thought formations are common to humanity and are seen in our nighttime dreams.

Aslan believes God is a universal creative force inherent in human experience. "God is everything that exists." Many believers of monotheistic faiths have understood God as an abstract force but still characterize God in human terms. This book reminds them that there is an evolving spiritual landscape from which Judaism, Christianity and Islam emerged. Aslan never answers the questions "Why do we want a human-like God?" and "Why are there successful religions such as Buddhism that have no human-like God?"

David J. Dalrymple, Ph.D., is an affiliate minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, a pastoral psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst. He has been adjunct faculty in Marshall University’s Department of Religious Studies.

His account is skillfully written but seductive and arrogant. He writes, "The only way I can truly know God is by relying on the only thing I can truly know: myself." Most people hardly have sufficient self-knowledge. We are not God even if we project our humanity unto God.

A third of our population have no religion. In their search for meaning, they see themselves as "spiritual" not "religious." This book may sell well for this generation, but for the discerning searcher it may bring no new ideas about divinity. It does not answer the question "What is the nature of our religious impulse?" This is because a singular understanding cannot address the universal comprehension this author seeks. Our religious imaginations are worthy of more complex and humble understandings than are addressed in this brief survey.

David J. Dalrymple, Ph.D., is an affiliate minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, a pastoral psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst. He has been adjunct faculty in Marshall University’s Department of Religious Studies.