Should we date "the birth of a new kind of God, a God of universal love" not to Jesus's time on Earth but to a slightly later period -- when Paul was evangelizing on behalf of Christianity? And might that doctrinal revolution -- the turn to the notion that humanity was one in the eyes of God -- have been partly an entrepreneurial strategy on the part of Paul, who, after all, had to peddle his message to people of different creeds and ethnicities?
Robert Wright says yes to both propositions. (The Atlantic has excerpted a portion of Wright's forthcoming book, "The Evolution of God.") Some Christians may bridle at his argument. Or his analogies: he casts Paul as the CEO of Christianity in its start-up phase, one who used "the information technology of his time, the epistle." But Wright suggests that Paul's example offers hope for our own times, wracked as they are by ethnic and religious divides:
[E]ven for nonbelievers, the scriptures carry a modestly reassuring message, at least when read in light of the social and political circumstances that shaped them: people are capable of expanding tolerance and understanding in response to facts on the ground; and even mandates from heaven can change in response.
(If you were wondering whether "God" or "evolution" moves more books, that book jacket would seem to hint at the answer.)
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