Robert Wright has a new book coming out, The Evolution of God. If you want to know more about it, Salman Hameed has an excellent round up of reviews.
The Atlantic Monthly has published an excerpt, which takes a look at the origins of Christianity through the lens of the modern marketing industry. It’s quite a cute angle, if all a bit vapid if you look too closely.
But here’s the bit that caught my eye. It’s towards the end, where Wright talks about how moral good emerges from enlightened self interest.
… history expands the range of non-zero-sum relationships—relationships in which two parties can both win if they collaborate, or lose if they don’t. Technological evolution (wheels, roads, cuneiform, alphabets, trains, microchips) has placed more and more people in non-zero-sum relationship with more and more other people at greater and greater distances—and often across ethnic, national, and religious bounds.
What he’s arguing here is we as a society are more moral these days than we were in the past, even the recent past. And the reason for this is that society is so much more tightly integrated. These days we have so much more to lose, and so much more to gain, by assuming liberty, equality and fraternity.
All this is very relevant to discussion of where morality comes from. Theologians argue that if God does not exist, then there’s no rational basis for morality. Clearly, that’s not the case.
And if Wright is right, then not only can morality be supported without recourse to God, but our moral society grew naturally from the rational application of common sense. Religion bought into this, but didn’t originate it.
This work by Tom Rees is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.