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This book is a light introduction to a history of God, and perhaps philosophy. Alternative titles that would have been more fitting kept coming to mind for me. "A Brief Introduction to the Abrahamic God" or "God 101" were a few titles that I kept thinking of.
"God: A History," is a series of lectures that are mildly similar to, "The Evolution of God," by Robert Wright. For those unfamiliar with this excellent book, Wright makes the case that the Bible is is a reflection of man's thoughts about God. And because of this, what you see in the Bible as God changing over time is really the evolution of man's concept of God -- from polytheism to monotheism, from law to love -- over time.
The weakness of "God: A History," is also its strength, however. Whereas the audiobook to "The Evolution of God" came in at 18 hours and 29 minutes, "God: A History," comes in at a much more comfortable 4.5 hours. Of course, trying to learn all about God in 4.5 hours of your life is slightly laughable. But on the other hand, the lecture series did bring something to the table, and did so in a timely manner. That's not always a bad thing.
The lecture series is divided into 8 lectures:
Polytheist and paganism
Hebrew Bible (and the god or gods thereof)
Legacy of monotheism in the Abrahamic religion
The wisdom religions. Prophetic vs. Wisdom traditions
Debate of philosophers regarding God.
God and Politics...
In my opinion, the best lecture was on the wisdom religions, followed by the lecture on atheism. Having the option of getting some deeper lectures on these subjects would be really nice. I think in the West, the eastern wisdom traditions are the least understood but at the same time, offer some of the greatest help to the general malaise we are steeped in here in America (the ego run amok).
What I thought Ilan Stavans really added to the conversation was his Jewishness, and the fact that parts of the lectures were at times touchingly personal. While certainly there are modern Jewish perspectives about God out there, the fact that this was aimed at such a general audience makes it a little different, in my opinion.
In fact, while listening to these lectures, I wondered who exactly the target audience was. It seems like an academic lecture, but it is certainly more than that. And yet it isn't necessarily aimed at a religious audience, either. Nor is it aimed toward Jews or any other group. Yes, it seems impossible to pigeonhole this lecture series, and I think that is what makes it worth of your time.
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What disappointed you about Modern Scholar: God?
There is so much, it won't be possible to be comprehensive. It is essentially an Amateur Blog or Podcast. The 'author' moves from 'God' causing 9/11 to Borges imaging the internet before its time, to Woody Allen and Hemmingway. He fails utterly to make a distinction between man's conception & propaganda (of god) versus possible ultimate truth. He seems unaware that Eastern Orthodox Christianity has had a 'stop talking about god because we can't comprehend' attitude for centuries. Sorry my language is so poor here but I can't devote more time to this. I really wish I could be positive. I almost want to recommend people listen to it as an exemplar of messy thinking.
Has Modern Scholar: God turned you off from other books in this genre?
No, of course not.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of IIan Stavans?
The question is unanswerable because it's just a personalized rambling.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
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I own many audiobooks form the Great Courses and other publishers. I treasure works on philosophy, intellectual history, theology and history. I was hoping this tome would be in the same league as Karen Armstrong or Michael Sugrue. Words fail to describe how disappointing this 'book' is. I hate writing negative reviews. Whether you are a believer in a mainstream faith or atheist or agnostic doesn't matter, this diatribe is horrible.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful