Op-Ed Columnist - The Religious Wars - NYTimes.com
Mr. Wright also argues that monotheism emerged only gradually among Israelites, and that the God familiar to us may have resulted from a merger of a creator god, El, and a warrior god, Yahweh. Mr. Wright also argues that monotheism wasn’t firmly established until after the Babylonian exile, and he says that Moses’s point was that other gods shouldn’t be worshiped, not that they didn’t exist. For example, he notes the troubling references to a “divine council” and “gods” — plural — in Psalm 82.
In another revelation not usually found in Sunday School classes, Mr. Wright cites Biblical evidence that God (both El and Yahweh) had a sex life, rather like the Greek gods, and notes archaeological discoveries indicating that Yahweh may have had a wife, Asherah.
As for Christianity, Mr. Wright argues that it was Saint Paul — more than Jesus, an apocalyptic prophet — who emphasized love and universalism and built Christian faith as it is known today. Saint Paul focused on these elements, he says, partly as a way to broaden the appeal of the church and convert Gentiles.
Mr. Wright detects an evolution toward an image of God as a more beneficient and universal deity, one whose moral compass favors compassion for humans of whatever race or tribe, one who is now firmly in the antigenocide camp. Mr. Wright’s focus is not on whether God exists, but he does suggest that changing perceptions of God reflect a moral direction to history — and that this in turn perhaps reflects some kind of spiritual force.
“To the extent that ‘god’ grows, that is evidence — maybe not massive evidence, but some evidence — of higher purpose,” Mr. Wright says.