I just finished reading Reza Aslan’s book God: A Human History, which chronicles the attempt by humans throughout history to understand God. In the book, Aslan suggests that the humans have an innate predisposition anthropomorphize God, to view God as “a divine version of ourselves.”
He also suggests that religious belief itself is an “elemental part of the human experience.” He writes
We are Homo religiosus, not in our desire for creeds or institutions, nor in our commitments to specific gods and theologies, but in our existential striving toward transcendence: toward that which lies beyond the manifest world.
That is a statement that intuitively seems right to me, that we have a natural impulse toward the divine, a sense that there is something more than the physical world I see around me. (I suspect there is also truth to the fact that we tend to create God in our own image, much as we profess our creation in God’s image.)
Where humans depart, of course, is in how they understand the “what lies beyond.” Aslan, who himself embraces a pantheism that views God and the universe as one and the same, traces the history of human belief about God (or gods) from prehistory through the rise of Islam. (I found particularly interesting the challenge to the development of monotheism, as well as the idea that the development of Islam breathed new support for Jewish monotheism.)
Despite its subtitle, the book is far from a complete history, and many will find it controversial. (That is nothing new for Aslan.) Be that as it may, I learned much in reading this book, and would love to find an opportunity to discuss it in a group that included Jews and Muslims as well as Christians.