After spending half an hour or so perusing articles about, and reviews of, a book called "A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet," I've pretty much concluded that...
This God doesn't strike me as potentially real enough to buy what Nancy Abrams wrote.
But I'll give her credit for this: creativity, thought-provoking'ness, poetic prose, and a semi-gallant attempt to explain a God that is compatible with modern science.
Since I don't understand how her God is any different from the collective imagination of humanity, I don't feel like I can explain Abrams' conception of a divinity that doesn't exist as an objective reality, yet supposedly is real enough to be prayed to.
So I'll just point to what I found interesting and intriguing, though not quite enough to buy the book. (I might change my mind, though.)
I started out reading a Salon piece by Abrams, "You're praying to the wrong God: What organized religion gets wrong about prayer."
We have learned from the evangelicals in Luhrmann’s study that if we are motivated enough, it’s possible to train our minds to experience whatever we believe is real. What if we directed toward the real universe and the emerging God even a fraction of the effort that millions of religious people make every day to experience the presence of their image of God?
Then I checked out the book's Amazon listing, focusing on the reader reviews. Here's part of a negative one.
This is embarrassingly bad. I had hoped that this might deserve an in-depth critique, but such aspiration vanished in the first 40 pages. PZ Myers has sliced and diced this pretty effectively over at his blog (Pharyngula), so I'll be brief. I skipped a bit, so I apologize for any errors.
The author -- an atheist, or at least an apatheist -- suffers from an eating disorder, and is impressed by the fact that in a self-help group that she joins, the people who put their trust in a "higher power" seem to do well. Rather than wondering about the psychosocial aspects of this observation, she feels compelled to find out if there's any natural phenomenon which would fit that description. She hypothesizes that perhaps there is some entity that is "emergent" from human consciousness, and opines that such an entity might be "worthy" of the term "god".
Now she provides no evidence for the existence of such an entity, nor does she attempt to explain what "emergence" might involve. She seems to view emergence as a mysterious process that requires no explanation -- a bit like the Gaia hypothesis, or some of Deepak Chopra's quantum nonsense.
Naturally I then had to read how PZ Myers "sliced and diced" A God That Could Be Real.
A song that could be silent. An ocean that could be dry. How about a book that could be nothing but deepities? That last one exists: it’s called A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet by Nancy Ellen Abrams, and it’s one of the more empty-headed collections of glib clap-trap I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s also really hard to describe, because the contents are so slippery.
...In other words, she recognizes that there is no good reason and no respectable evidence for believing in any of the existing religions, but she really, really wants to keep believing, so she’s going to go looking for a hook to hang the label “God” on. I could have spared her the effort of writing a whole book on this nonsense: get a sharpie and a piece of cardboard, write
GOD on it, and then tape it on some random object that will then become the focus of your reverence. It’s easy, and just as useful.
I looked for a cogent review of the book, but couldn't find one. A Publisher's Weekly piece was more descriptive than review'y.
Abrams, a lawyer and coauthor of books on cosmology (The New Universe and the Human Future), had long-standing disdain for organized religion and oversimplified approaches to faith and God. But a personal crisis with an eating disorder prompted her to deeply rethink her views about God and religion.
She came to understand God as something consistent with what is real in the universe. “God persists and always will because it’s a fundamental characteristic of the connection between ourselves and the universe,” Abrams writes.
She argues that God emerges in the world through the human mind and that humans have the responsibility to create a better world for themselves and future generations. She urges readers to pay close attention to climate change and the destruction of the planet.
Prayers are answered, she maintains, and yet no one is there to hear them. Much is possible for the planet and its people, she concludes, and she “want(s) to conserve this divine explosion of possibilities.” This book will appeal to scientifically minded readers and those intrigued by process theology.