From primitive animists to the legends of the first gods, battling like irrational cloud-inhabiting humans over the cosmos, Wright tells the story of how war and trade, technology and human interaction slowly exposed humans to the gods of others. How this awareness led to the Jewish innovation of a hidden and universal God, how the cosmopolitan early Christians, in order to market their doctrines more successfully, universalised and sanitised this Jewish God in turn, and how Islam equally included a civilising universalism despite its doctrinal rigidity and founding violence.
Fundamentalism, in this reading, is a kind of repetitive neurotic interlude in the evolution of religion towards more benign and global forms.
What makes it fresh and necessary is that it’s a non-believer’s open-minded exploration of how religious doctrine and practice have changed through human history — usually for the better.
Wright’s thesis, as Sullivan characterizes it, sounds interesting: Wild, exotic hot-house religious “plants” take on, as it were, subdued colorations, and more universal qualities, as their geographical ranges expand over time.
I’ve kind of thought along these lines with regard to the Internet. It’s hard not to be aware of counter arguments to your own religious positions when, with just a Google search, you can find critiques of what your religion (or irreligious group) teaches. It makes it harder to be an adamant young earth creationist, for example, with so many good science-based evolution sites available to peruse (and that are just a mouse click away).