I just finished reading what is possibly the most heretical book I've read to date (and that is saying a lot). The title certainly is up there on the heretical scale. However The Death of the Mythic God (subtitled The Rise of Evolutionary Spirituality) doesn't really claim G-d is dead, quite the contrary. But, what it does say is our myth of G-d, our Big Old Man (can you say Zeus) in the sky no longer serves us well.
This book is really two books in one. The first half is about the death of the mythic G-d and the spiritual crisis we are facing because, as the Christian church and others cling to this outdated notion not only does it impede our ability to get along across religions. But, it is creating a crisis of faith within Christianity where people are being to told to ignore their common sense and science and just have "faith" to believe in the unbelievable (in the 21st Century). As Marion points out, many of us are kind of stuck in an in between world, not wanting to abandon the faith of our youth but no longer able to buy into the mythical worldview. Then, there are those who have simply walked away finding "religion" irrelevant, superstitious and irrational.
Who is this "mythical God"? A separate "being" who lives in the sky (the people who wrote the Bible literally believed Heaven was just above the canopy of Earth). He intervenes in human affairs based on our petitions. People with a mythical worldview take their myths literally. The world was created in six days. Jesus was born of a virgin. These things in themselves are not so problematic. But, they also see themselves as good a nonbelievers as evil. They believe God is on their side and it's their responsibility to convert the goal to their beliefs, even if they have to use force to do it. We see this today among Christian (not so much with the force anymore) and Muslim fundamentalists. People at the rational level of consciousness (and above) see the world as one. They may or may not believe in the mythic sky God. But, they are on a collision course with fundamentalists.
The second half of the book addresses the levels of consciousness, mostly using the color coded progression from Spiral Dynamics made popular by Ken Wilber. I found a lot of it to be review. However, Marion did add some new insights for me.
Marion points out that a shift in consciousness was required to solve some of the social dilemma faced recently. A literal fundamentalist view of the Bible not only allowed discrimination against African-Americans, women and homosexuals but actually justified it. Only when people began began bringing a rational level of consciousness to the Bible could they see that these things weren't justified at all.
Perhaps the chapter I found the most important in the book was the one titled "Acceptance of the Death of God". This can be a traumatic event for many of us. I can recall being absolutely terrified as some of my old concept of G-d went away (even though I was absolutely terrified of the first concept, also). I found this passage particularly pertinent:
Christians go to church on Sunday as if entering a time warp, putting the modern rational worldview aside for an hour or two to submit to the old mythic worldview. Then they reemerge into the rational worldview by which they operate their lives and professions during the week.That is, if they still go to church (emphasis mine), for many do not because they are tired of this weekly regression and the irrelevance of the mythic worldview to their lives. Many of those who continue to go to church have entered the fourth stage of dying [Kubler-Ross stages]- depression and mourning. They miss the way things were and are bereft. But they see no way back.Others have gone all the way- into the final stage of acceptance. They have finally accepted the new situation and no longer go to church. They have accepted the rational worldview and the death of God. For them, the dying process is complete and they are lost to a Church that still clings to the old.
I've been fortunate. I've found a "progressive" church that is not totally immersed in the old mythology. I still have to to do some "translation" as Daniel Helminiak called it in the Transcended Christian, especially when it comes to the music. The lyrics of some of those hymns just, ooh! But, I think for the most part I've made the transition and been able to accept the "death" of the mythic God and can still make the transition back to church on Sunday mornings. However, as Spong and other point out, Christianity still must change or suffer the risk of dying out completely. I don't think the next generation will make that time warp every Sunday morning and the numbers are starting to reflect it. Even among those who call themselves believers and church attenders, attendance is dropping rapidly. The "unchurched" (those who haven't attended in the last six months) now outnumbers the number of Roman Catholics (listed at 62 million and wildly inflated since it includes all those ever baptized Catholic). The church is commissioning studies to figure out how to save itself. According to Marion, no matter the surface issues, the heart of the crisis is difference between those who still believe in the mythical Sky God (and the myths of the Bible) and those who not. Unfortunately, the response of most churches to this criss is to cling more tightly to the past and belittle those who cannot by saying they don't have enough "faith". It generally offers no leadership to those in mourning for the los of their god and offers none to replace the one who has died.
Marion goes into great detail as to who the mythic God was and even argues that Jesus never believed in the mythic God and actually was trying to pull people along out of that level of consciousness, which was necessary for mankind and is still a level that children must pass through. He gives 12 characteristics of the mythic God and, for each, shows how Jesus taught a different view of G-d. Wrapping up the first part of the book, Marion gives us a little perspective on the G-d who replaces the one that died.
As I said, the second part of the book deals mainly with the levels of human consciousness although it also goes into the nature of the universe. I particularly liked the chapter on the consciousness of the "greens" because everything I've seen about "greens" before was about how highly evolved they are. Marion also points out some of their shortcomings, one being that they think all levels of human consciousness are equal and should be "respected". When a red is coming at you with a baseball bat or a nuclear, you cannot take the time to "respect" their level of consciousness. You have to defend yourself. When a society is mutilating women or stoning them for minor infractions, it's OK to say that society is not as evolved as it should be and to do something to protect human rights. Honestly, the last part of the book felt kind of like an add-on to me and while it was "OK", it was not what I bought the book to find out.
Overall, I'd give the book 3 out of 5 stars. Some chapters were really great and others were just "so-so". They just didn't seem to fit in with what I thought the main theme of the book is I did like it enough to order Marion's earlier book "Putting On the Mind of Christ".