“The cable TV series The Story of God with Morgan Freeman will return for a third season in 2019 on the National Geographic Channel. Hosted by Freeman who famously played ‘God’ in the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty, the show attempts to be a comparative religion course translated into ‘edutainment.’ Like many such courses, it espouses the claim that all religions are equally valid in their truth claims. Freeman and his writers emphasize similarities between religions in the attempt to foster mutual understanding and tolerance between religious people. But The Story of God is also honest about the differences between religions and at points seems to admit that Christianity was a genuine improvement over earlier religions. Yet the show takes an evolutionary approach to religion familiar from secular anthropology. Different religions are explained as various cultural responses to the same human ‘instincts’ that are ‘hard-wired’ into our brains. Thus Freeman typically concludes that a particular aspect of religion — belief in God, miracles, the afterlife, the end of the world — is grounded in ‘human nature’ and contributes to the survival of the species by giving us ‘comfort’ or helping us ‘cope’ with fear and suffering. The Story of God is mostly accurate and fair but is guided by naturalistic assumptions and occasionally includes Freeman’s own New Age beliefs, such as the quasi-pantheist doctrine that every human being is God. Freeman is no Oprah, so it is unclear how much influence his theological ideas have on average Americans, but his series does illustrate some trends already prevalent in today’s culture. Indeed, it reflects an interesting combination of scientism and anti-intellectualism.”
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