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God: A Human History

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  3,769 ratings  ·  626 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of Zealot and host of Believer explores humanity’s quest to make sense of the divine in this concise and fascinating history of our understanding of God.
In Zealot, Reza Aslan replaced the staid, well-worn portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth with a startling new image of the man in all his contradictions. In his new book, Aslan takes on a subjec/>
Kindle Edition, 321 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Random House
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Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In July, I read a book called Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of Religion by E. Fuller Torrey. It presents the evolutionary theory of the creation of gods by examining the cognitive development of man and I found it truly fascinating.

In this short work, Reza Aslan similarly explores the creation of gods by man. It's not a scientific approach and I found little if nothing new in the first two thirds of the book. I appreciate this is largely because I'd already rea
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The difficulty Akhenaten and Zarathustra faced is that people generally have a hard time relating to a god who, having no human features or attributes, also has no human needs."
- Reza Aslan, God: A Human History


A basic overview of the development of Monotheism written for popular consumption. Nothing really new, except for Aslan's obvious narrative skil
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was a bit of a disappointment. I had expected something more enlightening, or at least new information, which was not what I got. It did not offer much in terms of new ideas or knowledge, and some of Aslan's points struck me as faulty. His final sentence, “Do not fear God. You are God” felt like the written word version of click bait, and I found it to be a dissatisfying ending to a thankfully short book. The fact that his conclusion is that god or gods are a human construct made me th ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is well written and fascinating. As an Iranian, I especially love that he includes the vital history of God and religion that began in Iran. The content however is very similar to Robert Wright’s Evolution is God and Karen Armstrong’s history of God. But I suppose the outcome is different. Reza ends up in Sufism and Wright in secular Buddhism and Armstrong in Christian mysticism. But as Azlan seems to say, it’s the same thing. The other books are much more thorough. Harari also takes u ...more
Clif Hostetler
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This book provides a human history with particular focus on the human tendency to imagine divine agency as a part of life. As far back as evidence of human life exists, there is evidence of a spiritual aspect in their art, charms, monuments and burials. This includes relatives of modern humans including the Neanderthals. The book even claims that some artifacts associated with Homo erectus bones may be evidence of spiritual beliefs.

First the book has a section that explores why human beings believe in something be
Although comparable in scope to Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, this is more of an anthropological and sociological approach to how religion arose. We created God in our image, Aslan argues. Using ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ as representatives of primitive humans, he explores what seems to have been intuitive: the idea that the soul survives after death; the notion of a three-tiered universe (heaven, Earth, and an underworld); and animism, or the conviction that all things have a spirit. Cave paintings bore wit ...more
Kat Kennedy
Aslan’s scriptural knowledge of a handful of religions is really interesting. The lesson on the early Jewish religions was fascinating. But this is a very area specific book in which Eastern religions barely get name checked. Very interesting if you want to know about Christianity, Judaism, Islam and their origins. But on a more global scale it is almost useless.
The beginning of this book assumes a lot about the thoughts and experiences of Paleolithic people, and those foundational ideas tinge
Artur Olczyk
All of you, who are aware of many debates that Reza Aslan was involved in (e.g. with Sam Harris), know that he can be a controversial man. Without further ado, I want to say that I fully embrace his scholarly background and the effort that he put to write God: A Human History. In the author's own words,
this book is more than just a history of how we have humanized God. It is also an appeal to stop foisting our human compulsions upon the divine,
because this is the key
to a more mature, more peaceful form of spirituality.
5 ⭐ stuff. Many thanks to NetGalley, publisher and author for sharing the ARC.

Honestly, my experience with ARCs so far was very disappointing. Also, I haven't encountered Reza Aslan before. So my expectations were pretty low to start with.

But then I started reading... and was blown away. This is such a strong book. It is succinct, very balanced, logical and delightful to follow. The author is a fantastic storyteller! This is a non-fiction story that will steal you away from your fiction
Roger DeBlanck
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Each of Reza Aslan’s previous books made a lasting impression on me. God: A Human History is no different. It is an empowering study that relies on impeccable scholarship and yet reads with the lyricism and emotion of great literature. All the while, Aslan maintains a page-turning narrative that shows how we have made sense of God throughout history by assigning human attributes to our divine beliefs.

Aslan starts with the first humans of “Adam and Eve.” He explains how they performed burial rituals th
Kent Winward
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not bad for looking at theories on how humanity creates its gods. I was interested to note that as Aslan comes out as a pantheist at the end and his extreme pantheism isn't all that different from atheism -- one is everything, every moment, every object, every particle is God vs. nothing, never, no object, no particle is God is practically the same as a logical end point -- everything is all still one color.
Oct 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, nonfiction, arc
I am, in my essential reality, God made manifest. We all are. So then, worship God not through fear and trembling but through awe and wonder at the workings of the universe – for the universe is God. Pray to God not to ask for things but to become one with God. Recognize that the knowledge of good and evil that the God of Genesis so feared humans might attain begins with the knowledge that good and evil are not metaphysical things but moral choices. Root your moral choices neither in fear of et
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The grumpus23 (23-word commentary)
Answers. Biography of religion. We imagine God in our image, not us in his. If horses had hands, God would look like horses.
Owlseyes inside Notre Dame, it's so strange a 15-hour blaze and...30-minutes wait to call the firemen...and
81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump
67% of color evangelicals voted for Hillary

Reza sees race in the numbers. Do you?

"I am not the first person to point this out: There’s been a cultish quality to President Trump’s most ardent supporters. Throughout the campaign, and in personal appearances since then, Trump has harnessed the kind of emotional intensity from his base that is more typical of a religious revival meeting than a political rally, complete with ritualized comm
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reza Aslan blew me away when I read Zealot a few years ago, so I had high expectations for this quick read. He takes a scholarly look at why religion exists by taking us through a brief history of humanity, posing questions, theories, and thoughtful observations. As a non religious person myself, I find different faiths, beliefs, and gods fascinating. Humans are interesting creatures. Very thought-provoking read!
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews.

Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy! All opinions here are my own and are not influenced by them.

Admittedly, I do love Reza Aslan, though. I’ve read two of his books and one of them completely changed my viewpoint on things. My religious studies professors sometimes talk about him to bring up various issues since he’s a well-known guy who studies religions and talks about them. Not only that, but I’ve often
Marilynn Spiegel
Nov 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author begins with an illogical premise and spirals downward from there. His original premise ignores the three basic Laws of Thought: the law of identity, the law of excluded middle and the law of non-contradiction. Aslan is an ethical relativist who has never examined his own thoughts. I believe in some circles he would be considered thoughtful, but for a philosophical, historical, believer in God I felt the book was a waste of my time.

He describes conversion as an opinion chan
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this once and then immediately read it again. Aslan is such a thoughtful, gifted scholar, and I appreciate that he makes scholarly writing so accessible. That said, this book isn’t quite what I expected. It is primarily a history of how monotheism and the humanization of God came to be. What Aslan does focus on is compelling, but I was disappointed in the uneven treatment of world religions. I would have liked more discussion of Hinduism (briefly discussed within the main body of the text a ...more
James Hartley
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
An odd book. Fascinating in places, unbalanced, a weird mixture of history and opinion. It is basically the authors attempt to work out what God "is".
The chapters on the Old Testament, Christianity and Islam and the Sufis were the most interesting. It was a shame that the book ended so abruptly - Taoism, Buddhism and Philosophy and Science were crammed into the penultimate chapter - and the personal opinions of the first (few) and last chapters didnt quite fit in with the rest of the book. It f
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Well, I’ll compare it directly with Karen Armstrong’s A History Of God, which was in almost all ways a superior book. Aslan’s notations leave a lot to be desired. He has a large bibliography, but each time I was like, ‘wow, that seems interesting,’ or ‘wow, that’s a bold claim,’ the endnotes lead to a bibliography with no specific notation (for someone who gives so many interviews maximizing his scholarly credentials I expect something better than MLA formatting... preferably Chicago style. Than ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Aslan reminds me a lot of Harari - both are intelligent, extremely accessible and bold and love to paint with a very broad brush. They also cover some similar ground, although Aslan is more narrowly focused on religious themes. For some reason, I also find him less irritating than Harari - even though both could be accused of the same sins of shallowness, oversimplification and jumping into conclusions. When it comes to the spiritual beliefs of the early humans, Aslan is actually worse than Hara ...more
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aslan makes a study of why and how humans tend to anthropomorphize the divine. While most developed faiths have a theology of God being an abstract concept, humans refer to God in human terms. In other words, Aslan asserts that God did not create humans in his/her image, rather humans created their Gods in their own images. This proclivity appears to be nearly universal across the globe.
The earliest evidence of religion is found in cave paintings dating as far back as 41,000 years ago. Aslan di
Kristy K
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
"What is God? That question has been st the center of the human quest to make sense of the divine from the very beginning."

This was a lot shorter than I expected, the actual content taking up only about 50% of the book. However, the rest of the book is the authors bibliography, notes, and research which I appreciated. When reading non-fiction it's nice to be able to see where the author is getting his source material and the amount of research he put in. And even though it is on the shorter side,
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. I think it's fair to say that the reader is best served approaching this as a memoir of one man's personal arc of spiritual discovery as played out against the backdrop of the history of religious expression and thought. It's not a straightforward history (nor is it presented as such) - but Aslan does include wonderful notes. It's rush towards pantheism is a fun ride.
Waddah Arafat
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For 90+% of this book, I was fascinated. It's an engaging history of the development of humankind's relationship to the divine, from prehistoric (i.e, neanderthal) times up to, roughly, the development and spread of the most recent major western religion, Islam. It ties in psychology and politics and sociology and trade, and makes logical connections between the development of all of them, in tandem.

Where the book falls short for me comes in a trinity, if you will. First, its near so
Dan Graser
I suppose if you have never considered the case that humans have fashioned the, "divine," in their own image for thousands of years then there may be something interesting here.

I suppose if you know nothing of early monotheisms that predate the one you may subscribe to then there may be something interesting for you here.

If you think our natural inclinations to suppose agency where there is none and assumptions that there is something eternal about our own consciousness (
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Perhaps 'Zealot' set the bar too high for me. While I enjoyed Zealot as a comprehensive, fully-realized vision of Aslan’s interpretation of Jesus, I find 'God' to come up short. Aslan casts too wide of a net, trying to explore the meaning of the world’s great religions in 171 pages. The result is that the treatment seems cursory and perfunctory, better suited as a brief history. The additional 70+ pages of 'notes' fills some gaps. But I found it as much distracting as informative.

Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reza Aslan is both a brilliant scholar and a skillful storyteller. 'God: A Human History' is fascinating, educational and accessible. It is as much an explanation of the way in which we have given God human qualities as it is a history of the rise of monotheism, two stories which are intricately intertwined. It also very closely mirrors the path of Aslan's own spiritual journey.

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Aslan's spiritual beliefs or conclusions, I appreciate his cons
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Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is author most recently of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

He is the founder of, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the GreatNazareth.


“As a believer and a pantheist, I worship God not through fear and trembling but through awe and wonder at the workings of the universe—for the universe is God. I pray to God not to ask for things but to become one with God. I recognize that the knowledge of good and evil that the God of Genesis so feared humans might attain begins with the knowledge that good and evil are not metaphysical things but moral choices. I root my moral choices neither in fear of eternal punishment nor in hope of eternal reward. I recognize the divinity of the world and every being in it and respond to everyone and everything as though they were God—because they are. And I understand that the only way I can truly know God is by relying on the only thing I can truly know: myself.” 8 likes
“That, more than anything else, explains why, throughout human history, religion has been a force both for boundless good and for unspeakable evil; why the same faith in the same God inspires love and compassion in one believer, hatred and violence in another; why two people can approach the same scripture at the same time and come away with two radically opposing interpretations of it. Indeed, most of the religious conflicts that continue to roil our world arise from our innate, unconscious desire to make ourselves the apotheosis of what God is and what God wants, whom God loves and whom God hates.” 4 likes
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