Philosopher A.C. Grayling writes about the illiterate roots of religion.
The ‘roots’ of religion may be illiterate, but this is hardly a cogent argument since the roots of everything, including writing, are illiterate.
Further, it’s unhelpful to disparage illiteracy in a generalising way. Australian Aboriginal culture, for instance, has been ‘illiterate’ for most of its existence, yet is one of the high points of human achievement. Far from being ‘primitive’ as European theorists such as Durkheim claimed, it is highly advanced and has a highly advanced relationship with its environment. In a sense, country is the ‘text’ with which Aboriginal culture is ‘written’, or the page on which it is inscribed. Or rather, literacy in the sense we understand it is a pale shadow of its former glory (was it Socrates who thought writing was an inferior form compared with face to face discourse?). I’m not saying I don’t appreciate things like telephones and kidney dialysis machines, but I am saying that cross-cultural comparisons are complex and should not be made lightly. So just because we can hold a pen, we don’t need to brag about it.
Still further, the illiterate roots referred to were actually propagated by highly literate writers in a highly literate cultures. When the literacy revolution took place, God, like everything else, was uploaded into text, and there he remains to this day. Many of the books of the Bible are literary masterpieces in their own right. I am recurrently mesmerised by the literary virtuosity of, for example, Mark’s gospel, which some commentators have regarded as simple and uncrafted. As if.
Finally, this means God is obviously not ‘an incoherent cluster of concepts’ as Grayling puts it but a finely honed literary character, a bit like James Bond or Dracula (as long as you also consider their fan fiction – it’s more appropriate to see these as coherent clusters centred on particular characters). That’s right, bad news for believers and non-believers alike: God is literally real.