Aslan devotes significant time to the 'big three' monotheistic religions but does not explain why other cultures have been able to follow religious systems, such as Buddhism, without a deity at their center. If the human tendency is to want a humanlike God, what explains the success of these other religions? Nonetheless, Aslan’s fluid writing style makes the reader inclined to drop any lingering questions and accept his assertions on faith alone. His use of scholarly sources from fields ranging from archaeology to neuroscience will introduce many readers to information that otherwise would be relatively inaccessible, and he combines these disparate sources in compelling ways. Whatever God may be, at the very least Aslan shows us the long history of how humans have made Him in our image, and not vice versa.
Aslan’s contribution is unique. For one thing, his writing is inarguably kick-ass, and so his God is simply much more pleasurable to read ... We don’t really know, but Aslan’s decisiveness does make for a better story. And as he’s proven in Zealot and even more here, he’s certainly a great storyteller ... Aslan’s idea essentially negates the religious beliefs of every traditional culture in the world. Since, by his own account, he’s a believer, I’m sure Aslan wants to understand the beliefs of others, not dismiss them, and yet, ironically, that’s what he does in God ... Aslan doesn’t negate divinity, however. In fact, by presenting the perhaps paradoxical idea that humans are God, Aslan is pointing to a crucial belief in contemporary spirituality, which is that whether one believes or disbelieves in God or any divine being is less important than acting kindly, compassionately, and otherwise divinely. And one way to do that, he suggests, is to appreciate the divinity in each other.
God: A Human History, is aimed at the analytically minded spiritual seeker, the type who hopes to answer deep questions on the divine with study data and tidbits about evolution. But instead of arming readers with interpretive tools and good questions, Aslan tells a highly selective, generalized tale with the goal of proving his own beliefs ... Aslan may well be the most talented religious translator of his generation. But in his primed-for-television sureness, he misses an opportunity to engage the many Americans who are searching for new ideas about God. Rather than cherishing the complexity of belief, he chooses spiritual arrogance ... Aslan shows little interest in religious traditions that don’t fit this pattern, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which are mentioned only in passing. His history of God barely travels east of the Arabian Sea. Instead, Aslan bushwhacks his way through intellectual history in pursuit of his point ... aggressive atheism tempered and remodeled for the millennial age: doggedly universalistic, obligation-free and relentlessly focused on self-revelation.
Aslan is a born storyteller, and there is much to enjoy in this intelligent survey. Aslan is also eager to display his academic bona fides; a massive bibliography and endnotes (many comprised of extended extracts from other scholars) comprise nearly a third of the book. His treatment of the Western tradition, however, may strike some readers as somewhat cursory ... But Aslan’s book is not simply a historical study, but one with a trajectory in mind — the human history of God leads him to embrace pantheism as a spiritual option.
Aslan provides an intriguing glimpse into the history of primitive human belief systems, as evidenced by such archaeological remains as cave paintings, burial sites, and primitive temples ... Aslan’s conclusion is not necessarily revolutionary, though to many believers, it may seem surprising. As a history, the book is a brief yet interesting, mostly engaging work, though it does not touch on the idea of God as manifested in Asian cultures ... Slightly shocking but not groundbreaking—a readable but minor addition to the body of knowledge about 'God.'
Aslan is adept at translating serious academic theory into lay-reader friendly prose, but he also shares his own perspective as a person of faith and advocates for a renewed pantheism—though he says it can be called by many names. In making his case for pantheism, he barely mentions the voices of Hindu traditions, lesser known pantheistic philosophies, or specific indigenous traditions that have long held beliefs similar to those he advocates. Despite these issues, any general reader interested in religion will find much to learn about how the idea of God or gods has evolved and changed according to geographical, economic, political, and social contexts.