This was my own pick for my book club and it took me far longer to get through that it should have. The concept is great – at the core of three battling religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) there is some commonality and it is embodied in the form of this guy, Abraham. So dude goes on a quest to find the ways that each religion understands (and uses) him and asks himself whether through sharing this guy, three religions might find some things to agree upon.
I’m going with “No”. Because you know what these religions really have in common? They manipulate the language of the ancient stories for whatever purpose suits them on any given day.
Feiler does a fine job through his travels in the Middle East of finding expert theologians to walk him through the importance of Abraham to their faiths. He also notes that people see in religious texts whatever they want to see, and find things that prove their points, rather than really searching for meaning.
The same might be said of my reading his book.
Toward the end, as he is really trying to answer the “is there hope?” question, he makes an observation. (Maybe someone else said it and he recorded it.) The Catholic Church didn’t start to soften its stance on freakin’ anything until Vatican II. Part of the driver of Vatican II was the American Catholics – more liberal, more prosperous, more willing to speak up. The theory is that these things came about because the American Catholics we raised in a stable political environment that through its lack of (official) association with any given faith was more open to others. Perhaps if those political institutions can take root in the Middle East, there will be some hope.
I’m not sure I will see it in my lifetime.