Moving from the Paleolithic age to the present, Karen Armstrong details the great lengths to which humankind has gone in order to experience a sacred reality that it called by many names, such as God, Brahman, Nirvana, Allah, or Dao. Focusing especially on Christianity but including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese spiritualities, Armstrong examines the diminished impulse toward religion in our own time, when a significant number of people either want nothing to do with God or question the efficacy of faith. Why has God become unbelievable? Why is it that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God in a way that veers so profoundly from the thinking of our ancestors?
Answering these questions with the same depth of knowledge and profound insight that have marked all her acclaimed books, Armstrong makes clear how the changing face of the world has necessarily changed the importance of religion at both the societal and the individual level. And she makes a powerful, convincing argument for drawing on the insights of the past in order to build a faith that speaks to the needs of our dangerously polarized age. Yet she cautions us that religion was never supposed to provide answers that lie within the competence of human reason; that, she says, is the role of logos. The task of religion is “to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no easy explanations.” She emphasizes, too, that religion will not work automatically. It is, she says, a practical discipline: its insights are derived not from abstract speculation but from “dedicated intellectual endeavor” and a “compassionate lifestyle that enables us to break out of the prism of selfhood.”
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Guilty - Suspended Sentence
Once again Karen Armstrong amazes us with her insight and erudition. But still a bit long, Karen. In no way facile though, full of pertinent information and (something we see very little of these days) real thinking. If it was your intention to prove the concept of God innocent of all charges heaped upon it by the new atheists, I think you have failed. The God concept in my view is GUILTY; however, it remains an important, useful, nay, essential “no-thing” for all of us. Your treatment was wonderful, engaging, and will keep me, at least, practicing religion--which is the important thing, isn't it? Karen's reading was really excellent; however, the pronunciation of many proper names is questionable. I give The Case for God a suspended sentence!
The Case for God
This is the first book of Ms. Armstrong's that I have read, and it was an amazing experience. She takes us from the early theologies and slowly brings us forward to the current time of conflict between fundamentalists of every ilk, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and atheism. She provides us with geopolitical, economic, cultural and theistic contexts for each change in philosophy that forms the religious experience at the time. She makes a strong statement for being willing to admit the limits of one's information and welcoming the uncertainty and concomitant opportunity to learn.
I can not recommend this book enough to anyone who wants to learn and understand. Now I understand why so many of the ministers of my youth could not answer basic questions about God or about our own religion. They simply didn't know. They'd been taught the dogma, but had no understanding of context.
Intelligent, Insightful and inspirational
Karen has written many wonderful books exploring spiritual icons and systems of thought. She continues that tradition in the Case for God. There is nothing to be feared here by followers of any religon, take the time to read it and enjoy the thoughts that come to mind as you do.