The Case for God

The Case for God

3.5 94
by Karen Armstrong
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

ISBN-10: 0307269183

ISBN-13: 9780307269188

Pub. Date: 09/22/2009

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

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

Overview

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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307269188
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/22/2009
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.64(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.50(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
 
Part I The Unknown God (30,000 BCE to 1500 CE)

One  Homo religiosus
Two  God
Three  Reason
Four  Faith
Five  Silence
Six  Faith and Reason
 
Part II The Modern God (1500 CE to the Present)

Seven  Science and Religion
Eight  Scientific Religion
Nine  Enlightenment
Ten  Atheism
Eleven Unknowing
Twelve  Death of God?
Epilogue
 
Acknowledgments
Notes
Glossary
Selected Bibliography
Index

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Case for God 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 94 reviews.
Will917 More than 1 year ago
In this book, Armstrong lays out the history of philosophical and religious concepts of God, primarily in the Judeo-Christian tradition and churches. Her writing is exceptionally clear and straightforward. her essential theme is that God is fundamentally unknowable. All of the "idolatrous" notions of God over the centuries are very clearly human projections. They are in no way based on revelations of the true nature of the Divine, which human minds just cannot fully understand and describe. This is a great book for seekers. It is also very good for understanding the views of others. Her material on American fundamentalism is superb.
David_A_Bassett More than 1 year ago
"We are talking far too much about God these days, and what we say is often facile." That opening line hooked me on Karen Armstrong's new book, The Case for God. As a devout atheist, I was not immediately drawn to the title, but the latest book by this eminent scholar of religion seemed destined for my 'essential reading' list. Within a few minutes it became clear that this was not just one case for God, it was a history of the variety of cases made for god over many centuries and cultures. As presaged by the opening line, Armstrong's focus is on the God beyond "god", the mystic's g*d whose very name cannot even be known, the ultimate of the universe. The book's title could just as easily be, "The Quest For Certainty". The book opens with a chapter on the twilight before history, Paleolithic cave paintings and their potential meanings. What meaning or use might they have had for the original people who made these images? She explores some potential parallels with our contemporaries who live in Neolithic societies. What meanings do these images offer us for the nature of God, the nature of our understanding of God, or our understanding of our images of God? From this starting point Armstrong delves directly into the interplay of mythology, meaning, belief and being. She probes the parallels that can be found in mystical foundations of Hinduism, Daoism, Buddhism, Judaism, and other ancient religions of the Middle East, Mediterranean, India, and China. In chapter 2 Armstrong explores the beliefs about God among the ancient Israelites. So far this could be a retelling of her earlier History of God, but in chapter 3 entitled 'Reason' she expands the scope significantly by encompassing the early Greek Philosophers. Often their story is divorced from the religious subject matter and placed with the history of science. Armstrong's treatment brings them closer to the mystics. The call to a life of compassion becomes the common factor across many styles of belief and practice. In the following chapters Armstrong traces the ebb and flow of exegesis between literalism and allegory, between orthodoxy (right words) and orthopraxis (right action), between theology and philosophy. Armstrong explores the development of a variety of flavors of atheism. Often they are critical of the shallow, facile orthodox religious beliefs that deny the deep mystery of the Universe and may border on idolatry. Secularism is identified as a political movement which has sometimes identified religious practices to be economic disadvantages. Modern Atheism is called "a form of secular fundamentalism" which falsely propagates the absolute incompatibility of religion and science. Modern fundamentalism is drawn out as a reaction to these. In her Epilogue, Armstrong returns to the question of the purpose of religion. "Religion is a practical discipline, and its insights are not derived from abstract speculation but from spiritual exercises and a dedicated lifestyle." Armstrong places religious practice in closer relation to art, music, creativity, and a life of compassion. "Religion's task. was to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems that we could not solve: mortality, pain, grief, despair, and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's definitely not an "easy read" (keep a dictionary handy), but Armstrong provides a comprehensive review of how past cultures and philosophers have approached their belief in God and the mysterious. Armstrong does a good job of putting people's faith into the perspective of the times that they lived in, and examining how that has changed over the past several thousand years. She skims over Islam (briefly mentioned as it spread to Western Europe), which was a little disappointing to me, and other than a few mentions of Eastern religions, this is primarily about Greco-Roman philosophy, Christianity and Judaism. I enjoyed the book (I had to return my copy to the library and went out and bought my own), and if you've ever wanted to know more about how Christians and Jews have changed in their justification for faith and how they practice their faith, this is the book to read. As I mention in my header - it's hard to find books about religion that aren't overtly biased from either a preachy-religious perspective or an angry-atheistic perspective. Armstrong's tone through this book was respectful (and almost kind) towards all the people and faiths she analyzed, which I think is missing in a lot of discussions about religion. I will say, if you are a fundamentalist (of any faith), then this probably isn't the book for you since the writing is very frank about how our views of God and the Bible have changed over time and in relation to the external pressures facing people through history.
AlStead More than 1 year ago
Summary: This book is interesting, but Christians (and God-believers of other religions) beware: this book reveals how there really isn't anything special, let alone supernatural, about God. The author systematically explains how every modern religion traces back to myths originally crafted by primordial man during the days of cave dwellers. The author is not against religion per se. If a person finds benefit in following a religion, and in doing so becomes a better person, especially as it might lead that person to interact better with others, then the author is all for religion. However the author contends that religion should be looked at for what it is: precepts based on myths that have evolved over time to help man cope with the realities of life. The author _is_ against people who are fundamentalists in their religion: people who take their religion as a literal truth, given by an actual God. The author does not single out any one particular religion, though Christianity is the religion most cited. With regard to Christianity specifically, the author does go into much detail explaining how the Bible was actually authored. The author's explanation adheres to the mainstream, scholarly explanation: that the Old Testament began as separate manuscripts, written by separate groups. These separate manuscripts were later combined to invent a unified history for nomad tribes which were previously independent. This was done as a way of bringing those tribes together under one rule. (i.e. the Bible was crafted as a means to promote a political agenda.) With regard to the New Testament the author explains how different authors wrote stories about the historical figure, Jesus, as a way of conveying their different messages to different people to achieve their agendas. The author also explains the original intent of the Biblical texts, explaining how the original intent and meaning of the words in their original context has been lost or twisted by fundamentalists. As an example, the word, "believe," in its original context meant only to "devote oneself as a follower". It didn't mean, as it does today, to believe something to be true. Thus in the original context, phrases such as "believe in Jesus" were never meant to suggest Jesus was some supernatural being. The author concludes by discussing how "God" has finally died out, as evidenced by the sharp reduction in church goers. The author attributes this to people finally realizing religion for what it is and thus keeping it in its proper place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book provides an explanation of fundamentals, provides important historical perspectives, and provides ways of thinking about God and religion that are important.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago