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The Case for God: What religion really means…

The Case for God: What religion really means (edition 2009)

by Karen Armstrong (Author)

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1,228329,969 (3.87)51
Title:The Case for God: What religion really means
Authors:Karen Armstrong (Author)
Info:THE BODLEY HEAD LTD (2009), Edition: hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Case for God by Karen Armstrong



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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
This book is a fascinating study of how human beings relate to a higher power. It talks about how people thought of God historically and how they came to terms with things that happened. It could be much longer if the author so wished, but she states that it was not her intent to exhaustively show every single thing that happened, but merely to show an overview of religion and how it impacted civilization and people in general.

It focuses mainly on Christianity, but it also has some chapters on the other monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam. I didn't really notice anything on polytheism, but it did have some lines on the Greek Pantheon and some other things. The rise of Christianity and the parts where they tried to figure out the Trinity representation of God in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was pretty interesting, since that always bothered me when I was a kid. How is it that God is three beings but one being at the same time? So yeah, then the Nicene Council or whatever it is happened and they tried to resolve all of the issues concerning Jesus' Deity status and other things.

Since God is by nature ineffable, it is ridiculous to try to understand him in terms of words and ideas. This was all stated by a few Church philosophers and other important thinkers. So yeah. This was a very interesting book. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Which God?
If you believe in the God of creation, the God that intervenes in history, the one and only God, be it Judaic, be it Muslin, be it Christian, Karen Armstrong’s case is weak. If your God lives with you, encompasses all your weaknesses, accepts your moral idiosyncrasies and relates to your history and desires, Karen Armstrong’s case is strong. The book examines the diverse ideas of God through history and gives special attention to the modern and postmodern concepts of a religious life and it opposite, the atheist self. Science and religion are confronted and reconciled, at least the author tries it. Meanwhile, she advances her ideas of a personal God, without dogmas, a God that gives meaning to our life. Her arguments seems compelling. Her book gives the reader a good and well researched overview of the development of the idea of God in the monotheistic religions. ( )
  MarcusBastos | Mar 16, 2019 |
Deism and Atheism > Religion > Theory
  FHQuakers | Feb 12, 2018 |
reading this now, it is thoughtful and informative. ( )
  Pat_Gibson | May 28, 2017 |
Experiment with wish list item
  Quartz1 | Jan 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
"The Case for God" should be read slowly, and savored, for its moderating and moving exegesis on the human imperative to "find a transcendent meaning amid life's tragedies."
added by Shortride | editNewsweek, Lisa Miller (Sep 21, 2009)
One comes away from reading Armstrong feeling bruised. The words arise with such force and profusion that the point she is trying to make seems to get lost amongst them. Indeed, it is hard to believe, after the pain of reading one of her books, that she has sold so many of them, for who would willingly submit themselves to such torment? As I said earlier, to some extent Karen Armstrong has but one book, and she has written it many times. This is not unusual. But what is unusual is that she should think the same thing worth saying again and again, when she did not succeed, the first time, to say it convincingly. Armstrong must actually argue for her position. She cannot simply assume that telling the history of it will prove her point. Indeed, what Armstrong needs to do is to develop a theology, not by telling the history of theology, but by doing it. If what she has to say is genuinely worthwhile, this is the next step she will take. If she does not do it, we can be assured that the theology she espouses is as thin as this book is thick. Theology is hard work, as she says, and she has yet to do it.
This is an eloquent and interesting book, although you do not quite get what it says on the tin. Karen Armstrong takes the reader through a history of religious practice in many different cultures, arguing that in the good old days and purest forms they all come to much the same thing. They use devices of ritual, mystery, drama, dance and meditation in order to enable us better to cope with the vale of tears in which we find ourselves. Religion is therefore properly a matter of a practice, and may be compared with art or music. These are similarly difficult to create, and even to appreciate. But nobody who has managed either would doubt that something valuable has happened in the process. We come out of the art gallery or concert hall enriched and braced, elevated and tranquil, and may even fancy ourselves better people, though the change may or may not be noticed by those around us.

This is religion as it should be, and, according to Armstrong, as it once was in all the world's best traditions. However, there is a serpent in this paradise, as in others. Or rather, several serpents, but the worst is the folly of intellectualising the practice. This makes it into a matter of belief, argument, and ultimately dogma. It debases religion into a matter of belief in a certain number of propositions, so that if you can recite those sincerely you are an adept, and if you can't you fail. This is Armstrong's principal target. With the scientific triumphs of the 17th century, religion stopped being a practice and started to become a theory - in particular the theory of the divine architect. This is a perversion of anything valuable in religious practice, Armstrong writes, and it is only this perverted view that arouses the scorn of modern "militant" atheists. So Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris have chosen a straw man as a target. Real religion is serenely immune to their discovery that it is silly to talk of a divine architect.

So what should the religious adept actually say by way of expressing his or her faith? Nothing. This is the "apophatic" tradition, in which nothing about God can be put into words. Armstrong firmly recommends silence, having written at least 15 books on the topic. Words such as "God" have to be seen as symbols, not names, but any word falls short of describing what it symbolises, and will always be inadequate, contradictory, metaphorical or allegorical. The mystery at the heart of religious practice is ineffable, unapproachable by reason and by language. Silence is its truest expression. The right kind of silence, of course, not that of the pothead or inebriate. The religious state is exactly that of Alice after hearing the nonsense poem "Jabberwocky": "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas - only I don't exactly know what they are." If Alice puts on a dog collar, she will be at one with the tradition.

Armstrong is not presenting a case for God in the sense most people in our idolatrous world would think of it. The ordinary man or woman in the pew or on the prayer mat probably thinks of God as a kind of large version of themselves with mysterious powers and a rather nasty temper. That is the vice of theory again, and as long as they think like that, ordinary folk are not truly religious, whatever they profess. By contrast, Armstrong promises that her kinds of practice will make us better, wiser, more forgiving, loving, courageous, selfless, hopeful and just. Who can be against that?

The odd thing is that the book presupposes that such desirable improvements are the same thing as an increase in understanding - only a kind of understanding that has no describable content. It is beyond words, yet is nevertheless to be described in terms of awareness and truth. But why should we accept that? Imagine that I come out of the art gallery or other trance with a beatific smile on my face. I have enjoyed myself, and feel better. Perhaps I give a coin to the beggar I ignored on the way in. Even if I do so, there is no reason to describe the improvement in terms of my having understood anything. If I feel more generous, well and good, but the proof of that pudding is not my beatific smile but how I behave. As Wittgenstein, whose views on religion Armstrong thoroughly endorses, also said, an inner process stands in need of outward criteria. You can feel good without being good, and be good without stretching your understanding beyond words. Her experience of "Jabberwocky" may have improved Alice.

Silence is just that. It is a kind of lowest common denominator of the human mind. The machine is idling. Which direction it then goes after a period of idling is a highly unpredictable matter. As David Hume put it, in human nature there is "some particle of the dove, mixed in with the wolf and the serpent". So we can expect that some directions will be better and others worse. And that is what, alas, we always find, with or without the song and dance.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Armstrongprimary authorall editionscalculated
Clark, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hughes, ShawnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paassen, Willem vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werf, Maarten van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, GabrieleCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wittevewen, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We are talking far too much about God these days, and what we say is often facile.
One of the first people to make it crystal clear that holiness was inseparable from altruism was the Chinese sage Confucius (551-479 BCE).
Jews and Christians both insisted that...the Bible...gives us no single, orthodox message and demands constant reinterpretation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307269183, Hardcover)

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.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:22 -0400)

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An essential book for our times: Karen Armstrong answers bestselling atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and argues that faith still has a fundamental role in the modern world.

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