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The Case for God Karen Armstrong

The Case for God

Karen Armstrong

432 pages
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 About the Book 

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. FocusingMoreMoving 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.”“The Case for God simmers with a quiet spiritual optimism. It is dense and brilliant, chastening and consoling. Whether or not is sells as well as the latest Hitchens or Dawkins will be a measure of us, not the book. . . . Reading Armstrong after these boys is like listening to a clever and kindly adult after a bunch of strident adolescents.” –Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times“One of our best living writers on religion. . . . History shows that most attempts to combat wounding elements within religion tend to provoke reactions from the extreme. Armstrong is aware of this- but this prodigiously sourced, passionately written book is a compelling plea to give it a try.” –John Cornwell, Financial Times“An eloquent and interesting book.” –Simon Blackburn, The Guardian“One of the most intelligent contemporary defenders of religion. . . . .In plain language, and nowhere more eloquently than in this new book, Armstrong accuses both factions [religious fundamentalism and militant atheism] of misunderstanding the nature of God and, interestingly, of doing so in similar ways. . . . As in so much of the rest of her hugely impressive body of work, Karen Armstrong invites us on a journey through religion that helps us to rescue what remains wise from so much that to many . . . today no longer seems true.” –Alain de Botton, The Observer“At a swift glance, the title of Karen Armstrong’s new book . . . might mislead the casual observer into thinking that she has written a case for the existence of God. . . . Armstrong has done something far cleverer and more subtle than that, however. . . . The point she makes from the start is that language, being necessarily limited to human comprehension, cannot fully convey anything about God. . . . [The] ‘stunned appreciation of an ‘otherness’ beyond the reach of language,’ for Armstrong, constitutes the heart of every religion. Their liturgies and rituals . . . were all constructed to aid adherents in the path towards this goal. And containing as these faiths all do some variant of the ‘Golden Rule’ . . . the steps on this path involve[e] charity and compassion, not the intolerance of fundamentalists and their mirror image, the new God-destroyers. . . . If you accept this, and Armstrong makes a good historic and theological argument that it is so, then who among us would wish to admit this: that they had lived a life so impoverished that it contained no inkling of that wonder and transcendence she wishes us to acknowledge? Her case rests. –Sholto Byrnes, The New Statesman“Karen Armstrong, in writing The Case for God, provides the reader with one of the very best theological works of our time. It brings a new understanding to the complex relationship between human existence and the transcendent nature of God. This is a book that is so well researched and so deep with insight and soaring scholarship that only Karen Armstrong could have written it. The Case for God should be required reading for anyone who claims to be a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist.”—The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, D.D., Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, D.C.“Challenging, intelligent, and illuminating—especially for anyone reflecting on current discussions of atheism, often characterized as conflict between religion and science.” —Elaine Pagels, co-author of Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity“No one is better qualified or more needed than Karen Armstrong to enter the hot public debate between believers and non-believers over the existence of God. Her latest book, eagerly awaited and received, rings out with the qualities she brings to all of her work—The Case for God is lucid, learned, provocative, and illuminating. Indeed, Armstrong once again does what she always does best by shining a clear light on the deepest mysteries of the religious imagination.” —Jonathan Kirsch, author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road