ISBN-10:
0307269183
ISBN-13:
2900307269187
Pub. Date:
09/22/2009
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Case for God

Case for God

by Karen Armstrong
Current price is , Original price is $27.95. You

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Please check back later for updated availability.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Case for God 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 98 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.
MarkRitz More than 1 year ago
Karen Armstrong has achieved noteworthy status with her latest, monumental work. She stands alongside Joseph Campbell as an expert mytho-theologian, and surely ranks as one of the greatest female commentators and thinkers on religion in Western history. Her grand review of the conceptualization of "God" in Jewish, Greek, and Christian culture shows that what we think we know about religion and God is highly temporal and superficial--and mostly mistaken. Surely the present-day, self proclaimed-atheistic and intolerant scourges of Mythos will now aim their gun sites on Armstrong, seeking to diminish her accomplishment and reputation so that they can continue in their un-self-examined delusional triumphalism of Logos alone, but any sapient and sincere practitioner of any spiritual path will see the sacred truth glimmering through her carefully-composed prose. It doesn't really matter if Armstrong has it all exactly right, or if the reader agrees with every aspect of her argument. I myself do not quite understand the apophatic in exactly the same way she presents it. However, her general explication of spirituality is accurate in that it moves the reader away from the lugubrious literal-minded conceptualizations of "God" which many of us have experienced in the mundane practice of our childhood religious faiths--poorly-practiced faiths which we consequently abandoned because they proved boring and meaningless in our unfettered Modern lives. Armstrong's thickly intellectual writing demands that the reader pay careful attention to her words, and it is helpful to draw on other works in order to do so. Her previous books, The Great Transformation, about the rising of the humanistic philosophies and religions along the grand belt of culture from China to India to Judea to Athens, and her autobiography, The Spiral Staircase, will serve the reader well in understanding the basis of Armstrong's ideas for this current work. Committed atheists will attack Armstrong for even using the term "God," but ultimately she remains diffident and uncommitted as to its definition. And this is as it should be. While most Westerners are trapped within a silly and annoying cliche that likely started with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel depiction of an old man with long white beard reaching out to the universal Adam, Armstrong repeatedly defends the assertions of earlier thinkers that "God" has no certain definition. It would not be surprising in Armstrong were also attacked from the religious right, because there will be many fundamentalists who do not want to hear that life is about uncertainty, and the greatest uncertainty of all is that amorphous thing termed "God." One gets a sense of this indefinite meaning in the term "Yahweh," but then such uncertainty is quickly passed over for the white-haired Big Daddy in the Sky. In some ways Armstrong tacitly hints that "God" is that which inspires awe. The average human being is not intellectually equipped to deal with the finely crafted and subtle argument which Armstrong presents in this book, so it is not suitable for everyone. However, it remains a volume that should be placed alongside the greatest religious thinkers of Western culture, for it steps over the petty and myopic arguments of our own conflicted and arrogant era to remind us that a spiritual life is much more profound and necessary than we might believe.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary/Review:From the title this book appears to be an apologetic approach to theism. Close but not quite. Karen Armstrong in fact writes an history of religious belief and practice (and the parallel growth of atheism) from prehistoric cave paintings to postmodern philosophers. While mostly focused on Western thought - and Christianity within that - Armstrong manages to incorporate a lot of world religion which makes a massive topic for a short book. And yet it's chock full of fascinating tidbits and connections I've never made.Armstrong's main points in this book are that literalism - both that which is insisted upon by religious conservatives and railed against by their anti-theist opponents - is a relatively modern phenomenon. Historically practice trumped belief and our fore-bearers would not comprehend the all-or-nothing approach of today's religious adherents.I'm not going to admit that I understood it all, but I did enjoy Armstrong's writing and ideas and would like to read more of her work.Favorite Passages:A good creation myth did not describe an event in the distant past but told people something essential about the present. It reminded them that things often had to get worse before they got better, that creativity demanded self-sacrifice and heroic struggle, and that everybody had to work hard to preserve the energies of the cosmos and establish society on a sound foundation. A creation story was primarily therapeutic. - p. 16Fundamentalism ¿ be it Jewish, Christian, or Muslim ¿ nearly always begins as a defensive movement; it is usually a response to a campaign of coreligionists or fellow countrymen that is experienced as inimical and invasive. - p. 271Thus the cosmologist Paul Davies speaks of his delight in science with its unanswered, and, perhaps, unanswerable questions .... Davies has confessed "It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion, science offers a surer path to God than religion." He is still asking the primordial question: Why is there something rather than nothing? - p. 310The ideal society should be based on charity rather than truth. In the past, [Gianni] Vattimo recalls, religious truth generally emerged from people interacting with others rather than by papal edict. Vattimo recalls Christ's saying, "When two or three are gathered in my name, I will be in the midst of them," and the classic hymn, "Where there is love, there is also God." - p. 314
The_Hibernator on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by Karen Armstrong. I've heard her books referred to as: "A history of God by an athiest." Upon reading this book, I think that is an inaccurate assesment. (Though she says her views on the subject of athiesm have developed since her early days of writing). This book is an historical account of religions (especially Christianity/Judaism/Islam) throughout time. The history is used as a background to describe how fundamentalism and athiesm have developed to the strictly opposing viewpoints that they are. Although the writing is dense and philosophical, I appreciated the message of the book: strict dogmatic viewpoints can lead to emotionally charged (and irrational) clashes. In forcing these unyielding beliefs upon ourselves and our neighbors, we lose the true message of spirituality.
AlanBevan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superb historical account of the history of religious thought. There is a particular emphasis on Western Christian perspectives but not entirely limited to that. I found the conclusion to be surprising in that Armstrong doesn't argue for a 'God' that exists, rather she explores our need for significance, the need to acknowledge that there are aspects of our lives that go beyond the scientific (science can tell us we have cancer but is silent on how we can best deal with that) and that there are spaces beyond our imagining (why is there something, not nothing).I felt she shone a light on a murky place.
michaelbartley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Karen Armstrong's books, I think she presents a balanced view of religion and human kind's search for spirital meaning. She is very well read and knowledge, remainds me of Wil Durant.
steve.clason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Armstrong's books cover a lot of groundl. Here, she surveys the received theology (my words, not here) from 30,000 BCE to our current millenium, narrowing her focus to the Abrahamic faiths as that sort of narrowing starts to make sense, touching on the economic, cultural, scientific and political events as well as the intellectual currents that shaped the unreflective theology of the general run of people. What they more-or-less believed, in other words, if not pressed to far.It is a well-told, coherent narrative, sometimes drifting into little more than lists of names but not often, remarkabke in it's breadth of scholarship and also in the courtesy she shows the reader in just keeping the story going. There's plenty to disagree with, if that's what you're looking for, but I enjoyed the sweeping review of stuff that I have paid attention to for most of my life but never imagined they could be so well combined into a single story.I give the book three stars instead of four because it's obviously polemical but doesn't make the argument strongly enough: "...it is perhaps time to return to a theology that asserts less and is more open to silence and unknowing" (page 326). Just so.Her better books are [A History of God] and [The Battle for God] in my opinion. This one is certainly worth reading, but a little redundant if you've read the others.
peterwall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Karen Armstrong makes no case for God and only a weak, uneven, and confused case for "God." She clearly (and rightly) dismisses theology that treats God as merely the greatest power in existence, but ultimately fails to explain why the word or label "God" remains useful. In the final pages, where I hoped to see her "case" become clear, she only advocates what amounts to active engagement with life, mindfulness, and recognition of uncertainty. Why we need "to engage with a symbol [like "God"] imaginatively [and] become ritually and ethically involved with it" is not clear, except Armstrong claims that doing so will "allow it [the symbol] to effect a profound change in you." (See page 321.)Armstrong rightly points out that "God" the symbol too easily becomes God the idol, which is "one of the pitfalls of monotheism" (page 321), so why should we bother putting a label on "religious experience," which she appears to define as "explor[ing] the normal workings of our minds and notic[ing] how frequently these propel us quite naturally into transcendence" (page 327)? And what is "transcendence" anyway? If putting words on these things creates a dangerous "pitfall," then Armstrong has fatally undercut her case. To portray her book and her argument as being a "case for God," she is only irresponsibly perpetuating the problem that she has spilled so much ink to reveal, not just in this book, but in several earlier ones.It does seem quite "natural" or "normal"¿perhaps a better word is "commonplace"¿to recognize that we remain ignorant of the true nature of reality, but doing so while actively engaging with life and practicing mindfulness does not require having a label or a symbol like "God." Or Armstrong, at least, has not convincingly argued that it does, which is what I expected her to do, right from the beginning of the book.Ultimately (and unfortunately), this book follows what now appears to this reader as a clear progression in her work: writing that increasingly looks less like history, or even history of ideas, and more like roughly chronological bibliography with connective glosses here and there. It is not an argument, but a guided tour through Karen Armstrong's reading. Taken on those terms, The Case for God is quite an interesting work. But taken on the terms by which it seems to present itself, it is a failure.
Jaylia3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title of another book out last year excited me--The Evolution of God--but when I heard the author speak I was disappointed. (There was a lot of talk about zero sum game.) Armstrong's book is what I had hoped for from the other. It covers the changing ways people have viewed God and religion, from 30,000 BCE, when humans crawled deep into caves to cover their walls with paintings of animals and maybe shamans, to the present, when both fundamentalists and atheists insist on a strict literal interpretation of scriptures--a legacy of the modern scientific revolution that has left everyone, including the devout, looking for unambiguous, objective truth derived from some kind of logical deliberation. The modern way is simplistic; Armstrong believes religious life involves hard work, pushing finite hearts and minds to the edges of their understanding, toward the infinite.I took a long time to read this book and as soon as I finished I started reading it again. There is a lot to absorb and a lot that challenged my unexamined beliefs, a mind-blowing experience that's my drug of choice. As an an agnostic leaning toward a non-belligerent atheism, reading is almost my religion, so when Armstrong wrote convincingly about the printing press's drawback of moving learning and religion in a depersonalized and inflexible direction, leading in religion's case to ridiculous disagreements over finer and finer dogmatic distinctions, I was shocked into a speechless, apophatic state. One of many I experienced while reading her book. Which is maybe, or maybe not, ironic because that apophatic experience I got from reading is the right place, Armstrong believes, to begin transcending our everyday world and experiencing God. Religion, Armstrong writes, historically has been and should be more about practice and experience and less about blind belief in particular doctrines. Sounds great to me.
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