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.
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 prison of selfhood.
©2009 Karen Armstrong; (P)2009 Random House
I'm an agnostic and I think this is a very important book. It provides a view into how the three major monotheisms were seen by their own practitioners over the ages and contrast those views with the modern view of God. It's a criticism of modern religious practice but it opened my eyes to the value that religion could and should provide were it approached in a less simplistic manner. This book is not meant to convert anyone, its very much an social/historical look at God. I find it a much more valuable view than the combative positions of the New Atheists.
I'm just finishing my second listen and enjoying it as much as the first. It is a dense book and presents thousands of years of human religious history in detail. Despite the tremendous amount of information Karen Armstrong packs into this book, the overall themes are easy to follow.
I particularly appreciated that she chose to write a book focusing on unknowing and the elements of religious and spiritual practice that take one beyond language itself. If you want a general overview of religious history, you might choose her History of God or The Great Transformation. However, if you want an in-depth look at 2000 years of faith and the interplay of human practitioners and ineffable religious experience in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, this is the book.
This is so convincing and so well done. I rarely take in a book this deeply and earnestly. I could not find a single place to really argue or gripe. This is a timeless work that deserves your time at least once through. The conclusions are profound and have shaken for the better my faith based view of the world. She almost apologized that she ended with Derrida and I appreciated her doing so, but she should have clearly ended with Zizek.
The Fat Free Atheist Chocolate Ice Cream Cookie Bar. It would have been the perfect cherry on top of her perfect point.
Yes, I have read Mohammed - A prophet for our time and Buddha and found them highly readable and fascinating.
I couldn't follow this for the life of me. I guess she's making the point that we can only know the divine through Zen Buddhist or yogic type mystical and often severe practices. That point has been made by other 20th century writers in a more accessible manner. This is really a book meant to be read, not listened to in Audible format.
Karen Armstrong is an good reader, but after a while it gets to be like listening to a tape of a Religious Studies class . I've never listened to her other titles, but have read two of them.
Who did she write this for? What is her intended audience? I'm a relatively educated and well read man, but found myself dozing off. And the Audible format serves her poorly. You need a glossary to understand what she is saying - she is using Greek and Latin terms to express various religious states and relationships. What the heck do they mean?
The first time she uses a Greek term, she parenthetically mentions its meaning but after that she doesn't and there are so many it gets confusing.
Sorry I used up my credit.
I enjoy Karen Armstrong's work and have read several of her books in print form. This however has been a tough slog. I think it's the narration. The author reads the book, and I can't pinpoint what it is that I don't enjoy but I find myself reaching for the pause button soon after I start to listen.
I love all of Karen Armstrong's books. Well written, thoughtful, and rational. She is a lovely narrator, too. I leave each book wishing everyone in the world had just read it, too.
"I've always been an atheist due to an inability to "believe," but that seems to be beside the point"
Possibly the most important scholarly work of the present day, certainly one of the most important messages I've heard. Looking at religion as it has been practiced throughout the millennia brings contemporary spirituality into sharp contrast with its original purpose, context, and practice. The divisive literalism so prevalent in several sects today is apparently, for the most part, a very recent development and not part of their mainstream traditions. I found the epilogue alone to be worth the price of admission, it's a summation that brings home her point about looking to the past for the value of "unknowing" and the importance of practice to bring meaning to the mystery. My intellectual curiosity about religion has now warmed into greater respect.
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