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The Case for God

Karen Armstrong (Knopf: Sep 2009), 432 pages.

A fascinating journey through Western civilization’s ongoing attempts to understand and explain the concept of God. Celebrated religion scholar Armstrong (The Bible: A Biography, 2007, etc.) creates more than a history of religion; she effectively demonstrates how the West (broadly speaking) has grappled with the existence of deity and captured the concept in words, art and ideas. Beginning in the majestic caves of Lascaux, Armstrong explores how religion became a meaningful part of prehistoric societies, and the ways in which these societies passed down their practices and ideas in the earliest forms of art. The author then moves on to early monotheism and its rivals, offering a brilliant examination of ancient Greek views on religion and reason, which laid the groundwork for so much of Western thought. Looking at the early Christians and Diaspora-era Jews in tandem, Armstrong delves into Talmudic study and midrash, as well as Christian adaptations of theological concepts. Throughout the book, the author argues against religion as an abstraction, noting that it most truly exists in practice. "Faith . . . was a matter of practical insight and active commitment," she writes. "It had little to do with abstract belief or theological conjecture." Nevertheless, scholars have always attempted to define and "prove" God, and Armstrong admirably outlines the best of them through the centuries, including Origen, Anselm, Pascal and Tillich. Armstrong claims that the "warfare" between science and religion is a myth perpetuated by those with axes to grind. Likewise, the modern atheist movement, "death of God" theology and even fundamentalism arise from extremists who see religion as correct doctrine,not correct praxis. Though mostly focused on the West, Armstrong maintains a global perspective, masterfully weaving in her solid understanding of the world’s panoply of faiths. Accessible, intriguing study of how we see God. ~ Kirkus Reviews

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