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The Case for God: What religion really means [Paperback]

Karen Armstrong
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2010

There is widespread confusion about the nature of religious truth. For the first time in history, a significantly large number of people want nothing to do with God. Militant atheists preach a gospel of godlessness with the zeal of missionaries and find an eager audience. What has happened?

Tracing the history of faith from the Palaeolithic Age to the present, Karen Armstrong shows that meaning of words such as 'belief', 'faith', and 'mystery' has been entirely altered, so that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God - and, indeed, reason itself - in a way that our ancestors would have found astonishing.

Does God have a future? Karen Armstrong examines how we can build a faith that speaks to the needs of our troubled and dangerously polarised world.

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The Case for God: What religion really means + A History Of God + The Bible: The Biography
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Paperback Edition edition (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099524031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099524038
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, but then left her teaching order in 1969 to read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a full time writer and broadcaster. She is a best-selling author of over 15 books. An accomplished writer and passionate campaigner for religious liberty, Armstrong has addressed members of the United States Congress and the Senate and has participated in the World Economic Forum.

Product Description


"One of our best living writers on religion...prodigiously sourced, passionately written" (Financial Times)

"A journey through religion that helps us to rescue what remains wise from so much that to many in Britain today no longer seems true... Armstrong is one of the the handful of wise and supremely intelligent commentators on religion" (Alain de Botton Observer)

"A tour de force of learning. A hefty history of theology, philosophy and science, and how they converge, it knocks Dawkins and Hitchens into an intellectual cocked hat...Armstrong rejoices in the unknowableness of life and searches, logically enough for meaning therein" (Sunday Herald)

"It isn't an easy read - why should it be? - but she is wonderfully clear and insightful - and not out to convert anyone" (Daily Mail)

"This is a stunned appreciation of an 'otherness' beyond the reach of language, and for Armstrong, constitutes the heart of every religion" (New Statesmen)

Book Description

An essential book for our times: a thoughtful, cultured response to Richard Dawkins.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
181 of 187 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The answer is, there are no answers 24 Aug 2009
A brilliantly refreshing, readable and clear run-through of the history of religion and mysticism, mostly Christianity, and looking more at the writings of scholars rather than the experience of the laity. Armstrong doesn't really make a case for God (as in the existence of God) but rather a case for the argument that we cannot know anything about God. She clearly explains why any attempt to understand God intellectually, or to define "him", is pointless and tends to lead to idolatry. Her argument is that seeking to define the nature of God is largely a product of the scientific age, but her evidence for a more uncertain approach to God being typical previously comes from the writings of certain Greek and early Christian mystics, which she paints as typical of their times, rather than unusual - something I'm not in a position to verify.

Importantly, she argues that religion is a matter of practice not "belief" (a word that now means an acceptance of something as fact, but which in the past had the connotation more of commitment, like love), and that where it is entered into, it is best done with the understanding that it is not based on any knowledge of God's nature.

This book could be seen as an argument for mysticism, but there is no attempt at conversion here. The book doesn't itself suggest why someone not already on a religious path should follow one. Religious practice might be rewarding, but no one could be expected to know that until they were well on it, after much hard work they could otherwise have avoided.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool, authoritative, eloquent 7 Oct 2009
In this book Karen Armstrong takes a calm and measured look at religion from the Palaeolithic era to the God debate of the 21st century, continuing some of the themes in her previous work on The Great Transformation (2006) and The Bible, The Biography (2007).
Her key argument is that humankind has always used mythos (religion) and logos (the logical exploration of the world) as allies in dealing with the challenges of life. Since 1500 logos has progressively taken over, delivered modernity, and demanded that religion should be subject to the same "scientific" laws as the rest of human experience.
Obviously the atheist attack by Dawkins, Hitchens and others on "the god delusion" is the latest instalment of a long debate. Armstrong contends that they set up Christian fundamentalism as an easy target, and they dismiss it without addressing mainstream theology, which has long come to terms with scientific thought and evolutionary theory.
She reminds us that God has always been a contested idea, and atheism is as old as religion. Her own preference is for a mystical, non-institutional form of religion - the Sufis in Islam, yogic Hinduism and Denys The Areopagite in medieval Christianity. They represent the "apophatic" (silent. mystical) approach to the supreme being/God/the infinite. Their theology is not easy - religion is hard work.
There is no "killer app" which tells us what religion means, just as there is no answer to the "does God exist?" question. But Armstrong steers us with assurance through the ways that humankind have tried to find meaning and purpose in their lives. She is a truly scholarly, humane and intelligent guide through the religious arguments of three millennia.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Missed Opportunity? 3 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I heard that Karen Armstrong was writing a book called `the Case for God' I thought it might well prove to be one of the most important books on religion published for many years. Unfortunately, having now read it, I doubt that it will prove as ground-breaking as I had hoped. The reason for this, paradoxically, comes back to a point Karen well recognises - that the concept of God is so abstruse that people throughout history have found it incomprehensible and too remote from their everyday lives to have any real meaning. Instead they have latched on to more simplistic ideas of God that might meet some immediate psychological needs but which are so shot full of contradictions as to be almost laughable to serious rational thinkers. Karen charts in lucid detail how this transformation in thinking has taken place and how theologians have struggled to put the genie back in the bottle, but it is doubtful that unsophisticated religious people will read her book, let alone understand it and assent to it. Her scholarship and erudition, impressive though they are, might in this case just be barriers to comprehension for many people. This would be a pity, as her overall message is actually quite simple - that the way for people to find meaning, hope and happiness in their lives is through their deeds and actions, to `live generously, large-heartedly and justly and to inhabit every single part of their humanity'. It would be a shame if this essentially humanist message got lost in the noise.
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150 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended read. 15 July 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having bought and read six of Karen's books I found this to be one of her best. With over a thousand noted references and ten pages of glossary I am sure that I shall be returning to this book time and again for information. On a couple of occasions during the book Karen acknowledges God and religion are difficult issues to write about. Readers have even given her feedback that some of her work in the past has been difficult to read. Well despite the difficulty of the subjects and the huge amount of information there is to draw on, this book is not difficult. It does however deserve concentrated thought if you wish to get the best out of it, as she skilfully charts the development and interpretations of God and religion since 30,000 BCE. Having read hundreds of books on the subjects I have at times become very confused. This book has been like a breath of fresh air in gently helping me unravel some of those puzzling issues. I have no hesitation in recommending the book - enjoy it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars worth making the effort
This book does not make a case for God or a strong rebuttal of the arguments made Richard Dawkins et al. Read more
Published 4 months ago by markr
1.0 out of 5 stars What case?
By the question in my title I don't mean to imply that Armstrong has put forward a *bad* case for God. She has put forward *no* case for God. Whatsoever. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. A. P. Lloyd
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love, Love love this book
From a personal standpoint I found this gem of a book whilst attempting to clear up confusion on my perception of religion. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ali
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Karen Armstrong's Best
I have read a number of Karen Armstrong's books but this was by far the best. Having read through it once I am now re-reading it and the various "clippings" I have made of... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tariki
5.0 out of 5 stars Armstrong's The Case for God
Fantastic. Thoroughly researched and well-written.
Excellent. I'd heartily encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about God but doesn't want to check his or her... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amy McAllister
4.0 out of 5 stars The Case for God
Truly interesting and well researched. As I knew the writer from other books I was quite confident I would not be disappointed as far as thoroughness and historical... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Yvan De Maesschalck
3.0 out of 5 stars Depends of the reader
As with all religions this depends on the reader. The book is interesting, discussing the pros and cons of belief and arguments for and against. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Concise
3.0 out of 5 stars Small print
I have had to return this paperback because I personally found the print too small for comfortable reading. I have been reading it on Kindle and it is an excellent book. Read more
Published 17 months ago by pencilcase
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Poor - makes a good case for atheism
This isn't a very good book. I wanted it to be a good book. I read it because (falling for the marketing) I was under the impression it provided a well argued and well written... Read more
Published 17 months ago by A. Holliday
4.0 out of 5 stars A present for my mother in law
This was the book that she requested and she seems very happy with it. Sorry I can't recommend it personally.
Published 17 months ago by WendyWu
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