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Customer Review

191 of 197 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The answer is, there are no answers, 24 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Case for God: What religion really means (Hardcover)
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. My reading of the book is that those disposed to religious practice (by circumstances, upbringing or genetics) should follow the one that best suits them, but on the understanding that the choice of practice itself is of little consequence, as long as it is entered into without any belief in its factual superiority. Meanwhile, those not so disposed to do so, should not be expected to. In the end, it is an erudite plea for a greater acceptance of the state of Unknowing. Whether such a plea will find many listeners in an age where factual knowledge and certainty are held in such high regard remains to be seen.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Oct 2009 02:32:56 BDT
Ukhuman1st says:
You say: "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". That was one of the problems I had with this book - I bought it thinking it would do what it said on the tin. If she'd given it a more apt title, maybe I would not have been so disappointed!

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2009 17:55:15 GMT
B. Wigmore says:
Yes, I was puzzled by the title. I can only assume it was urged on her by the publisher, who perhaps thought that there would be higher sales to be made from something that seemed to be taking sides in the Religion-vs-Dawkins "debate", rather than the more subtle work it actually is.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2012 12:40:42 GMT
Pete J says:
The title is a travesty. A great disussion, yes, but a case for God it is not. Rather, she tells us that religious practices can tell us nothing about God, which is just plain silly and not borne out by first-person reports. She appears to think that the Buddha's teachings were conjectural, which suggest she does not practice what she preaches. I feel the book could do far more damage than Dawkin's mis-targeted effort. I could hardly bear to read the final chaper, which is a claim to ignorance. .

Posted on 12 Sep 2014 09:01:51 BDT
I agree that the title is misleading - it only makes sense in terms on Armstrong's undefined definition of god, not the way the word is usually used today. I was struck by how she seems to be saying, god/nirvana/brahmin/tao (etc. etc.) it's all the same (non)thing. She's taken Schroedinger's not-to-be-opened box & replaced the cat with god.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2015 22:42:36 BDT
Oscar says:
And to give 5 stars in a review to a book that is not on the subject of the title.
Makes me wonder what people think they are reading.
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