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A History of God Hardcover – 1994

4.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1994
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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; Tenth printing edition (1994)
  • ISBN-10: 0679426000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679426004
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,751,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" is a tremendous resource for those interested in the history of religions in general, and in monotheism in particular. She looks not only in the different religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in particular), but also in the way that man's perception of God changed within each religion over time. Starting with the early history of man and religion, she proceeds right through to religion as of the early 1990's. The book was first published in 1993, so you will not find any references to September 11th or any of the polarizing events that have happened as a result. Instead you will find a much more even look, which is useful in and of itself.

While this book is a tremendous reference, unfortunately it does have a significant weakness as a reference, and that is that the text itself is not all that organized. Her choices for the eleven chapters are fine, but you will find no sections or subsections within the chapters. Instead each chapter is just a long recitation with no breaks, and this can make referring back to a section rather difficult. The book does have a decent index which helps. Also, there is a very good bibliography which also helps with additional research on a topic.

The writing is a little uneven. Some sections are very well done, and others are a bit more difficult to follow, however the writing is never poor. In particular, her discussion of the early history of each of the major monotheistic religions is very well done, and it gives the reader a good understanding of what those religions were like before they started adapting to other forces in the world.
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Format: Paperback
Most religious books are just that. Religious. Karen Armstrong here produces something quite different. A "History of God" gives the non-specialist reader an objective, scholarly work which still maintains a sense of the spiritual. The book takes a very candid look at the development of the Christian faith and deals in some detail with the other principal world religions as well. For those who have ever wondered how on earth the terrifying God of the Old Testament and the "New Labour" God of the sermon on the mount can possibly be related and contained in one holy book, let alone reconciled in one faith - this is the book for you. Particularly valuable is the treatment of the experience and historical context of the Biblical prophets and the relationships between Christianity, Islam and Judaeism. The building blocks for anyone to make decisions about tolerance, faith and different cultural traditions are here and all based on extraordinary knowledge and research. First class.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's so many books about religion that do nothing more than try to convert you to the religion the author believes in. However, having read the literary reviews of this book I couldn't wait to read it. I was not disappointed.
To tell you a little about the author, Karen Armstrong spent seven years as a nun in a Roman Catholic order before becoming a freelance writer, broadcaster and author. Armstrong describes at the very start her own religious background and clearly defines the distinction between faith and belief. The book then proceeds to provide (as the book's name suggests) a chronological history of God.
Specifically the book describes the history of the three faiths which believe in one God (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and describes the historic interaction between them in great detail. I personally found the origins of Judaism described here fascinating, the way in which different stages of the Old Testament actually refer to different interpretations of God. The origins of Christianity were interesting although did not necessarily introduce vast new material. This is unlike the narrative of Islam's history, which at a time in the world where there's so much friction between these three religions, showed the commonality between them.
The book then continues to detail how these faiths developed over the next 2,000 years around the world and with the last chapter titled "Had God a Future?" the book does not seek to avoid some controversial thinking.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in a history of religion - I did not find the book to be biased towards a religion, but rather a highly educated literary masterpiece. There is a huge amount of material in this book, and yet it's very readable, not at all dry. I can't wait to read more of Armstrong's books.
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By A Customer on 2 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
After finishing Karen Armstrong's enjoyable, direct and sincere book I was interested to see its reviews. Unfortunately I discovered yet another case of shallow obduracy. The individual who gave this one star probably hasn't even read it as the comment given was an example of woeful inadequacy. For those of us who would like the history without a pile of hang ups from either side of the debate I recommend this book.
Armstrong's account gave important and much needed information on Islam. She gives us a gallery of very intelligent thinkers who kept abreast of the great works of Philosophy and discoveries of Science. That many of these Muslim thinkers had used Mathematics and Science to aid their religious contemplation while always emphasising the imperative of religion bolstering morality is an important palliative to the very pernicious fundamentalism that seems to saturate our conciousness of Islam. Another interesting incite of this book was that the literalist tendency was until recently a western phenomenon, a fact rarely considered in our insistence that we know the past better than the facts of History. Armstrong's book is a monument to how an important question is frequently over simplified.
Important subjects such as Mysticism and the Enlightenment are given erudite chapters. The former being a Western kin to Buddhism. Emphasis is rightly given to how pervasive Mythology is, an example at hand being the belief in human progress or that evolution is progressive (something that drives my Philosophy of Science tutor nuts).
This a very important book and ideally would have a greater readership. As a Philosophy student with an interest in religion I found it as rewarding as the rest of my family who possess no specialist knowledge.
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