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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam
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on 1 November 2017
best, excellent
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on 26 March 2001
Once again Karen Armstrong has produced a work of amazing erudition by exploring one of the most salient political phenomenon of our era.She traces the roots of modern religious Fundamentalism in the different historical experiences of secular modernity by the three monotheistic faiths.She reveals the common strands which have shaped these fierce reactions against the hegemony of the secular.She pointedly shows how, what she calls "mythos",is masquerading as "logos"and eventually degenerates into Ideologies of hatred and exclusion. Her analysis of recent political events in the Middle East and in America is illuminating.This is the voice of reason showing sagacity and sympathetic understanding. It is truly a remarkable book which is likely to get a much wider readership outside the UK.It deserves to be translated both into Arabic and Hebrew.
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on 21 February 2005
THE BATTLE FOR GOD is the story of the rise of religious fundamentalism, especially among Christians, Muslims and Jews. The subject is now even more timely than when the book was first published five years ago.
Karen Armstrong shows that religious fundamentalism is a relatively recent phenomenon.Religious fundamentalists feel threatened by the modern advances which are favored by secularists. The secularists in turn feel threatened by the rigid views of the fundamentalists. It is more important than ever for these opposing groups to find some common meeting ground. After reading Armstrong's book, however, I do not feel optimistic about this possibility occurring anytime in the near future.
THE BATTLE FOR GOD is a well-researched study of a complex topic. One inescapable conclusion to draw from reading the book is that religious fundamentalism is deeply entrenched throughout the world and it is a major cause of much of the planet's present unrest.
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on 5 January 2009
I endorse everything in the 5-star rated reviews already published - this book is one of the best I have ever read. I believe it makes a profoundly important contribution to understanding the 'backs-to-the-wall' mentality of people who feel so deeply threatened by the onward march of materialistic progress that their only recourse is to delve back to an idealised mythological past, when God was on their side, to try to rediscover the magic formula that will enable them to shake off the yoke of oppression and find their true destiny. It also demonstrates the inherent conflict between different types of fundamentalist thinking: between those who believe that the secret for success lies in turning their minds away from the world and inward towards God, restricting their lives to the correct observance of ancient rituals, and those who see the way forward as being to engage with the political process and fight for what they believe in, no matter what the cost in human lives or suffering (including their own). It not only explains the clash of different religions with each other and with secularism but also offers significant insights into the factional disputes that cause huge rifts within religions. Such insights seem to me vital to understanding that the politics of the Middle East is not just a bi-partite struggle over a piece of land but something far, far more significant.

One minor criticism of the book is a slight frustration, as a secular humanist, at what sometimes seems a religious apologetic. Thus she says(as quoted in the main review of this book above)things like "By the 18th century, however, ... people ... began to think that logos was the only means to truth and began to discount mythos as false and superstitious." The implication, stated more explicitly elsewhere, is that mythos is in some sense 'true' even though it is not 'literally true', which might be taken as indicating some sympathy for those who revert to it. She also talks about people perceiving spiritual 'realities' and uses phrases like 'the ground of Being' as though this meant something. I guess this shows that I am fully steeped in 'logos', but it would have helped if she had set out more clearly what exactly she meant by 'truth' and these obscure mystical terms.

One other thought that has struck me after reading this book is whether it is possible to have secular fundamentalism. In my view, one reason that scientific rationalism took off in Western Europe was the liberation of individualist thought from the shackles of organised religion following the invention of the printing press and the Reformation. This gave rise to a whole economic system based on individuals pursuing their own self-interest on the basis that an amoral market would allocate resources efficiently for the common good. Yet, as the recent credit crunch graphically illustrates, rational behaviour by individuals in an unregulated market can spell disaster for society as a whole... something that the exploited poor of the countries discussed in this book have long been well aware of. Could it be that disaffected secularists might one day search their evolutionary roots to work out what went wrong and join the religious fundamentalists in opposing a system that puts a price on everything and a value on nothing?
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 May 2012
Karen Armstrong deals here with an important subject: the development and causes of fundamentalism in Islam, Judaism and Christianity, patiently taking the reader through a detailed explanation and analysis of each. This a very detailed work which can be heavy going at times for the general reader, even one like me who is very interested in the subject.

Written in 2000, this book obviously predates September 11th and the events which resulted from that appalling act of nihilism, but nonetheless provides a good understanding of the causes of the rise of fundamentalism, and the strong antipathy which has arisen in each of the monotheistic religions between fundamentalists and more traditional believers, as well as the complete lack of understanding or sympathy between many liberals, secularists and fundamentalists for whom the views of the 'other side' are often truly repellant.

Ms Armstrong has used Egypt and Iran as her two main locations for the analysis of Islamic fundamentalist belief, and her conclusions are very relevant in relation to the Arab Spring - indeed this book rather predicts the fall of Mubarak and the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt.

Often fascinating, sometimes heavy going, this is an important book which should be read by all those who seek to understand the rise of fundamentalism and the consequences of that rise which continue to influence world events to this day.

An updated edition to include the events of the last decade would be very welcome...
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on 10 July 2002
I am reading this book with as much interest and excitement as any I have for some time. It is an absolute must for broad-minded and especially non-religious people who want to understand tha nature and history of modern Fundamentalism. What is quite remarakable is the way the author integrates religious history with both past and contemporary political, social and economic history.
After a remarkable introduction she concentrates on four 'case studies', namely Iran, Egypt, Judaism and the USA. Althouugh she has obviously a special interest in Shii Islam, each of her studies is dramatic in the things one learns from it.
The book is also a remarkable work of research and scholarship.
Each day, I open the newspaper, and there is something there that is more easily understood from this book.
In fact, I believe, one of most important History books of modern times.
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on 6 May 2016
The writer makes the fatal mistake of equating the religions of Abraham and God with Islam the religion of Allah, the one pagan god of Arabia. Muhammad was the messenger of Allah, not God.
In Arabic and the entire Qur'an, the title of Almighty God is Ilah, and Allah is 'the god' the one pagan god of Arabia and Islam.
The names of Almighty God in the Qur'an are Ar Rahman, the Beneficent, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious.
Qur’an 41:84 It is He Who is the only God in the heaven and the only God on the earth.
Ibn Kathir: This means He is the God of those who are in the heaven and the God of those on earth.
Qur’an 43:84 It is He Who is Ilah, God in the heaven and on the earth.
Qur’an 19:65 Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, so worship Him and abide patiently in His worship. Do you know of any other with His Name?
Ibn Kathir: Ibn Abbas says, ‘There is no one named Ar-Rahman (the Most Beneficent) other than Him, Blessed and Exalted is He. Most Holy is His Name.’
See Quran chapters 19, 21, 25, 26, 36, 37, 41, 43, 67, etc.

Allah is always and only named Allah in Arabic and English.
Qur’an 43:84 It is He Who is Ilah, God in the heaven and on the earth.
Qur’an 6:3 And He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth.
Ibn Abbas: He is the One who is called Allah in the heavens and on the earth.
The Shahada, the Muslim pledge of faith, denies God:
La ilaha ill-Allah, there is no God/god but Allah.
The sentence comprises a denial and an affirmation.
Negation: 'La ilah' negates all forms of God or god.
Affirmation: 'illAllah' affirms that there is only Allah.
Before you can say ‘I believe in Allah’(illa Allah) you have to reject or disbelieve in any other god or God (La illaha).
Question 179 Islam Q&A [...]
Questions 114, 6703, 11819, 20239, 20815
Only Islam has a religious obligation to fight, to kill and be killed, to rule supreme over all other religions and laws: Jihad.
The final commands of Allah in the Qur'an chapter 9 state clearly that the most holy law in Islam is Jihad, religious war, and the subjugation and destruction of the people of the Book, Jews and Christians.
Allah's holy Law of War is in fact the most important religious duty in Islam, obligatory for all Muslims. This is absolutely clear in the Qur'an, the Hadith-traditional stories, the very first valid histories by Ibn Ishaq and Tabari, and Islamic law. Islam must reign supreme over all other religions and laws. Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam.
Qur’an 9:29 Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
The phrase la ilaha illa allah in the Qur’an: in Mecca 37:35, 38:4-10 and Medina 47:19.
In these it means religious war for supremacy against all disbelievers.
Qur’an 47:19 Muhammad So know that La ilaha illallah, there is no god except Allah.
Maududi says: This was at the time of the battle of Badr. It is also entitled al-Qital, the Fighting, because it gives the firm command for Jihad, and its theme is to prepare the Muslims for war against disbelievers and to give them instructions about those who kill and those who are killed: Qur’an 9:111
Qur’an 9: 111 Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties for (the price) that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah's cause, so they kill and are killed.
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on 30 May 2008
This book is excellent from start to finish. Karen Armstrong carefully and honestly describes the history of four regions of fundamentalism during the past two millenia:
- Protestant fundamentalism in the USA
- Jewish fundamentalism in Israel
- Muslim fundamentalism in Egypt (Sunni)
- Muslim fundamentalism in Iran (Shia)

Throughout she gives what I found to be a balanced view of the history of each movements, its influences, its leaders, its ambition and its legacy. The level of detail is superb and although some areas can be difficult to follow as it gets to the more recent history (20th century) this becomes less of an issue.

Generally, the book splits into two sections: pre 20th century history describing how each community (more Jewish and Muslim than Protestant) established itself in different regions of the world, and then the 20th century where so much history has been condensed into such a short period of time.

I can't recommend this book enough for anyone interested in the subject and looking for perhaps a little more perspective than offered by the news channels
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on 21 June 2017
An apologist for the threat of Islam
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on 14 January 2008
Armstrong always tries to find the stories behind events, and to stand in the shoes of all participants. Her choice to trace fundamentalism through several centuries and three different religions frames a search for unbiased understanding. She respects people's quest to find the fundamental roots of their religion. But she also shows the real consequences when people have tried to play God over others. She shows how people of all three major "religions of the book" face similar choices among different versions of their faith. Among these choices she urges mercy rather than control.

--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story
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