"Strange as it may seem, the idea of 'God' developed in a market economy in a spirit of aggressive capitalism," Karen Armstrong asserts in her fascinating work A History of God. Armstrong considers herself a "historian of ideas," and with t
"Strange as it may seem, the idea of 'God' developed in a market economy in a spirit of aggressive capitalism," Karen Armstrong asserts in her fascinating work A History of God. Armstrong considers herself a "historian of ideas," and with this broad view she gives a compelling account of the correspondences among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the historical, philosophical, intellectual, and social developments through the ages that both shaped them and were shaped by them.
Religion is "highly pragmatic," Armstrong finds. Any particular idea of God must work for the people who develop it. Consequently, as the times have changed, so have our ideas about God. "Understanding the ever-changing ideas of God in the past and their relevance and usefulness in their time," she says, "will help us to develop a new concept for the future."
Today an increasing number of people have difficulty with the idea of a God that behaves as a larger version of themselves. Armstrong sees this as inevitable, and welcomes believers to a notion of God that "works for us in the empirical age."...Continua
In this narrative, we see how the Big 3 western religions start from what is effectively a very similar, if not common, foundation of Greek tradition, and evolve along distinct, yet similar, paths on different time scales. While different paths are taken, Armstrong concludes the 3 religions have evolved what amounts to remarkably similar conceptions of God. Much of this, I have to confess, was over my head. That said, the key themes come through rather nicely.
Many reviews lament the lack of information on their favorite topic - Gnosticism, Taoism, etc - or decry Armstrong as a no-nothing. Well, I can't see the finger-pointers' credentials in their profile, so will discount accordingly. The omission I will complain about is the politics. Armstrong takes Christianity from a fledgling faith to a power having the backing of the Roman Empire with only a couple flip sentences about Constantine adopting it, and that its ascension was unclear, but couldn't have been achieved without the Romans.
I suppose this book focussed on the 'whats,' 'wheres' and 'whens' of religious evolution rather than the 'hows' and 'whys'. Like I said, in 400 pages you can only cover so much......Continua
Well, not so right. As Karen Armstrong points out, there's a lot more subtlety to God than that, and so it's actually pretty silly to think that everyone thinks about him in the same way. This book has broadened my perspective no end and made me think about a lot of things I never thought to question before. It's also filled in a lot of fascinating details: I grew up going to a Catholic Church listening to readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St Paul to the Corinthians, but until now I never knew (or even thought about) who, for example, the Corinthians were, or what St Paul's motives might have been in all those letters.
Karen Armstrong writes well: I might pick up another by her after this one, though it's going quite slowly....Continua