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The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  5,292 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality t ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published January 30th 2001 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2000)
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For the last decade or so, most of us have had to form some kind of opinion on religious fundamentalism, and it's a subject which can very easily become hysterical, sensational or just terrifying when it's addressed by the mass media. This exceptional book, which came out a few years ago now, is a careful examination of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and it tries to answer the basic questions many people feel – who the hell are these people, and how can they believe what they ...more
Paul Bryant
Apr 25, 2014 Paul Bryant marked it as assorted-rants-about-stuff
My goal is to formulate a gospel of atheism which is so full of loving-kindness that all the Christians and everyone else too, why not be ambitious, will join me and their migraines caused by their impossible theology will cease, their gnarled hearts caused by their doctrinal disagreeablenesses will unclench and we can all form a circle of lambent fulfilledness which will wink and pulse gently like tacky Christmas tree lights as we bask in the suddenly clear and perfect knowledge of the absolute ...more
Jul 13, 2016 Antigone rated it really liked it
An examination of religious fundamentalism is an arduous undertaking for any reader, and not simply because it necessitates immersion into a different cultural perspective. The sheer voltage of psychic violence brandished by some of these sects injects the issue with a heavy dose of repellence. That's the irony, of course. Making atrocity your weapon of choice will, yes, absolutely garner worldwide attention. You will be seen as you have hungered to be seen. Does it matter that this will frequen ...more
Joseph Soltero
Sep 09, 2007 Joseph Soltero rated it liked it
Great information, but watch out for Armstrong's premise

If I could, I would give Armstrong's book 3 stars because it *is* an excellent source of information dealing with fundamentalist-like religious sects from Columbus' time and on. Armstrong writes eloquently and her material is well-organized and easy to understand.
However, in an attempt to explain the fundamentalist mindset, Armstrong argues that "people of the past... evolved two ways of thinking, and acquiring knowledge... mythos and logos
Mira Jundi
Mar 09, 2017 Mira Jundi rated it really liked it
highly recommended
Ahmed M. Gamil
حسناً.. لم يكن كتاباً سيئاً على كل حال.. ولم يكن جيداً أيضاً.

أشعر بالحياد التقييمي إزاء تلك السردية من كارن أرمسترونج التي لم تفعل فيها أي شيء غير سرد التاريخ والأحداث حدثاً يلي الآخرَ.

كنت أتمنى أن أتلقى صدمةً معرفية إثر تلقّي جرعة معلوماتية ضخمة بيد أنني قد تلقيتها لكنّي أشعر نحو ما تلقيتُه باللاطمأنينة بعد أن تعرضت إلى مجموعة من المعلومات التي وجدتها غير مدققة بما فيه الكفاية ما أصابني بالإحباط والتبسني الشك إزاء كل ما يُقال في الكتاب.

لا أعلم لماذا أشعر بأن كارن أرمسترونج تحيطها هالة مزيفة من
Nov 01, 2013 Clif rated it it was amazing
Are you confused by all the religious groups in the news? Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Haredim, Shii, Sunni, Lubavitcher, Satmar, Wahhabis, the Muslim Brotherhood?

Are you also confused by the demands of religious fundamentalists? They rant and rave and call for destruction of what seems to many Americans innocuous. Is it pure malice or something else?

If you can identify with this confusion, this is the book for you! Not only is it easy to read while at the same time filled with satisfying deta
The Battle for God is a monumental work that fills in many of the gaps in our modern,streamlined educational system,because it is a heroic attempt to articulate all sides of the conflict between spiritual impulse and reason,tradition and progress. This approach allows Armstrong to delve far deeper than the dry 'facts' which are pretty much all I was given, so that she manages to acheive a much broader perspective than the usual polemical or reductionist style.

Beginning in the pivotal year 1492,
Dec 24, 2010 Matt rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, history
In the Battle for God, Armstrong tries to chronicle the evolution of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The scope of the book was impressive, and I feel like I know a lot more about how religious sects evolve from a sociological/historical perspective. However, I had a lot of problems with this book. First of all, her central premise involved dividing religion into logos and mythos, and she argued that fundamentalism frequently arose when devout religionists mistook mythos for l ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion-atheism
It's interesting to re-visit certain books after major life experiences, and this was one of those profoundly altered "second read" books for me. The spiritual, intellectual and worldview re-arrangements that have happened due to significant life events over the past few years have helped me to look at my upbringing from a vastly different vantage point. As that upbringing was in a fundamentalist Christian environment, this book appears entirely different to me now that I've done a great deal of ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Larry rated it it was amazing
This seminal book by Karen Armstrong my be her best work and is number 8 on my most influential list. Her deeply researched and wonderfully insightful book reviews a thousand years of religious fundamentalism in three faiths, Christainity, Judaism and Islam. The parallels and commonality of the "true believers" is frightening but, as she points out,is a result of our nature and need to beleive. The non-believers not only become the enemy but the mortal enemy who, if left unchallenged, will exter ...more
Erika RS
Dec 24, 2012 Erika RS rated it liked it
This book is classic Armstrong.

The Battle For God describes the aspects of the histories of the three great monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) which led to the rise of modern fundamentalism in all three. In the process, she explores some of the commonalities of these different fundamentalisms and their origins. This book is jam packed with information, so I will not try to cover any of the specific. Instead, I will focus on the high level themes.

In Armstrong's view, fundamentalisms a
Jan 27, 2009 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Made a couple of minor changes: Rarely does one come across a book that is recognized as erudite, essential, and readable simultaneously. The author of The History of God has brilliantly analyzed the rise of fundamentalism as a reaction to the emphasis on logos of the Enlightenment as opposed to mythos that had been essential to one's view of the world. "The economic changes over the last four hundred years have been accompanied by immense social, political, and intellectual revolutions, with th ...more
Lisa Kelsey
Sep 05, 2015 Lisa Kelsey rated it it was amazing
I gave this book five stars because it was a great, fascinating read and it really helped me understand some things. However I do think this is just the beginning for me, not so much as far as understanding the nature of fundamentalism, but how to deal with the realities of it.

A couple of very rough, broad ideas:

1). Fundamentalism is inherently modern--it's a reaction to the secular thrust of modernity.

In the premodern era people did not separate the spiritual from the physical--there was real
Dec 11, 2012 Philip rated it really liked it
I had had my eye on "The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism" by Karen Armstrong, for some time, as I admire Armstrong and have always scratched my head at fundamentalism, i.e., how could anyone fall for that stuff (the classic response from a liberal Christian)? So I read the book at last--and found it an absolutely fascinating, impeccably researched, and well-written volume for anyone else who might scratch their head about fundamentalism, or who might wonder 1) what Christian, Jewish, ...more
May 10, 2007 Sean rated it it was amazing
The history of the various religious fundamentalist movements always intrigued me. Fundamentalists exist in all religions, and I always wanted to figure out the common thread that connect all such movements. I would say most people really do not know what fundamentalism actually is and what purpose it serves in the Abrahamic religions, let alone the history of such movements. What is the history of this line of thinking? What are the reasons? Why is fundamentalism so prevalent now? These are gre ...more
Beth Barnett
May 28, 2007 Beth Barnett rated it it was amazing
Another excellent and eye-opening book by Armstrong. She discusses the impact of scientific and enlightenment philosophies that have moved away from or completely rejected traditional religions, and the growth of fundamentalist movements as a modern reaction to the increasingly secular world. Fascinating to read, even for the nonreligious.
Oct 26, 2008 Russell rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books on religion I've ever read. Armstrong is insightful, respectful, and articulate. She really changed my view of religious fundamentalism in many respects. I highly recommend this book.
Jun 28, 2012 Kumail rated it really liked it
In The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong traces the history of fundamentalism in the three monotheistic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The author explains fundamentalism to be a modern phenomenon, which could only take place in our modern times. It is only in the post twenty century world that religion has been sent into the aisles while the values of liberalism control all aspects of human life. It is this attitude towards religion which allows the fundamentalist zeal to grow o ...more
Karen Armstrong is rightly recognized as one of the leading scholars of western religions. In this monumental best seller she traces the people and causes of the rise of fundamentalism in Judaism, Islam and Christianity from the years 1492 (when the last European bastion of Islam, Granada, fell to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) through the end of the 20th century.

Armstrong's thesis is that "Contrary to popular belief, fundamentalism is not a throwback to some ancient form of religion but ra
Jun 02, 2009 Jane rated it it was amazing
I first heard Karen Armstrong interviewed on NPR while driving to the airport. Captivating! She is easier to listen to than read!
Her knowledge on the major religions of the world is profound! It took me several months to read and attempt to absorb this book and is one that I should re-read again.
I find it very disturbing and sad that most of the hate,intolerence-wars and prejudices are centered on religion.
"If we imprison ourselves in our dogmatic ideas, we are closing our minds to the divine.
Joanna Clausen
Nov 25, 2015 Joanna Clausen rated it it was amazing
This is not a book you can skim. It is dense with unfamiliar names and unfamiliar history. The type is small and the lines are close. It has 43 pages of sources. In short, if you are reading for information, you couldn't ask for a better book because it is also written well.

Armstrong's thesis is that the current fundamentalist movements in American Christianity, Iranian and Egyptian Islam, and Israeli Judaism have nothing to do with a return to the historic roots of the "people of the book." Ins
Shafeeq Valanchery
Oct 01, 2011 Shafeeq Valanchery rated it it was amazing
A History of God by Karen Armstrong is quite fascinating for the grandeur of its scale, a history of the concept of god and the tracing of its evolution 4000bce to the present.

Some of the inference that I reached after reading a few pages in the middle:
1) The meaning through negation that happened in the 20C (a cat is a cat because it is not a dog) has its roots in the 11C islamic theology discussion about God and how to describe him, leading to the idea that GOD being beyond our comprehension,
Marty Solomon
Aug 23, 2011 Marty Solomon rated it really liked it
What a fantastic look at the history of all three Abrahamic faiths. Full of great and useful information, this book takes a great and objective look at the rise of fundamentalism in all three faiths. Armstrong does a great job describing "mythos" and "logos" in a way that brings all kinds of relevance to the historical conversation. Some of the other reviews seem to be highly critical of her use of the terms, but it seems as if those are holding the terms too tightly (ironically enough, from a v ...more
Jan 09, 2009 Yanni rated it really liked it
I learned about what fundamentalism is and how it arose, particularly fascinating to see the mirror of fundamentalism in all the Abrahamic religions and how similar it is in each case - literalistic understandings of scripture that are in fact quite a "modern" idea.
Perhaps it is modern because these days literacy is now so high that really unintelligent people can also read their scriptures on their own, with their own limited understandings? Just my own musing.

I think that in case of Christian
Jun 10, 2008 Tracy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory
I highly recommend this book.

Armstrong is a philosopher and a historian. . . and a good writer, too. Oh, she once was a nun! Is there no end to this woman's abilities?

This book is particularly good. She explores the history of fundamentalism. Her basic argument is that, in times of great change, people turn to absolutes. Fundamentalisms of all sorts provide one form of absolute.

What with something like 500 years of examples, Armstrong is able to convince. It also helps that she could neatly sum
Aug 25, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to understand contemporary religious revitalism
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
A great focus on modernity and fundamentalism among Jews, Christians and Muslims. It describes their beliefs, activism, milatirism and acts of terror. It focuses on all three of the major faiths and their objection to secular governments, modern ideas and humanist beliefs. It is a reaction against science and culture. I enjoyed the sections on the Christians the most since I can relate more to that religion. It describes the inner war between the major players like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, ...more
Jun 24, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok
Broad but shallow. Armstrong defines fundamentalism as a reactionary trend in response to social or political change that seeks to reestablish and preserve an original order, and then presents modern examples of the religious type. The usual suspects are covered, from Khomeini to Falwell, with sound but repetitive and unoriginal information. Most of this has already been covered; indeed, other books have moved beyond merely diagnosing the issue to working toward a corrective. Placing the various ...more
Apr 07, 2013 Dalia added it
Karen Armstrong isn't the only one to look at fundamentalism, but she does so in a way that others haven't. Not only does she go into the necessary dates and history, but really takes pains to go into the feel, passion of each fundamentalist movement in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

At some point it gets too cumbersome and verbose and this thick book became something I knew I wanted to read merely for the understanding and knowledge, but not because it flowed, and nor did I look forward to re
Jan 06, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
The author is a former Catholic nun who has studied world religons extensively. She has written some of the most objective Occidental studies of Islam I have read. In this book, she writes about the conflicts between Jews, Christians, and Muslims throughout history, largely without bias or judgement. In the current political climate, where it has become acceptable to treat Islam as the most violent religion in history, this book goes a long way towards revisting the equally violent histories of ...more
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British author of numerous works on comparative religion.


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“We shall often find in our story that the religious behavior of people who have not been major beneficiaries of modernity articulates a strongly felt need for the spiritual,” 0 likes
“people are finding that in their dramatically transformed circumstances, the old forms of faith no longer work for them: they cannot provide the enlightenment and consolation that human beings seem to need.” 0 likes
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