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The Case for God

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,163 Ratings  ·  501 Reviews
A nuanced exploration of the part that religion plays in human life, drawing on the insights of the past in order to build a faith that speaks to the needs of our dangerously polarized age.

Moving from the Paleolithic age to the present, Karen Armstrong details the great lengths to which humankind has gone in order to experience a sacred reality that it called by many names
ebook, 432 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2001)
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Nov 09, 2013 William rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
With all of the wars, crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, Jihadists, Creationists and the rest of it, God has got a lot to answer for. Armstrong's case for the defence is essentially that people are interpreting religion wrongly: to the founders of the religions faith was about mystery, symbolism, practice and good works. Early Christians, Armstrong argues, looked to the scriptures for inspiration not information, and would be shocked at what religion has become for many people today.

The case
Poor Karen Armstrong has been ploughing a lonely furrow in recent years, trying to show that there is a valid Third Way between increasingly defensive religious groups and increasingly forthright ‘new atheists’. Neither side thinks much of her. For those of us a bit more detached from the arguments, she often seems like the only one talking any sense.

Her main problem can best be summarised by saying that she and I share almost identical views on religion, and yet I would call myself an atheist w
Mohamed Osman
Dec 25, 2011 Mohamed Osman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
من الصعب أن تكتب تعليق مناسب لهذا الكتاب نظرا لضخامة كم المعلومات التي يحتويها والتي يصعب مراجعتها ،بالإضافة إلي القضية التي يتناولها و التي يقترب عمرها من عمر الإنسان علي هذه الأرض .

نستطيع أن نقسم الكتاب نصفين النصف الأول خاص بنشوء الوجود الآلهي في الفكر الإنساني وكيفية تطوره وخاصه عبر الديانة المسيحية واليهودية ، بينما يناقش النصف الثاني الاله الحديث وتداخل العلم مع الإيمان وهل مات الاله حقا أم لا .

النصف الأول لم أعجب به مثل النصف الثاني من الكتاب لكن من المؤكد لي أن الجزء الأول لن ينال رضا أو
Armstrong is a scholar of comparative religion. In numerous examples here, she shows how worship in virtually all world religions depends on a foundation of silence, or what she calls unknowing. This is the silence through which one gets intimations of the divine presence. I found the description remarkably like two kinds of Eastern meditation I have practiced over the years. There was no presumption on the part of early theists that they could grasp God. He was beyond human comprehension. Since ...more
Sep 23, 2009 jordan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Can I really be the only person who finds Karen Armstrong, the author of fifteen books on religion, writing in her latest that one cannot comment on the divine with words but only with silence, more than a little ironic?

To be fair, Armstrong does offer several interesting insights. Her effort to find universal "truths" that run across faiths is worthwhile and thought provoking. One might even imagine that there are many members of exclusivist faiths for whom this would be a revelation, though on
Oct 16, 2010 Ginny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not going to lie; this was a slog. A breath-taking overview of western religious culture going back to ancient French cave paintings and mentioning every major philosopher, theologian, and scientist since (as well as quite a few minor ones). This reads like a seminary dissertation. Initially I was bored to tears. But in the end, all that history culminates in a forceful argument in favor of the author's premise (as far as I can tell, though I suspect I'm not educated enough in theology or ph ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Mehrsa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would probably say that this is one of the best books I have ever read--certainly the most important. But also the most dense and difficult to read. It took me about 2 months (and I usually can get through books in a week or two max). I always read this book with a pencil and I think there are whole pages or sections in my book that are underlined. However, this book is not for everyone. If you cannot accept some gray in your religious belief or don't want to read something that will likely ch ...more
Mar 13, 2010 Shel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was enticed to read The Case for God after hearing a snippet of the book on NPR that told how mystics of the past reached for God in silence, ritually acknowledging the inadequacy of words to describe deity. Afterwards, an interviewer questioned Armstrong on her views. She promptly corrected him. "It's not just a bee in my bonnet. I've been studying this for 20 years." I was hooked, curious to hear more from Armstrong.

My enjoyment of the work was no doubt enhanced because I listened to the au
Si Barron
Nov 23, 2012 Si Barron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book can be read in two ways, either as a confused counterblast to Dawkins or as a plea to others of faith to adapt their religious practice and adopt her rather peculiar (almost Atheistic) religious stance.

As other reviewers have noticed this seems at first glance to promise a detailed rebuttal of Dawkins, et al - the derivative cover and blurbs encourage this. Armstrong does eventually get onto this task in the last chapters but first we have to plough through millennia of Christian histo
Dec 02, 2015 Safae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoris
أعتبر هذا الكتاب من بين الكتب المهمة التي تحدثت عن الله وتاريخ اللاهوت
فقد رصدت الكاتبة تاريخ ظهور الدين وفكرة الإله منذ العصور القديمة لحد العصور الحديثة.

الاقتبسات التي أعجبتني:

الإلحاد في رأي جوليان باجيني : التزام صريح دون تحفظ بالحقيقة والبحث والتساؤل العقلاني ولذا فمعارضة معتقدات الآخرين وإظهار العداء والبغض لهم مع قناعة لدرجة التشبت بصحة ما يعتقد به الشخص من آراء مناقض تماما لقيم الإلحاد.

أصر ديكارت، أولا، على أن على المفكر تفريغ عقله من كل ما اعتقد أنه يعرفه، عليه، هكذا أخبر نفسه ألا "أتق
Scott Hotes
Feb 19, 2011 Scott Hotes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Armstrong makes a compelling argument against what has been called the "new atheism". Debunking the use of a literal interpretation of the Bible as something wholly modern and something that would be completely surprising and foreign to followers of the Christian faith up until at least the Enlightenment, she argues that instead religion is not an intellectual concept or dogma, but rather it is something you do. That without an active involvement, religion loses its essential value.

I find this t
Philip Cartwright
Don't be fooled by the title; this is not some trite attempt to prove that God exists or that religion is a great thing. Instead, it's a tremendous, sweeping yet detailed account of the changing conception of religion from the dawn of humanity to the present day. Along the way, Armstrong stresses several themes.

For millennia religion was not seen primarily as a series of propositions to which one was required to assent ("God exists", etc). Instead, it was a commitment to a particular way of livi
Jon Stout
Jan 03, 2010 Jon Stout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
The Case for God by Karen Armstrong sounds like a religious apologetic or polemic tract, but it is not that at all. It takes a much more detached and scholarly viewpoint, and could function as a history or survey of how people think about God. I approached it from the context of a faith vs. scientific method debate that I have carried on for years with some of my friends, but one could also approach the topic out of a concern with the dangers of religious fundamentalism, or out of an interest in ...more
Aasem Bakhshi
Apr 05, 2011 Aasem Bakhshi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, a very lucid and readable book. Armstrong's case is primarily built against the newage militant atheist as well as postmodern religious fundamentalist but in doing so she obscures further - perhaps inadvertently - the nature of ultimate reality we call God.

She successfully traces back the roots of post-renaissance apophatic theological shift in antiquity and medieval religion. However, her version of God presents another problematic of reducing God to a mere abstract symbol or a set of
Muhammad Arqum
Jun 21, 2016 Muhammad Arqum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One might expect this to be somewhat of a critique on God which is followed by a scholarly explanation/reasoning which would essentially entail the primary discourse of this book. This is quite different than that. Karen starts off with way back to the earliest notions of God and then slowly unfolds the history of different religions of the world. Somewhere in the middle she delves into a rather dense polemic strictly pertaining to christianity, which I thought was a bit too technical and detail ...more
Leo Walsh
Dec 01, 2015 Leo Walsh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Case For God" is an incredible, thoughtful book. Armstrong takes a historical look at theology throughout the ages, and reveals how our cultural conceptions of "God" has changed throughout the ages, interacting with art, philosophy, economics and science. Each epoch produces it's own version of the divine. And the best theologians knew that the real goal of religion was to bring one face-to-face with the mystery -- "Why something instead of nothing?" -- the lies at the core of our conscious ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Asmaa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"ان الاله رغبه ماوراء الرغبه"
يحاول الكاتب للبحث عن سؤاله من خلال التركيز علي اكتر من اتجاه من العصر البدائي ولحد دلوقتي، وايه هي التطورات اللي مر بيها الإنسان لغايه ماكتشف اهميه او موت الاله في حياته، في البدايه سرد التفاصيل من خلال اعمال فرويد الطوطم والحرام او قصه الحضارة لديورانت عن اهتمام الانسان البدائي بخلق الكون، وظهور اليهوديه ومحور تطورها منذ تعاليم عزرا وطلبه من اليهود الالتزام ببعض القواعد التي لم تورد حتى في تعاليم موسي القديمه حتي سؤالهم نهايه المطاف اذا كان يوجد اله فلمَ لم يحمينا
Bob Nichols
Citing the Greeks, Armstrong's argument begins by stating that there are two realms of knowing. One is through "mythos" and the other is through "logos". The former allows us to access ultimate meaning, something logos can't do as it involves pragmatic reason related to survival. She calls ultimate reality God, but she is clear that God is not a being at all. In rejecting God as a personalized deity, she aligns her thought with that of Tillich ("God above God") and others (e.g., Heidegger's Bein ...more
I must confess that I did not finish this book. Unfortunately every time I tried to read it I felt as if I was undertaking a degree in Theology. It is extremely heavy-going.

Karen Armstrong has written numerous books on comparative religion, and is one of this country's leading writers on the subject. This is a detailed chronicle of faith through the ages, to demonstrate her assertion that atheism has never been lack of belief in the sacred, but always a rejection of a particular conception of Go
Jan 30, 2011 Jafar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought my review of this book would be about how persuasive I did or did not find Armstrong’s arguments about God. But there’s not much to agree or disagree with in this book. It’s almost entirely history – mostly history of Christianity and its development. Armstrong is obviously very well-read and learned in her subject matter, but I felt she was being downright deceitful by naming this book The Case for God. Most people would expect something else of a book with this title. Armstrong alrea ...more
Dec 30, 2015 Priya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The title may be somewhat misleading. The book doesn't really present an argumentative commentary supporting the existence of God. Instead, the author merely traces the history of religion and different sets of beliefs , but mainly focusing on the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The book then takes you through philosophical views across Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche and others. Further, there is a whole section devoted to the causes behind the rise o ...more
Jul 22, 2016 Shanon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great look at the history of faith in a greater being and different viewpoints. I love that the author tho having a Catholic background and therefore Christian filter did a great job of presenting other religions without the negativity others have used. I also very much appreciated that she didn't shy away from words like myth when referring to the great flood and creation. But it was long and took a while to get through.
The Case for God provides a great survey of the history of religious thought since Christ and puts in context the polarized fundamentalism and atheism of today. As someone who has never taken a religion course or read much about theology I found The Case for God to be very enlightening and thought provoking. The book at times is a dense read, particularly in the first half, but gains momentum as it progresses to modern times. For those not interested in devoting the time to reading the entire bo ...more
Tom Tabasco
Aug 16, 2016 Tom Tabasco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read on the topic of God (still reading it, in fact).

"Religion was something you "did", rather than "thought about".

"Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians have insisted for centuries that God does not exist and that there is 'nothing' out there; in making these assertions, their aim was not to deny the reality of God but to safeguard God's transcendence."

"Religious discourse was not intended to be understood literally because it was only possible to speak about a
A bit dry.
Ryan Jacob
Jul 25, 2016 Ryan Jacob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could see how someone could hate this book. Especially if you are coming at it combatively or dogmatically. Karen Armstrong is about as free-form when it comes to religion as you can be. She is extremely pro-religion and spirituality, but definitely her version of spirituality. One free of onto-theology or creed, one reduced or elevated (depending on your perspective) to an individualized and personalized vision of religion created by action, ritual, uncertainty, and meditation.
The title of t
Cheryl Gatling
You see that stack of books on the cover? That's what you're in for. Karen Armstrong has read just about everything every written on the history of religion, from the beginning of time until now, and she is going to share it with you. The book is dense, and at times dry. Fortunately, when Armstrong has a point, she repeats it, so you can remember. Here are her points. Today's atheists reject a concept of God that is not correct. Many of today's believers support a concept of God that is not corr ...more
Apr 10, 2010 Wade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book so far. Armstrong captures my feelings for the importance of both Mythos and Logos in life. This was a great historical overview of religion and spirituality. Reading this book has given me a greater appreciation for all church fathers (and mothers) throughout history; Moses, Abraham, Rabbi Hillel, Jesus, Peter, Gregory, Basil, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Muhammad, Siddhartha, Lehi, Moroni, Constantine, Descartes, Copernicus, Newton, ...more
Phyllis Duncan
If this were a text book for a comparative religion course, I'd likely give it four or five stars, but Armstrong states that she wrote this tome to counter recent books by atheists Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris. I'd suggest, then, she actually read their work instead of basing her research on sound bites from Fox News. So-called modern atheists don't seek to tear down religion or suppress others' beliefs. We simply don't want those beliefs forced on us at every turn, in public, in private, and, ...more
Aug 16, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good book to read in conjunction with Jim Holt's Why Does the World Exist? It's main thesis is that in the modern world (since the 15th century) we have come to have too much faith in reason and too great a desire for absolute certainty in all things. Holt would agree, I think. She points out that faith used to mean trust, not acceptance of a set of doctrines. She celebrates the ancient distinction between mythos and logos, and she says we have allowed logos to take over far too much terr ...more
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BOOKS 1 6 Aug 06, 2015 10:58PM  
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  • A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
  • Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile
  • Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
  • The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon
  • Skeptics and True Believers: The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Spirituality
  • Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
  • God: A Biography
  • God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter
  • American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
  • A Secular Age
  • Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus
  • Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality
  • Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief
  • Speaking of Faith
  • Dark Mysteries of the Vatican
  • The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book
British author of numerous works on comparative religion.


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“The new atheists show a disturbing lack of understanding of or concern about the complexity and ambiguity of modern experience, and their polemic entirely fails to mention the concern for justice and compassion that, despite their undeniable failings, has been espoused by all three of the monotheisms.

Religious fundamentalists also develop an exagerrated view of their enemy as the epitome of evil. This tendency makes critique of the new atheists too easy. They never discuss the work of such theologians as Bultmann or Tillich, who offer a very different view of religion and are closer to mainstream tradition than any fundamentalist. Unlike Feurerbach, Marx and Freud, the new atheists are not theologically literate. As one of their critics has remarked, in any military strategy it is essential to confront the enemy at its strongest point; failure to do so means that their polemic remains shallow and lacks intellectual depth. It is also morally and intellectually conservative. Unlike Feurerback, Marx, Ingersoll or Mill, these new Atheists show little concern about the poverty, injustice and humiliation that has inspired many of the atrocities they deplore; they show no yearning for a better world. Nor, like Nietzsche , Sartre or Camus, do they compel their readers to face up to the pointlessness and futility that ensue when people lack the resources to create a sense of meaning. They do not appear to consider the effect of such nihilism on people who do not have privileged lives and absorbing work.”
“Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians have insisted for centuries that God does not exist and that there is 'nothing' out there; in making these assertions, their aim was not to deny the reality of God but to safeguard God's transcendence.” 12 likes
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