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Publisher's Summary

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, such as God, Brahman, Nirvana, Allah, or Dao. Focusing especially on Christianity but including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese spiritualities, Armstrong examines the diminished impulse toward religion in our own time, when a significant number of people either want nothing to do with God or question the efficacy of faith.
Why has God become unbelievable? Why is it that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God in a way that veers so profoundly from the thinking of our ancestors? Answering these questions with the same depth of knowledge and profound insight that have marked all her acclaimed books, Armstrong makes clear how the changing face of the world has necessarily changed the importance of religion at both the societal and the individual level.
She makes a powerful, convincing argument for drawing on the insights of the past in order to build a faith that speaks to the needs of our dangerously polarized age. Yet she cautions us that religion was never supposed to provide answers that lie within the competence of human reason; that, she says, is the role of logos. The task of religion is to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no easy explanations. She emphasizes, too, that religion will not work automatically. It is, she says, a practical discipline: its insights are derived not from abstract speculation but from "dedicated intellectual endeavor" and a"compassionate lifestyle" that enables us to break out of the prison of selfhood.
©2009 Karen Armstrong (P)2009 Random House
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kindle Customer on 02-18-11

Great recasting of how God should be interpreted

I'm an agnostic and I think this is a very important book. It provides a view into how the three major monotheisms were seen by their own practitioners over the ages and contrast those views with the modern view of God. It's a criticism of modern religious practice but it opened my eyes to the value that religion could and should provide were it approached in a less simplistic manner. This book is not meant to convert anyone, its very much an social/historical look at God. I find it a much more valuable view than the combative positions of the New Atheists.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Rachel on 07-03-10

Complete, engaging and educational

I'm just finishing my second listen and enjoying it as much as the first. It is a dense book and presents thousands of years of human religious history in detail. Despite the tremendous amount of information Karen Armstrong packs into this book, the overall themes are easy to follow.

I particularly appreciated that she chose to write a book focusing on unknowing and the elements of religious and spiritual practice that take one beyond language itself. If you want a general overview of religious history, you might choose her History of God or The Great Transformation. However, if you want an in-depth look at 2000 years of faith and the interplay of human practitioners and ineffable religious experience in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, this is the book.

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12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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