A History of God

A History of God

Paperback

By (author) Karen Armstrong

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 560 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 198mm x 32mm | 420g
  • Publication date: 8 January 2004
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099273675
  • ISBN 13: 9780099273677
  • Illustrations note: maps
  • Sales rank: 9,142

Product description

The idea of a single divine being - God, Yahweh, Allah - has existed for over 4,000 years. But the history of God is also the history of human struggle. While Judaism, Islam and Christianity proclaim the goodness of God, organised religion has too often been the catalyst for violence and ineradicable prejudice. In this fascinating, extensive and original account of the evolution of belief, Karen Armstrong examines Western society's unerring fidelity to this idea of One God and the many conflicting convictions it engenders. A controversial, extraordinary story of worship and war, A History of God confronts the most fundamental fact - or fiction - of our lives.

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Author information

Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, but then left her teaching order in 1969 to read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a full time writer and broadcaster. She is a best-selling author of over 15 books. An accomplished writer and passionate campaigner for religious liberty, Armstrong has addressed members of the United States Congress and the Senate and has participated in the World Economic Forum.

Review quote

"This is the most fascinating and learned survey of the biggest wild-goose chase in history - the quest for God. Karen Armstrong is a genius" -- A.N. Wilson "A splendidly readable book...the stage is set for the question: has God a future?" -- Sister Wendy Beckett Sunday Times "We are all watching a daily fight between the darkness and light. What we want, but may never get, is assurance that the light will prevail. Armstrong is too tough a thinker to offer us comfort there" -- Anthony Burgess Observer "Armstrong shows a reverent curiosity and a generosity of spirit, refreshing the understanding of what one knows and providing a clear introduction to the unfamiliar" -- Rt Revd Robert Runcie Daily Telegraph "Witty, informative and contemplative: Ms Armstrong can simplify complex ideas, but she is never simplistic" New York Times Book Review

Editorial reviews

Superb kaleidoscopic history of religion, from an English nun-turned-scholar. Armstrong (Holy War, 1991, etc.) was a nun in the early 1960's but left her convent in 1969 as part of the great wave that defected from religious life at that time. Although her faith grew progressively weaker, her fascination with religion didn't abate, and, even as a nonbeliever, she continues to pursue theological studies. Here, her basic message is that "religion is highly pragmatic. We shall see that it is far more important for a particular idea of God to work than for it to be logically or scientifically sound." In an extraordinary survey, Armstrong traces the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from their inception to the present day, and shows how they were created and shaped by their historical surroundings - which, in turn, they helped form and alter. Although this approach is standard among religious scholars, Armstrong uses it to particular advantage in underscoring the historical correspondences among the three faiths - for example, examining the messianic fervor that surrounded the career of the Sabbatai Zevi (the 12th-century rabbi who built up an enormous apocalyptic cult among diaspora Jews prior to his imprisonment and conversion to Islam) in light of the early Christian response to the crucifixion of Jesus or of Jeremiah's prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem. It's particularly in the mystical traditions, according to Armstrong, that the different faiths corroborate each other - in large part, she says, because the mystical apprehension of the divine is more abstract and therefore less dependent upon the traditional symbols by which most religions distinguish themselves. There are major gaps in Armstrong's history - she pays little attention to the Christian churches of the 20th century - but she manages against the odds to provide an account that's thorough, intelligent, and highly readable. Magisterial and brilliant. (Kirkus Reviews)

Flap copy

Over 700,000 copies of the original hardcover and paperback editions of this stunningly popular book have been sold. Karen Armstrong's superbly readable exploration of how the three dominant monotheistic religions of the world--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--have shaped and altered the conception of God is a tour de force. One of Britain's foremost commentators on religious affairs, Armstrong traces the history of how men and women have perceived and experienced God, from the time of Abraham to the present. From classical philosophy and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the modern age of skepticism, Armstrong performs the near miracle of distilling the intellectual history of monotheism into one compelling volume.