14 November 2010

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong

I spent quite a while in the bookshop last month trying to find a book that could counter The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I respect Dawkins for his insight in 1976 on genetic evolution and the concept of memes but his recent persuit of atheism I find somewhat less appealing. I had read a little book called The Dawkins Delusion as a possible counter but was extremely disappointed by it.
Finally I stumbled upon this Case for God and the first page has Karen’s biography. Now there was someone who really seemed to know her subject. The book turned out to be much more than an answer to Dawkins and was one of my best reads of 2010.
Right from the start we plunge into the history of religion, shamanism and what might have been similar to Heidegger’s  philosophy of ‘Being’. From the documents of later Neolithic and pastoral societies, we know, Karen writes, that Being rather than aBeing was revered as the ultimate sacred power.

In chapter 3 she writes about, among other Greek  philosophers, Parmenides who became convinced that to attain the truth, human reason must rise above common sense and unverified opinion. The idea of change, for example, was pure convention. The Milesians had been wrong to imagine the world had developed gradually. Reality consisted of a unified, single, complete and eternal being. It might appear that creatures came into being and passed away, but true reality was unaffected by time.

The book then continues through two thousand years of evolution of philosophy, wars and religion until the present day.

“Just as the feats of a dancer or an athlete are impossible for an untrained body and seem superhuman to most of us, these people all developed a spiritual capacity that took them beyond the norm and revealed to their followers the untapped ‘divine’ or ‘enlightened’ potential that exists in any man or woman”.


Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun, but 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 16 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. In 2005 she was appointed by Kofi Annan to take part in the United Nations initiative ‘The Alliance of Civilizations’. In 2008 she was awarded the Frankiln J. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal for her work on religious liberty.