Monday, April 25, 2011

Preview: Karen Armstrong's The Case for God

Here's the opening paragraph of Armstrong's book in anticipation of a more complete review. With this opening, I knew that I would appreciate this book:

We are talking far too much about God these days, and what we say is often facile. In our democratic society, we think that the concept of God should be easy and that religion ought to be readily accessible to anybody. “That book was really hard!” readers have told me reproachfully, shaking their heads in faint reproof. “Of course it was!” I want to reply. “It was about God.” But many find this puzzling. Surely everybody knows what God is: The Supreme Being, a divine Personality, who created the world and everything in it. They look perplexed if you point out that it is inaccurate to call God the Supreme Being because God is not a being at all, and that we really don’t understand what we mean when we say that he is “good,” “wise,” or “intelligent.” People of faith admit in theory that God is transcendent, but they seem sometimes to assume that they know exactly who “he” is and what he thinks, loves, and expects. We tend to tame and domesticate God’s “otherness.” We regularly ask God to bless our nation, save our queen, cure our sickness, or give us a fine day for the picnic. We remind God that he created the world and that we are miserable sinners, as though that may have slipped his mind. Politicians quote God to justify their policies, teachers use him to keep order in the classroom, and terrorists commit atrocities in his name. We beg God to support our side in an election or a war, even though our opponents are, presumably, also God’s children and the object of his love and care.