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History of God Paperback – Aug 9 1994

3.9 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 9 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345384563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345384560
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.5 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Armstrong, a British journalist and former nun, guides us along one of the most elusive and fascinating quests of all time--the search for God. Like all beloved historians, Armstrong entertains us with deft storytelling, astounding research, and makes us feel a greater appreciation for the present because we better understand our past. Be warned: A History of God is not a tidy linear history. Rather, we learn that the definition of God is constantly being repeated, altered, discarded, and resurrected through the ages, responding to its followers' practical concerns rather than to mystical mandates. Armstrong also shows us how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have overlapped and influenced one another, gently challenging the secularist history of each of these religions. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

This searching, profound comparative history of the three major monotheistic faiths fearlessly illuminates the sociopolitical ground in which religious ideas take root, blossom and mutate. Armstrong, a British broadcaster, commentator on religious affairs and former Roman Catholic nun, argues that Judaism, Christianity and Islam each developed the idea of a personal God, which has helped believers to mature as full human beings. Yet Armstrong also acknowledges that the idea of a personal God can be dangerous, encouraging us to judge, condemn and marginalize others. Recognizing this, each of the three monotheisms, in their different ways, developed a mystical tradition grounded in a realization that our human idea of God is merely a symbol of an ineffable reality. To Armstrong, modern, aggressively righteous fundamentalists of all three faiths represent "a retreat from God." She views as inevitable a move away from the idea of a personal God who behaves like a larger version of ourselves, and welcomes the grouping of believers toward a notion of God that "works for us in the empirical age." 25,000 first printing; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a religious Christian, I wish to thank Karen Armstrong for this wonderful book that taught me about the depth and richness of my religion and its history, as well as of other religions that believe in God. This is not an easy book, of course, but then who ever said that theology is easy? Flipping through the first few pages I was at first appalled at what seemed like blasphemy: "people invented a god"? As I progressed in the reading, however, I understood a lot more about what the author means. While we do know stories about God from the collections in the Bible and other Holy texts, those stories are revealed and we therefore cannot collect more by our own scholarly means.
This is therefore not a history OF God itself, since the God Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in is beyond time, beyond history. "History" itself is a human concept, and therefore the only history we humans can write about is HUMAN history. What Armstrong has delivered to us here is a very thorough and dispassionate history of the human CONCEPT of God. Viewed in that light, the book is actually a very reasonable introduction to the three Western religions. The ideas in the book furthermore are no different from the material taught in theology seminaries - it's just that we lay people are not taught or conditioned to think critically about these issues, and so we tend to hold our prior understanding as dogma, rather continuing on the quest for a true meaning of religion.
The book thoroughly describes the evolution of the concept of God, and how every generation of humanity brought a refinement to the idea.
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Format: Paperback
Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" is a tremendous resource for those interested in the history of religions in general, and in monotheism in particular. She looks not only in the different religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in particular), but also in the way that man's perception of God changed within each religion over time. Starting with the early history of man and religion, she proceeds right through to religion as of the early 1990's. The book was first published in 1993, so you will not find any references to September 11th or any of the polarizing events that have happened as a result. Instead you will find a much more even look, which is useful in and of itself.

While this book is a tremendous reference, unfortunately it does have a significant weakness as a reference, and that is that the text itself is not all that organized. Her choices for the eleven chapters are fine, but you will find no sections or subsections within the chapters. Instead each chapter is just a long recitation with no breaks, and this can make referring back to a section rather difficult. The book does have a decent index which helps. Also, there is a very good bibliography which also helps with additional research on a topic.

The writing is a little uneven. Some sections are very well done, and others are a bit more difficult to follow, however the writing is never poor. In particular, her discussion of the early history of each of the major monotheistic religions is very well done, and it gives the reader a good understanding of what those religions were like before they started adapting to other forces in the world.
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Format: Paperback
Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" is an expansive and exciting work. In it, she attempts a broad sketch of the evolution of the concept of God in three major monotheistic faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judiasm. I enjoyed this book a great deal, both for its introduction (to me) of new conceptions of God, and more importantly, in its demonstration that God, as conceived of by man, has never been a static or unchanging entity. Indeed, the main strength of "A History of God" is its illustration of how dynamic and mutable conceptions of God really are.
For this book, it is important to focus on what it is not, as much as what it is. It is not an effort to justify or to prove the existence, or to demonstrate the correctness of any one religious view. While Armstrong does question the development of certain religious practices, in particular those of Christianity, her questions are important ones, and do not seem malicious or destructive in intent. Instead, her goal is one of the mapmaker. She does not say what the land is or whether it is good or evil; she merely charts it as she goes, and primarily leaves the duty of determining the value of the land surveyed to the reader.
In doing so, she provides the reader with a chance to examine the cultural evolution of so many of the ideas that we currently hold as universal and immutable. While her challenge is not a direct one, any serious reader must question their own beliefs in the face of a clear demonstration that God is in many ways a man-made entity, and that God, as a concept, has developed as man has developed, to fill his needs and desires.
I did have some complaints about this book.
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