Karen Armstrong is the author of nearly twenty books, including The Great Transformation, and The Spiral Staircase, a spiritual memoir. An internationally renowned expert on religion, Armstrong is a powerful voice for interfaith understanding.
Armstrong's latest 'bestseller' The Battle For God - A History of Fundamentalism is a highly readable account of how the world today faces a clash between religious fundamentalism and secularism.
Library Journal's review of the book said: Armstrong, author of A History of God and other books on the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions, writes very perceptively about the intense fear of modernity that has stimulated various fundamentalisms: Protestant, in the United States; Jewish, in Israel; Sunni Muslim, in Egypt; and Shii Muslim, in Iran. Each is ultimately modern in its attempts at converting mythic thinking into logical thinking and in its use of widespread literacy and the democratic ideas about individual importance that modernity fostered, but each is also at war with its liberal co-religionists and with secularists who "have entirely different conceptions of the sacred." Armstrong concludes that both sides--fundamentalists and secularists (including governments)--need compassion in order to be true to their own religious or humanistic values. The historical range and depth of this work, which transcends other treatments of the subject, make this highly recommended for all libraries.
Ray Olsen writing for Booklist commented: Combining synoptic and interpretive historical manners, Armstrong, author of the widely read and well-received History of God (1993), produces another splendid book that, for the considerable readership interested in religion, may prove to be a page-turner. The subject is fundamentalism in the world's great monotheisms--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Armstrong represents the dissimilar movements called fundamentalist as fearful reactions to modernity, especially the modernist predispositions for materialist reason and empirical evidence, which have increasingly encouraged denying the validity, or even the possibility, of truths expressed by the symbolic systems of religion. But, she maintains, these fundamentalisms are themselves typical products of modernity, for they tacitly accept the modern scientific devaluation of religious mythos by insisting on the literal truth of sacred writings, as in Christian fundamentalists' use of the New Testament Book of Revelation as a set of predictions of particular historical events and persons. Armstrong works out her interpretation by historically tracing the challenge of modernity and the fundamentalist reaction in the three monotheisms as parallel developments that span some 1,500 years. The typically modern pressure of politics upon religion began in the Middle Ages (Islam has never been free of it). A crucial date is 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the first rational modern state, their united kingdom of Spain, even as they dispatched Columbus, probably a Christianized Jew, in the opening salvo of modern imperialism. Intriguingly, Armstrong says the modernizing process had been launched earlier in the century by the Inquisition--a statement provocative enough to current ideas of what's modern to hook many readers, none of whom will later be the least bit dismayed about having taken the bait.
At the end of the book are a series of fourteen discussion topics which arise from the book's theme and which should aid readers in formulating comments for discussion in this thread.Is there a battle for God?
Posted November 10, 2007