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The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism

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In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality t In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality that won huge audiences for A History of God, Armstrong illuminates the spread of militant piety as a phenomenon peculiar to our moment in history. Contrary to popular belief, fundamentalism is not a throwback to some ancient form of religion but rather a response to the spiritual crisis of the modern world. As Armstrong argues, the collapse of a piety rooted in myth and cult during the Renaissance forced people of faith to grasp for new ways of being religious--and fundamentalism was born. Armstrong focuses here on three fundamentalist movements: Protestant fundamentalism in America, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran--exploring how each has developed its own unique way of combating the assaults of modernity. Blending history, sociology, and spirituality, The Battle for God is a compelling and compassionate study of a radical form of religious expression that is critically shaping the course of world history.


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In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality t In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality that won huge audiences for A History of God, Armstrong illuminates the spread of militant piety as a phenomenon peculiar to our moment in history. Contrary to popular belief, fundamentalism is not a throwback to some ancient form of religion but rather a response to the spiritual crisis of the modern world. As Armstrong argues, the collapse of a piety rooted in myth and cult during the Renaissance forced people of faith to grasp for new ways of being religious--and fundamentalism was born. Armstrong focuses here on three fundamentalist movements: Protestant fundamentalism in America, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran--exploring how each has developed its own unique way of combating the assaults of modernity. Blending history, sociology, and spirituality, The Battle for God is a compelling and compassionate study of a radical form of religious expression that is critically shaping the course of world history.

30 review for The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    For the last decade or so, most of us have had to form some kind of opinion on religious fundamentalism, and it's a subject which can very easily become hysterical, sensational or just terrifying when it's addressed by the mass media. This exceptional book, which came out a few years ago now, is a careful examination of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and it tries to answer the basic questions many people feel – who the hell are these people, and how can they believe what they For the last decade or so, most of us have had to form some kind of opinion on religious fundamentalism, and it's a subject which can very easily become hysterical, sensational or just terrifying when it's addressed by the mass media. This exceptional book, which came out a few years ago now, is a careful examination of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and it tries to answer the basic questions many people feel – who the hell are these people, and how can they believe what they believe? As a jumping-off point, Armstrong points to an ancient distinction between two forms of truth (as described by the Greeks): mythos and logos. Logos is scientific, rational truth which has allowed us to build cars and bridges and visit other planets. Mythos is a different kind of truth, found in myth, art, and in the beliefs of religion. The central theme of her book is that fundamentalism is essentially the result of confusing one kind of truth with another. As she demonstrates, pre-modern peoples saw religion as belonging firmly to the realm of mythos. Religion was concerned with stories and concepts not to be taken literally, but used as ways to consider the nature of humanity, our relationship to the spiritual, and our place in the world. Logos is useful for science and politics, but it cannot answer the big questions of existence: that is the job of mythos, and the two realms of truth were kept very separate until a few hundred years ago. But after the Enlightenment, when rationalism became so effective and so much a part of life, there was a gradual change of mood, and an increased sense that scientific truth was more important than spiritual or mythic truths. Mythos became sidelined and subsequently discredited as ‘only’ a myth. It was, Armstrong argues, in reaction to this mentality that some religious groups, feeling threatened, attempted to reinterpret mythos as logos, taking religious concepts as being literally true, and using them as a basis for legislation and political life. Using this distinction between scientific and spiritual truths makes for an interesting reexamination of historical issues: the Reformation, for instance, becomes a clash between idea systems. In the pre-modern Catholic church, the Eucharist was a rich spiritual symbol of human participation in the divine. But for the rational Reformers, it must either be literally true (Luther), or else plain false (Zwingli, Calvin). They were unable to see beyond scientific truth. Similarly, for many Orthodox Jews in the 1930s and '40s, the idea of a modern State of Israel was deeply abhorrent. For them, Israel was a profound symbol of their religion, a vital part of Jewish spirituality to be contemplated – not a place to make a farm and start tilling sacred soil. When many of the ultra-Orthodox considered a kibbutz, Armstrong writes, they ‘felt the same outrage and dread as, later, people felt when the heard about the Nazi death camps.’ She adds, ‘This is not an exaggeration,’ and cites Jewish clerics who actually blamed the Holocaust on the settlement of Israel. By pointing to such fundamental differences of opinion, Armstrong shows that most contemporary fundamentalist movements are in fact decidedly modern, despite the fact that they all profess a wish to go ‘back to basics’. The literalism which is seen in fundamentalism is a concept which is really only a few centuries old. She is particularly strong when it comes to Islam, pointing out that while Western Europe had three or four hundreds years to adjust to modern rationalism, most Islamic countries had such ideas foisted on them more or less overnight by colonial powers (generally Britain, France, Russia and later the US). It is difficult for most of us to understand, for example, why terrorists seem to hate democracy, but she points out that the Islamic experience of democracy has been very different from ours – imposed on a country in one fell swoop, and usually resulting in a lot of business contracts for foreign companies, and a lot of money for those in power but little for anyone else. Her case studies of Egypt and Iran make this point beyond doubt, and show the importance of making a place for religion in society, to prevent it from becoming sidelined and hence feeling threatened. If you're from the UK or the States, the book is not comfortable reading, since most of the problems in the Middle East are traced squarely back to Western interference, and in some cases the details are heartbreaking. In particular, America's complete failure to understand Islamic societies throws a lot of light on the Iranian Revolution as well as the rise in reactionary groups, and reading this won't make you feel too hopeful about Iraq's or Afghanistan's chances, let alone the way Iran itself is currently being dealt with. But this is far from being an exclusively Islamic problem; rather, the book shows that fundamentalism is just a reaction to the secularism of modern life, a frightened response to the ‘God-shaped hole’ which Sartre talked about, or Nietzsche's ‘God is dead’. We have lost an appreciation of mythos in the West – though many people feel the lack of it, which may explain the popularity of such things as tarot cards, dream dictionaries and psychoanalysis. In that sense, this book, while clearly condemning the abuses of fundamentalism, is equally unimpressed by modern secularism. ‘If fundamentalists must evolve a more compassionate assessment of their enemies in order to be true to their religious traditions,’ she writes, ‘secularists must also be more faithful to the benevolence, tolerance and respect for humanity which characterizes modern culture at its best, and address themselves more empathetically to the fears, anxieties and needs which so many of their fundamentalist nieghbours experience’. These movements do not represent a knee-jerk reaction, but a considered response to modernity, and unless we try and understand that, the problems will not go away. This is an important book. Suffice to say that if you have any interest in religion, politics, history or current affairs then you will get something out of it. I hope as many people as possible read it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    My goal is to formulate a gospel of atheism which is so full of loving-kindness that all the Christians and everyone else too, why not be ambitious, will join me and their migraines caused by their impossible theology will cease, their gnarled hearts caused by their doctrinal disagreeablenesses will unclench and we can all form a circle of lambent fulfilledness which will wink and pulse gently like tacky Christmas tree lights as we bask in the suddenly clear and perfect knowledge of the absolute My goal is to formulate a gospel of atheism which is so full of loving-kindness that all the Christians and everyone else too, why not be ambitious, will join me and their migraines caused by their impossible theology will cease, their gnarled hearts caused by their doctrinal disagreeablenesses will unclench and we can all form a circle of lambent fulfilledness which will wink and pulse gently like tacky Christmas tree lights as we bask in the suddenly clear and perfect knowledge of the absolute remarkableness of being here at all, that's all, just being here on a strange planet being able to breathe, and that's it, no heaven, no hell, no fees, no guru, no method, no teaching, no mantra, nothing special, just that. Of course, if I did, that would be a self-contradiction. And a bit Lennony. But I could live with that.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Antigone

    An examination of religious fundamentalism is an arduous undertaking for any reader, and not simply because it necessitates immersion into a different cultural perspective. The sheer voltage of psychic violence brandished by some of these sects injects the issue with a heavy dose of repellence. That's the irony, of course. Making atrocity your weapon of choice will, yes, absolutely garner worldwide attention. You will be seen as you have hungered to be seen. Does it matter that this will frequen An examination of religious fundamentalism is an arduous undertaking for any reader, and not simply because it necessitates immersion into a different cultural perspective. The sheer voltage of psychic violence brandished by some of these sects injects the issue with a heavy dose of repellence. That's the irony, of course. Making atrocity your weapon of choice will, yes, absolutely garner worldwide attention. You will be seen as you have hungered to be seen. Does it matter that this will frequently occur through the crosshairs of a rifle scope? And there is a taste of the journey, as a reader and a thinker, through the terrain most recently inhabited by Al Qaeda and ISIS. Terrorism is designed to terrorize and all the images we possess - whether they be of the corpse of a serviceman dragged through foreign streets, a passenger jet slamming into the World Trade Center, or a journalist's beheading - will rise to mind to tap that terror on the road to developing an understanding of this element of society as it operates today. This issue is highly-charged for me, and so it becomes critically important that I choose my authors with care. It's easy enough at present to fall into the hands of cynics and rabble-rousers; the scornful academic, the conspiracy theorist, the tabloid instigator; anyone with a motive that departs, modestly or monumentally, from simple comprehension. Because that's what I'm here to do: comprehend. What I do with that comprehension comes later, for now it's understanding I require and there are few better suited to provide it on this particular subject than Karen Armstrong. This work has depth, intelligence, relevance, and is blissfully readable. She manages to synthesize a vast amount of intricate religious history into solid, well-constructed avenues of approach - and that is no mean feat. In The Battle for God, Armstrong explores the impact of modernity on the deeply religious, especially those for whom the advent of rational, scientifically-oriented thought has elicited a fear of annihilation. She tracks the course of movements in Egypt, Iran, Israel and America to maintain traditional faith in the face of the new pragmatism and the evolving insistence that what is true is only what can be empirically proven (which leaves the bedrock of most religions in the dust). She calls attention to the tendency of those who feel attacked by the modern age to retreat and isolate in their attempt to preserve their way of belief. Such isolation, fostered as it is by fear, rage and a sense of persecution, can scar the soul of a movement and bring about paranoia, desperation, thoughts of rebellion and strategies of violent retribution - which are inevitably directly opposed to the tenets such faiths hold dear. Logos and mythos, Armstrong asserts, are best when balanced. Each needs the other if the human psyche is to thrive. For while it is true that the religious need to adapt to the changing nature of civilization, it is also true that the modern world needs to recognize the vital role the spiritual holds in helping to keep the meaning (of life, struggle, suffering) in play. As she plainly points out: "Rational thought has achieved astonishing success in the practical sphere, but it cannot assuage our sorrow." For those with an interest in examining the forces behind the religious extremism we are encountering today, make a note of this author and take a look at this book. An exceptional source for an exceptional time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Soltero

    Great information, but watch out for Armstrong's premise If I could, I would give Armstrong's book 3 stars because it *is* an excellent source of information dealing with fundamentalist-like religious sects from Columbus' time and on. Armstrong writes eloquently and her material is well-organized and easy to understand. However, in an attempt to explain the fundamentalist mindset, Armstrong argues that "people of the past... evolved two ways of thinking, and acquiring knowledge... mythos and logos Great information, but watch out for Armstrong's premise If I could, I would give Armstrong's book 3½ stars because it *is* an excellent source of information dealing with fundamentalist-like religious sects from Columbus' time and on. Armstrong writes eloquently and her material is well-organized and easy to understand. However, in an attempt to explain the fundamentalist mindset, Armstrong argues that "people of the past... evolved two ways of thinking, and acquiring knowledge... mythos and logos". She describes mythos as "concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence... [concerned] with meaning... [and with] the origins of life" (p. xv). Logos, then, supposedly "was the rational, pragmatic, and scientific thought that enabled [people] to function well in the world" (p. xvi). The modern West, she contends, has lost mythos, preferring a future-oriented world view (logos) that prioritizes factuality and rationality. Armstrong thus constructs a happy little world in the past where both logos and mythos balanced each other perfectly (cf. p. xvii), setting up the argument that fundamentalism today is a response to the contemporary lack of mythos. Unfortunately, such a balanced world simply did not exist, and her premise is consequently undermined. For example, on p. 95, Armstrong laments the Higher Criticism assessment of the Bible as "the triumph of the rational discourse of logos over myth". By this time, she writes, "Western people had lost the original sense of the mythical, and thought that doctrines and scriptural narratives were logoi, narratives that purported to be factually accurate..." Excuse me, but what Bible is Armstrong using? My Bible certainly `purports' its narratives actually did happen, or that at least the writers believed so (not that I agree). Luke claims he wrote his account "after investigating everything carefully from the very first" (Lk. 1:3, NRSV). John includes the "testimonials" of a few people who swear to the factuality of the events they are recounting (cf. Jn. 19:35; 20:30-31; 21:24-25). Paul leans on the literal resurrection of Jesus to support his teachings (1 Cor. 15:14). The Old Testament cites now-lost books as if to further substantiate its account of Israel's history (cf. Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18). Thus, the narratives Armstrong considers "mythoi" are affirmed by their own authors as something strikingly more akin to her definition of logos. And note that the New Testament writers looked *forward* to the literal Second Coming of Jesus, clearly more in the spirit of logos. In fact, many of them broke with tradition (the past), believing something new had come and would return. Another example: Armstrong portrays the Passover Seder as a mythos meant to help Jews experience the Exodus myth and "[bring] this strange story into their own lives... to make it their own" (p. xvi). She asserts that "[t]o ask whether the Exodus from Egypt took place exactly as recounted in the Bible or to demand historical and scientific evidence to prove that it is factually true is to mistake the nature and purpose of this story." Oh, is it now? A cursory reading of the Haggadah reveals how its authors intended the Seder to be a commemoration of an event which they believed occurred, not in mythical "timeless realities", but in actual history. Many other texts could be used to demonstrate how the neatly divided realms of mythos and logos did not exist. The Nicene Creed, for example, does not present a Jesus who was crucified in the eternal world of mythic truth, since its sources do not do so either. But I trust that I've made my point. In short, I *do* recommend this book for its historical information: dates, events, people, and places. But I suggest readers not take too seriously the whole mythos-logos premise as the reason for the rise of fundamentalism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Clif

    Are you confused by all the religious groups in the news? Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Haredim, Shii, Sunni, Lubavitcher, Satmar, Wahhabis, the Muslim Brotherhood? Are you also confused by the demands of religious fundamentalists? They rant and rave and call for destruction of what seems to many Americans innocuous. Is it pure malice or something else? If you can identify with this confusion, this is the book for you! Not only is it easy to read while at the same time filled with satisfying deta Are you confused by all the religious groups in the news? Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Haredim, Shii, Sunni, Lubavitcher, Satmar, Wahhabis, the Muslim Brotherhood? Are you also confused by the demands of religious fundamentalists? They rant and rave and call for destruction of what seems to many Americans innocuous. Is it pure malice or something else? If you can identify with this confusion, this is the book for you! Not only is it easy to read while at the same time filled with satisfying detail, it is also three books in one, tying together the strands of Muslim, Jewish and Christian fundamentalism to show that they are all reacting to modernity in remarkably similar fashion. I've grown to appreciate Karen Armstrong from her book on Islam and her autobiography of her time in a convent, Through the Narrow Gate. She is a reliable guide through the labyrinthine world of religion, a master of pulling the underlying psychological motivation from mysterious practices. While keeping the three religious traditions distinct, yet transitioning from one to another at appropriate points where similar forces were at work upon them, Armstrong moves through history showing how each fundamentalist movement came to be in reaction to social upheaval, often almost simultaneously. I found myself repeatedly thinking, "so THAT'S where that group started!" You will hear about rabbinical thinking from the Jewish ghettos of Poland, of the high regard Iranians place on the Hidden Imam. Why was Egypt's Nasser important to the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood? Armstrong powerfully illuminates what for most Americans is obscure history from other lands, yet fills us in on the history of American fundamentalism as well. Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Bakker, the Scopes monkey trial, they're here as well. This is an epic work that flows. Armstrong's thesis is simple: being human, we need both myth (mythos) and reason (logos). While it is possible to live with only logos, to get there is not easy, not coming naturally to human beings with our psychology that all but cries out for a foundation for emotional stability. The great error is to think that mythos can be adapted to logos - that the spiritual can be explained on a rational basis, that the numinous can be made concrete. Yet reason/logos has taken the scene with overwhelming and undeniable practical success. So conclusive is this victory of logos, that mythos, to be credible to the modern mind, must be made to answer on the terms of reason - yet by its nature, it cannot. In the desperate attempt to make religion live under a scientific worldview, fundamentalism makes its appearance to rage and rant in defense of mythos on the field of logos; a project that is inevitably futile. As Armstrong explains, the coexistence of mythos and logos came naturally in the ancient world where people looked to myth for explanation and found emotional security in communicating with the spiritual, represented in religious practices of long standing. The world went on century upon century without the expectation of progress that is an essential part of modernity. Nothing was novel, all was explicable through spiritual interpretation, the will of god or the gods. St. Augustine is known for his appeal to stifle all curiosity and put faith in God. Modern secular societies look only forward in expectation of material things to come, as tradition, mythology and spirituality fall away, useless superstitions, a weakness of the credulous. Prove it or cast it off. Thus is the mythos/logos cohabitation destroyed and so arise the psychological anxieties and fears that mythos kept in check by providing answers satisfyingly endorsed by the wisdom of elders back to time immemorial. But whether it is the "back to the Bible" appeal or bin Laden's praise for the practices of the time of Mohammed, there is no going back. Karen Armstrong would like us to ease forward with understanding rather than blind suppression. This book is a plea for understanding of the fear that drives the desperation of fundamentalism. It is not a call for the overthrow of reason or the elevation of religion, nor an apologia for religious extremism. If some Rip Van Winkle awoke and asked me for a book to understand the modern world, I'd hand him this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    The Battle for God is a monumental work that fills in many of the gaps in our modern,streamlined educational system,because it is a heroic attempt to articulate all sides of the conflict between spiritual impulse and reason,tradition and progress. This approach allows Armstrong to delve far deeper than the dry 'facts' which are pretty much all I was given, so that she manages to acheive a much broader perspective than the usual polemical or reductionist style. Beginning in the pivotal year 1492, The Battle for God is a monumental work that fills in many of the gaps in our modern,streamlined educational system,because it is a heroic attempt to articulate all sides of the conflict between spiritual impulse and reason,tradition and progress. This approach allows Armstrong to delve far deeper than the dry 'facts' which are pretty much all I was given, so that she manages to acheive a much broader perspective than the usual polemical or reductionist style. Beginning in the pivotal year 1492, Armstrong traces the various threads that unravelled from that peak year in the history of the 3 great monotheisms,to give us a better insight into the nature of fundamentalism and its alarming manifestations in our secular world. Personally, I wish she would have started earlier,quite a bit earlier,but I can appreciate the nightmare of reasearch and editing the overwhelming amount of material surrounding the topic. Still. I would have liked to know more about the golden age of Al-Andulus when all 3 variations of monotheism flourished together,in an unprecedented and never again acheived harmony. In fact, this book awakened in me a ferocious passion to find out more about everything that Armstrong so deftly skims over to give us this remarkable overview.That in itself is a major acheivement. It occurs to me that conventional education consists of a merry-go-round approach,with a fixed point of view and a limited scope. Armstrong takes us on a roller coaster ride,soaring above the horizon,dipping deep,then rising again to to glimpse unforseen connections with the larger surround. Surely it's unreasonable of me to be left wanting more,such as a roller coaster that moved in slo-mo? This is not a real criticism of the book,more like the opposite,but it seems to me that equally thick books could be written about almost every single paragraph in this one. Armstrong has given us a vivid and important work,condensing a formidable amount of material without trivializing or patronizing. If at times I was left feeling dizzy, or that crucial facts were being glossed over, surely its up to me, the reader to search out additional details, the backstory of the backstories she so deftly outlines. So why only 4 stars? Perhaps because of the inadaquacy of the rating system,perhaps more because of my own personal bias,perhaps I need to read it again. And perhaps I am wrong, but sometimes,it seemed to me, her impartiality slips, and I detected in her a maddening tendency to accept the premise that modernity is progress,is inevitable, and that those of us who remain skeptical of its intrinsic value are hopelessly clinging to an unworkable program. Certainly she smashes some of our most pervasive stereotypes,but I was disturbed by the few she retains,mainly, the portrait of the dim witted peasant,attached to an anscestral piece of land,without the so called benefits of modern technology, which,we are seeing, have often been ultimately harmful,resulting in a toxic,depleted environment. When she scoffs a bit at the unsophistication of of traditional ways, I wonder about the value of sophistication that is so out of harmony with the seasons and so incongruent with the cosmic rhythms that it seems acceptable to need a pill to wake up in the morning and a pill to go to sleep. Even more disturbing to me is her assumption that ultimately,we all need to "get with the program". I found no place for myself in any of her catagorizations, for though,like the traditionalists she depicts I detest the hypocracy underlying much of what is seen as expediant and acceptable and modern,and refuse to jump on the latest bandwagon,I am no fundamentalist reactionary. Indeed, I am more of a pagan than a true believer,prefering to celebrate diversity rather than striving for unity.In any repressive regime,likely I'd be a cantidate for the stake. But I do believe it's a mistake to separate the sacred from the mundane,for I believe it allows the unscrupulous few to take advantage of the majority of us idealists and dreamers who would rather live peacefully and creatively free of the rules and restrictions that set such artificial boundaries which we are required to observe.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    In the Battle for God, Armstrong tries to chronicle the evolution of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The scope of the book was impressive, and I feel like I know a lot more about how religious sects evolve from a sociological/historical perspective. However, I had a lot of problems with this book. First of all, her central premise involved dividing religion into logos and mythos, and she argued that fundamentalism frequently arose when devout religionists mistook mythos for l In the Battle for God, Armstrong tries to chronicle the evolution of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The scope of the book was impressive, and I feel like I know a lot more about how religious sects evolve from a sociological/historical perspective. However, I had a lot of problems with this book. First of all, her central premise involved dividing religion into logos and mythos, and she argued that fundamentalism frequently arose when devout religionists mistook mythos for logos. It would have been a more interesting and compelling argument had she bothered to define either. She alternatively used logos to mean reason, rationalism, pragmatism, and factual truth, while mythos was myth, mysticism, non-factual truths, and non-negotiable elements to a religion. She used these terms so loosely the distinction seemed arbitrary and academically self-serving; while this distinction should be a helpful consideration in assessing fundamental religious movements it falls short as a central explanation for them. Likewise, she created an overarching narrative for the chronological development of fundamental movements, but in the end this forced her to almost equate Ayatollah Khomeini to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, which was just absurd and distorted her analysis in every time period she assessed. There were hints throughout her book that a better explanation existed, but she was too locked into her argument to see them (particularly the religionists' view of how God wants them to interact with the "world" seemed far more important than the degree of literalism in their interpretation of scriptures). Finally, when Armstrong writes about Judaism and Islam I find myself nodding, thinking "how interesting", etc. But when she discusses Christianity, the religion that I've studied most and know the most about, I find myself disagreeing with her explanation, which then causes me to go back and question whether a Muslim or Jew would recognize their religion as Armstrong explains it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    It's interesting to re-visit certain books after major life experiences, and this was one of those profoundly altered "second read" books for me. The spiritual, intellectual and worldview re-arrangements that have happened due to significant life events over the past few years have helped me to look at my upbringing from a vastly different vantage point. As that upbringing was in a fundamentalist Christian environment, this book appears entirely different to me now that I've done a great deal of It's interesting to re-visit certain books after major life experiences, and this was one of those profoundly altered "second read" books for me. The spiritual, intellectual and worldview re-arrangements that have happened due to significant life events over the past few years have helped me to look at my upbringing from a vastly different vantage point. As that upbringing was in a fundamentalist Christian environment, this book appears entirely different to me now that I've done a great deal of internal reflection, and Armstrong's book reads much easier with increased life experience. This really is a phenomenal book, despite the fact that it's a bit dated now, having appeared before the 9/11 era. However, as a historical look at modern fundamentalism, the time period that it does cover gives an outstanding well-balanced look at the rise of this conservative trend, and goes a long way towards facilitating understanding simply from the tone of its writing. From a new perspective, I can see that one of the dynamics Armstrong attempts to show is that the fundamentalism of the Abrahamic religions, once examined within their unique cultural contexts, are really a form of "safe-guarding" against very similar perceived threats. Armstrong adopts a style that jumps from one religion in a given time period to another in order to show not only the similarities in the reasons for fundamentalist trends, but to show that the human fears we experience in a reactionary manifestation are shared by others. The question then becomes: Will we recognize this fear for what it is, and will we be able to challenge our own assumptions as a result of this self-examination? The challenging of assumptions is crucial if one desires to live out the highest in their individual religious tradition, which ultimately comes back to active manifestations of love. Highly recommended, and a critical read for inter-faith dialogue and understanding.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Made a couple of minor changes: Rarely does one come across a book that is recognized as erudite, essential, and readable simultaneously. The author of The History of God has brilliantly analyzed the rise of fundamentalism as a reaction to the emphasis on logos of the Enlightenment as opposed to mythos that had been essential to one's view of the world. "The economic changes over the last four hundred years have been accompanied by immense social, political, and intellectual revolutions, with th Made a couple of minor changes: Rarely does one come across a book that is recognized as erudite, essential, and readable simultaneously. The author of The History of God has brilliantly analyzed the rise of fundamentalism as a reaction to the emphasis on logos of the Enlightenment as opposed to mythos that had been essential to one's view of the world. "The economic changes over the last four hundred years have been accompanied by immense social, political, and intellectual revolutions, with the development of an entirely different, scientific and rational, concept of the nature of truth; and once again, a radical religious change has become necessary." As science and technology began to become associated with such visible successes in overcoming disease and social ills, the tendency was to believe that logos (rational, scientific thinking related exactly to facts and external realities) was the only “means to truth and began to discount mythos [that which is timeless and constant, “looking back to the origins of life . . to the deepest levels of the human mind . . . unconcerned with practical matters” and rooted in the unconscious, that which helps us through the day, mythological stories not intended to be literal, but conveying truth:] as false and superstitious.” The temptation is to think of mythos as meaning myth. In this context that would be incorrect. Armstrong uses this word as it relates to mystery and mysticism, rooted ultimately in traditional biblical and Islamic history “which gives meaning to life, but cannot be explained in rational terms.”Logos, however, was unable to assuage pain and suffering leading to a vacuum the fundamentalists sought to revive. The danger unseen by modern fundamentalists is that they have tried to imbue mythos with an element of literalism essential to logos. The difference between these two concepts forms the basis for the battle between modernism and fundamentalism. Armstrong traces the beginning of the fundamentalist movement back to the time of Columbus when a crisis occurred in Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella expelled both Muslims and Jews from Spain. The three religious groups had actually coexisted quite happily and profitably together for several centuries, but the prospect of modernity and threats from a new world view, science, threatened age-old traditions and myths. The fundamentalist movement was an attempt by traditionalists to retain a sectarian view of the world. For many of these people the world can be divided into two e faithful. Often an arrogance and condescension – I plead guilty here – make secularists insensitive to those who feel their religious beliefs have been undermined and challenged. The seemingly irreconcilable difference between rationalism and mysticism perhaps make militant fundamentalism inevitable. The danger for fundamentalist lies in their attempts to turn mythos into logos, e.g., have sacred texts be read literally and inerrantly as one would read a scientific text. That may lead to inevitable discrepancies between observation and belief that may hasten the defeat of religion. Of great benefit, is Armstrong's clear explanation of the differences and conflicts that exist in Islam. Shiite and Sunni branches represent very different interpretations of a major faith. The eventual outcome of the dichotomy of secular versus sectarian remains unknown. What is apparent is that fundamentalism cannot tolerate pluralism or democracy and compromise seems unlikely. The author identifies two major threads in the development of fundamentalism: (a) fear of the modern world and (b) that the response to fear is to try to create an alternative society by preaching "an ideology of exclusion, hatred, and even violence." She warns at the end of the book, "If fundamentalists must evolve a more compassionate assessment of their enemies in order to be true to their religious traditions, secularists must also be more faithful to the benevolence, tolerance, and respect for humanity which characterizes modern culture at its best, and address themselves more emphatically to the fears, anxieties, and needs which so many of their fundamentalist neighbors experience but which no society can safely ignore."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    This seminal book by Karen Armstrong my be her best work and is number 8 on my most influential list. Her deeply researched and wonderfully insightful book reviews a thousand years of religious fundamentalism in three faiths, Christainity, Judaism and Islam. The parallels and commonality of the "true believers" is frightening but, as she points out,is a result of our nature and need to beleive. The non-believers not only become the enemy but the mortal enemy who, if left unchallenged, will exter This seminal book by Karen Armstrong my be her best work and is number 8 on my most influential list. Her deeply researched and wonderfully insightful book reviews a thousand years of religious fundamentalism in three faiths, Christainity, Judaism and Islam. The parallels and commonality of the "true believers" is frightening but, as she points out,is a result of our nature and need to beleive. The non-believers not only become the enemy but the mortal enemy who, if left unchallenged, will exterminate the believers, perhaps to the end of the world. Such is the depth of their belief and the strength with which it pssesses their minds. It is not an anti-religious tract nor does it favor any belief system. It is a thoughtful review of an inherant condition brought on by religion and our history of violence as homo sapiens. Perhaps the solution to this problem is the greatest need facing humanity.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erika RS

    This book is classic Armstrong. The Battle For God describes the aspects of the histories of the three great monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) which led to the rise of modern fundamentalism in all three. In the process, she explores some of the commonalities of these different fundamentalisms and their origins. This book is jam packed with information, so I will not try to cover any of the specific. Instead, I will focus on the high level themes. In Armstrong's view, fundamentalisms a This book is classic Armstrong. The Battle For God describes the aspects of the histories of the three great monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) which led to the rise of modern fundamentalism in all three. In the process, she explores some of the commonalities of these different fundamentalisms and their origins. This book is jam packed with information, so I will not try to cover any of the specific. Instead, I will focus on the high level themes. In Armstrong's view, fundamentalisms arise as a result of the process of modernization and are themselves deeply modern movements. By the process of modernization she means, roughly, the transformation from mostly agrarian societies with a focus on the past and present to societies whose success is based and innovation and whose members are future oriented. This future orientation causes a focus on the rational and a discounting of the mythological. Armstrong claims that in pre-modern times, these two modes of reasoning were seen as complementary, not competitive. In modern times, mythological truth is seen as an oxymoron. Myth is seen as story and lie. Armstrong defines mythological truth implicitly rather than ever coming out and saying what it is. She seems to see mythological truth as having two components: it cannot be proven rationally and its purpose is to give meaning rather than to be right. One of the commonalities of different fundamentalism is that they try to make mythological truths into rational truths which causes damage both to the religion itself and the world they try to apply their literalized truths to. One of Armstrong's central theses is that fundamentalism is essentially a modern response to the changing world. Fundamentalists generally try to turn their mythological truths into logical truths. As such, the fundamentalist vision of a religion is no more authentic than the world they are rebelling against. However, the fundamentalist vision is structured so that the adherents to the vision think it is more authentic. The modernization process began as scientists like Copernicus showed that our intuitions and perceptions do not map cleanly onto the truth of reality. In fact, sometimes or intuitions and perceptions can be downright misleading. Fundamentalist ideologies, whether religious or not, often are rebelling against this complexity of reality. They try to push a simplified version of reality onto their adherents and, sometimes, onto others. But the rise of fundamentalism is not related solely to changes in our views of the world and its abstractions. Fundamentalism often arises because of specific historic events. It is undeniable that the modernization process has often been harsh. The raising up of people in the lower ranks of society has often led to a demand for more uniformity. The "other" has always been perceived as a threat, but when that fear of the other is combined with the increasing power of modern states, the results can be disastrous. Because of this, much of The Battle for God reads like an extended lesson in the history of Europe, the Middle East, and the US from the 15th century through the present. As someone who is not a history buff (and, therefore, whose view of history is strongly influenced by the western bias of history lessons in the American education system), I learned a lot. I pretty much knew nothing about most of the history of the Middle East. Now I know a little! While her view was certainly biased (even if you ignore the bias that all authors bring to the table, she was only interested in those events which related to the topic of religious fundamentalism), it is still impossible for someone like me to come away with this without having some seriously altered views. Probably the most fundamental change in view that I got from the history Armstrong presented had to do with my perception of the attitudes of Muslims to the west. While I knew at an abstract level that the west had not been good to the Middle East, I had not realized what a rational basis their hatred has. The west has screwed over that region again and again and again. Now, I don't think that the fact that the hatred has a rational basis means the hatred itself is rational, but if I had been treated like they were, I would also likely perceive the west as evil. Armstrong, as usual, gives us a book jam packed with information. The main strength of this book is the sympathy with which Armstrong views fundamentalists. While she clearly thinks that they are going about "rescuing" religion in the wrong way, she also helps the reader to understand why these fundamentalists react the way they do. This is certainly a good read in you are interested in understanding where fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam came from.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kelsey

    I gave this book five stars because it was a great, fascinating read and it really helped me understand some things. However I do think this is just the beginning for me, not so much as far as understanding the nature of fundamentalism, but how to deal with the realities of it. A couple of very rough, broad ideas: 1). Fundamentalism is inherently modern--it's a reaction to the secular thrust of modernity. In the premodern era people did not separate the spiritual from the physical--there was real I gave this book five stars because it was a great, fascinating read and it really helped me understand some things. However I do think this is just the beginning for me, not so much as far as understanding the nature of fundamentalism, but how to deal with the realities of it. A couple of very rough, broad ideas: 1). Fundamentalism is inherently modern--it's a reaction to the secular thrust of modernity. In the premodern era people did not separate the spiritual from the physical--there was really no concept of religion in the sense we speak of it now. Science was "natural philosophy" and was intimately entwined with the idea of a divine creation. It wasn't until after the enlightenment when people began to look at their sacred texts and try to make them fit into the new world view which was based on empiricism. First there was the world and it was whole. Then it was split in two (into the reality-based and the unseen) and people were being told only half really counts. This created a conflict. 2). It is born of fear. Specifically the fear of annihilation. As a huge part of people's identity is stripped away, they experience it as a trauma. Much the way global capitalism threatens people's cultural identity, having their religion declared meaningless was threatening. 3). The fear is well-founded, especially in regards to Judaic and Muslim fundamentalism. It's very important to understand that there are huge populations of people who gained none of the benefits of modernism and in fact experienced it's arrival in their society as an extremely violent occurrence. In many middle eastern countries like Turkey, Iran and Egypt, the enlightenment was a foreign encroachment that made an elite very wealthy while the peasant class was left behind economically. When religious leaders tried to lead protests for the rights of these people they were often cruelly suppressed. I think the explanation for the rise of fundamentalism in the US is not quite as well argued, although reading this book did inspire some thoughts and more understanding of where it comes from--quite different from the middle eastern and Jewish fundamentalism. If I had to sum up fundamentalism in one word it would be fear. Fear leading to retrenchment and seclusion, and then to paranoia, and then to offensive action. Once you know the symptoms you start to see it everywhere--even on the left end of the spectrum. For example with a certain contingent of so-called "militant atheists", I believe this is the flip side of the coin. They seem to view religion in general as a vast conspiracy plotting to take away their hard-won freedom. To a degree they are right, but the desire to expunge religion from the world to make secularism safe is in a way very similar to fundamentalists wanting to re-sacralize the world and rid it of the tyranny of materialism. And they are also right to a degree. This is where I would like some answers on how to proceed. Is it possible to assuage fears on both sides and heal the rift? I do hope so.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    I had had my eye on "The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism" by Karen Armstrong, for some time, as I admire Armstrong and have always scratched my head at fundamentalism, i.e., how could anyone fall for that stuff (the classic response from a liberal Christian)? So I read the book at last--and found it an absolutely fascinating, impeccably researched, and well-written volume for anyone else who might scratch their head about fundamentalism, or who might wonder 1) what Christian, Jewish, I had had my eye on "The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism" by Karen Armstrong, for some time, as I admire Armstrong and have always scratched my head at fundamentalism, i.e., how could anyone fall for that stuff (the classic response from a liberal Christian)? So I read the book at last--and found it an absolutely fascinating, impeccably researched, and well-written volume for anyone else who might scratch their head about fundamentalism, or who might wonder 1) what Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalists might have in common; and 2), what are the forces that produce funadmentalism? It's quite intriguing--Armstrong demonstrates the similar traits of fundamentalism, not only across the three religions, but across countries that vary widely in their economic and political development (the U.S. and Israel on one hand, Iran and Egypt on the other). I came away from the book with a much better understanding of fundamentalism, and a more sympathetic response to those whose lives are bound up in it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beth Barnett

    Another excellent and eye-opening book by Armstrong. She discusses the impact of scientific and enlightenment philosophies that have moved away from or completely rejected traditional religions, and the growth of fundamentalist movements as a modern reaction to the increasingly secular world. Fascinating to read, even for the nonreligious.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    This is one of the best books on religion I've ever read. Armstrong is insightful, respectful, and articulate. She really changed my view of religious fundamentalism in many respects. I highly recommend this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kumail

    In The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong traces the history of fundamentalism in the three monotheistic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The author explains fundamentalism to be a modern phenomenon, which could only take place in our modern times. It is only in the post twenty century world that religion has been sent into the aisles while the values of liberalism control all aspects of human life. It is this attitude towards religion which allows the fundamentalist zeal to grow o In The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong traces the history of fundamentalism in the three monotheistic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The author explains fundamentalism to be a modern phenomenon, which could only take place in our modern times. It is only in the post twenty century world that religion has been sent into the aisles while the values of liberalism control all aspects of human life. It is this attitude towards religion which allows the fundamentalist zeal to grow out of bounds. Fundamentalists consider themselves as the last saviours of religion; they have a mission to bring back religion from the aisles to the centre of our modern society. Karen Armstrong gives a detailed account of different fundamentalist tendencies in the three faiths. She analyses the Heredims in Judaism, Protestant premillennialism in Christianity, and Syed Qutb's and Khomini's revolutions in Islam. All these movements have transformed religious mythos into logos. In the pre-modern world, myths were never meant to be considered form a rational point of view. The inherent enigma present inside the mythos allowed people to connect with the divine. The logos, the practical aspects of religion, was always complemented these mythos. Therefore, a perfect balance between mythos and 'the practical' was always present. This balance was completely destroyed after the rise of scientific modern world. This new world was based on tangible and empirical evidences, with no room for mythos. Everything that was logo was open for a critical examination. As the fundamentalist cannot disregard mythos, they have tried to transform their respective religious mythos into concrete ideological logos. Be it the theory of Zionism, the idea of rapture, or the institution of Vilayat-e-Faqi. On the basic level, it is the transformation of mythos that has provided the much need energy to drive fundamentalism in the modern world. Secondly, in today's world, Nihilism has become a basic ingredient of fundamentalist movements. They have created suicide bombers, excommunicated people who criticise their ideologies, and have put their back towards the modern world. It is these nihilistic tendencies which drives Jewish fundamentalist to plan an attack on the Dome of Rocks and Muslim fundamentalists, such as Taliban, to kill innocent men and women in the name of God. Nihilism has become an integral part of their program. Meanwhile, the book also maintains that fundamentalism is primarily a modern movement. It is a reaction to the ethos of the modern world. In this respect, fundamentalism isn't an inherently religious movement. It has originated due to the internal dialectics of modern societies. Hence, it is the scientific drive which has led Christians and Muslims alike to test their sacred scriptures on the touchstone of modern science. Moreover, the alienation created as a result of the total neglect of mythos has clearly distorted our subconscious self. Humans always need mythos as much as they need logos. This alienation has created, in the words of Sartre, a "God-shaped hole" that needs to be filled up. Fundamentalism tries to fill this alienation problem, but mostly it is unsuccessful in performing this task. The author has done an excellent job in trying to explain the fundamentalist's view point from their own perspective. Without understanding their believe structure, it is quite impossible to dialogue with them. Dealing with a fundamentalist is like dealing with an anachronistic person. A modernist and a fundamentalist can never understand each other points of view, because they don't exist on the same plane of thought. The book prophetically claims hat fundamentalism is here to stay. Liberalism hasn't been able to solve all human problems on the basis of rationality. Fundamentalists of the three faiths will always exploit this fact for their personal agendas. The aim of this seminal book was to present a historical analysis of Fundamentalism. The author has excellently done her job. She has elaborated all forms of fundamentalists tendencies which have arisen in these great faiths. The book is highly referenced and an excellent bibliography is presented at the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I first heard Karen Armstrong interviewed on NPR while driving to the airport. Captivating! She is easier to listen to than read! Her knowledge on the major religions of the world is profound! It took me several months to read and attempt to absorb this book and is one that I should re-read again. I find it very disturbing and sad that most of the hate,intolerence-wars and prejudices are centered on religion. "If we imprison ourselves in our dogmatic ideas, we are closing our minds to the divine. I first heard Karen Armstrong interviewed on NPR while driving to the airport. Captivating! She is easier to listen to than read! Her knowledge on the major religions of the world is profound! It took me several months to read and attempt to absorb this book and is one that I should re-read again. I find it very disturbing and sad that most of the hate,intolerence-wars and prejudices are centered on religion. "If we imprison ourselves in our dogmatic ideas, we are closing our minds to the divine. The Taoists used to say that it was nonsense to argue about religious truth, insisting aggressively that this could not mean that. What holds us back from an experience of God or the Sacred is our egotism. When we interject ourselves too much into our opinions, we are simply imprisoning ourselves in the ego we are supposed to transcend and making it impossible to have a truly transcendent experience." “Do not praise your own faith exclusively so that you disbelieve all the rest. If you do this, you will miss the truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omniscient, cannot be confined to any one creed, for he says: Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah. Everybody praises what he knows. His God is his own creature and in praising it, he praises himself, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.” Karen Armstrong Nov. 14, 2006 Washington Post

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joanna Clausen

    This is not a book you can skim. It is dense with unfamiliar names and unfamiliar history. The type is small and the lines are close. It has 43 pages of sources. In short, if you are reading for information, you couldn't ask for a better book because it is also written well. Armstrong's thesis is that the current fundamentalist movements in American Christianity, Iranian and Egyptian Islam, and Israeli Judaism have nothing to do with a return to the historic roots of the "people of the book." Ins This is not a book you can skim. It is dense with unfamiliar names and unfamiliar history. The type is small and the lines are close. It has 43 pages of sources. In short, if you are reading for information, you couldn't ask for a better book because it is also written well. Armstrong's thesis is that the current fundamentalist movements in American Christianity, Iranian and Egyptian Islam, and Israeli Judaism have nothing to do with a return to the historic roots of the "people of the book." Instead, their fundamentalists are desperately trying to reconcile the logic and scientific method of the Enlightenment with the mysteries of their religions. Before the Age of Reason and its "logos" became dominant in the western hemisphere, people assumed the "mythos" in their religion--accepted that the spiritual world was expressed symbolically. Only when the need to explain stories in terms of factuality became widespread (I think when education became universal) did the striving to reconcile the stories of the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah with science and reason become a battle. I wish Armstrong would write a sequel to this excellent volume. It was published in 2000, and so much has occurred since then in the political and social effects of the inevitable conflicts within and between adherents of these three main Western religions.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shafeeq Valanchery

    A History of God by Karen Armstrong is quite fascinating for the grandeur of its scale, a history of the concept of god and the tracing of its evolution 4000bce to the present. Some of the inference that I reached after reading a few pages in the middle: 1) The meaning through negation that happened in the 20C (a cat is a cat because it is not a dog) has its roots in the 11C islamic theology discussion about God and how to describe him, leading to the idea that GOD being beyond our comprehension, A History of God by Karen Armstrong is quite fascinating for the grandeur of its scale, a history of the concept of god and the tracing of its evolution 4000bce to the present. Some of the inference that I reached after reading a few pages in the middle: 1) The meaning through negation that happened in the 20C (a cat is a cat because it is not a dog) has its roots in the 11C islamic theology discussion about God and how to describe him, leading to the idea that GOD being beyond our comprehension, can only be described in negatives, which will not-confine him to the comprehensible positives of the language. A strand of Jewish thought picked it up from here and developed the idea of expression in apophastes: e.g. God is more than wise. 2) Authorship of books should have been a problem in the middle ages itself, contrary to Foucault's position. Foucault says authorship becomes an issue after the invention of press. But the insistence of the idea of God as author in the Quran (in atleast four places, in one of which it says "He (prophet) is not invoking these (lines) from air; it is revealed unto him") points to an engagement with the idea of authorship atleast three centuries prior to what has been thought

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marty Solomon

    What a fantastic look at the history of all three Abrahamic faiths. Full of great and useful information, this book takes a great and objective look at the rise of fundamentalism in all three faiths. Armstrong does a great job describing "mythos" and "logos" in a way that brings all kinds of relevance to the historical conversation. Some of the other reviews seem to be highly critical of her use of the terms, but it seems as if those are holding the terms too tightly (ironically enough, from a v What a fantastic look at the history of all three Abrahamic faiths. Full of great and useful information, this book takes a great and objective look at the rise of fundamentalism in all three faiths. Armstrong does a great job describing "mythos" and "logos" in a way that brings all kinds of relevance to the historical conversation. Some of the other reviews seem to be highly critical of her use of the terms, but it seems as if those are holding the terms too tightly (ironically enough, from a very "logos" perspective) and not letting them breathe to add some framework that attempts to communicate the great differences that separate the ancient eastern perspective(s) and what happened with the modernization and westernization of the world. One of my favorite points of Armstrong's book was her suggestion that there is great danger in using the "mythos" of our faith as if it were "logos". A great look at modern history and an opportunity for us to consider the trajectory of our cultural narratives.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fahad Naeem

    Theme In this book, Karen tries to give a relation between fundamentalists and secular people in the three Abrahamic faiths. She discussed few basic sects of three faiths in detail. Pros 1. A reader can get a comparative analysis of three faiths. 2. She went on to discuss the details not discussed/listed properly in few history books. 3. One can get a good glance of the cities and people of three faiths' association with them. Cons 1. Karen tried to remain neutral in her discussion of three faiths but Theme In this book, Karen tries to give a relation between fundamentalists and secular people in the three Abrahamic faiths. She discussed few basic sects of three faiths in detail. Pros 1. A reader can get a comparative analysis of three faiths. 2. She went on to discuss the details not discussed/listed properly in few history books. 3. One can get a good glance of the cities and people of three faiths' association with them. Cons 1. Karen tried to remain neutral in her discussion of three faiths but failed at times as she did not list the true events of history. 2. She discussed it like a narration which does not involve the audience. 3. At times, she looked like a pro-secular who tells the stories of the atrocities of fundamentalists. Conclusion Overall The Battle For Good is a good book for avid reads and for those who are interested in history from a different persepective.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A great focus on modernity and fundamentalism among Jews, Christians and Muslims. It describes their beliefs, activism, milatirism and acts of terror. It focuses on all three of the major faiths and their objection to secular governments, modern ideas and humanist beliefs. It is a reaction against science and culture. I enjoyed the sections on the Christians the most since I can relate more to that religion. It describes the inner war between the major players like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, A great focus on modernity and fundamentalism among Jews, Christians and Muslims. It describes their beliefs, activism, milatirism and acts of terror. It focuses on all three of the major faiths and their objection to secular governments, modern ideas and humanist beliefs. It is a reaction against science and culture. I enjoyed the sections on the Christians the most since I can relate more to that religion. It describes the inner war between the major players like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and the Bakers and the amount of wealth and power they created for themselves while they got their followers to join the Republican Party and attempted to take over America. Some of the thelogies presented in all these religions will scare you to death, especially if the ever do gain control of their country, like what happended in Iran. The Battle for God continues...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I highly recommend this book. Armstrong is a philosopher and a historian. . . and a good writer, too. Oh, she once was a nun! Is there no end to this woman's abilities? This book is particularly good. She explores the history of fundamentalism. Her basic argument is that, in times of great change, people turn to absolutes. Fundamentalisms of all sorts provide one form of absolute. What with something like 500 years of examples, Armstrong is able to convince. It also helps that she could neatly sum I highly recommend this book. Armstrong is a philosopher and a historian. . . and a good writer, too. Oh, she once was a nun! Is there no end to this woman's abilities? This book is particularly good. She explores the history of fundamentalism. Her basic argument is that, in times of great change, people turn to absolutes. Fundamentalisms of all sorts provide one form of absolute. What with something like 500 years of examples, Armstrong is able to convince. It also helps that she could neatly summarize about 100 years of philosophy in 8 pages. I read that section of the book and thought to myself "It took me six years as an undergraduate to get this, and she's got it all summed up neatly, concisely, and very accurately! Not fair!" Not that it's supposed to be fair. Fansatic thinker, fantastic writer.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    Broad but shallow. Armstrong defines fundamentalism as a reactionary trend in response to social or political change that seeks to reestablish and preserve an original order, and then presents modern examples of the religious type. The usual suspects are covered, from Khomeini to Falwell, with sound but repetitive and unoriginal information. Most of this has already been covered; indeed, other books have moved beyond merely diagnosing the issue to working toward a corrective. Placing the various Broad but shallow. Armstrong defines fundamentalism as a reactionary trend in response to social or political change that seeks to reestablish and preserve an original order, and then presents modern examples of the religious type. The usual suspects are covered, from Khomeini to Falwell, with sound but repetitive and unoriginal information. Most of this has already been covered; indeed, other books have moved beyond merely diagnosing the issue to working toward a corrective. Placing the various fundamentalist movements in context with each other is helpful, but it sets up Armstrong's wonted call for a generic democratic tolerance that feels tired and cliched. Hardly required reading and only lukewarmly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dalia

    Karen Armstrong isn't the only one to look at fundamentalism, but she does so in a way that others haven't. Not only does she go into the necessary dates and history, but really takes pains to go into the feel, passion of each fundamentalist movement in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At some point it gets too cumbersome and verbose and this thick book became something I knew I wanted to read merely for the understanding and knowledge, but not because it flowed, and nor did I look forward to re Karen Armstrong isn't the only one to look at fundamentalism, but she does so in a way that others haven't. Not only does she go into the necessary dates and history, but really takes pains to go into the feel, passion of each fundamentalist movement in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At some point it gets too cumbersome and verbose and this thick book became something I knew I wanted to read merely for the understanding and knowledge, but not because it flowed, and nor did I look forward to reading the rest. I put it down at about 3/4 of the way through and am now reading another book on fundamentalism that relays the information in a more concise manner.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    The history of the various religious fundamentalist movements always intrigued me. Fundamentalists exist in all religions, and I always wanted to figure out the common thread that connect all such movements. I would say most people really do not know what fundamentalism actually is and what purpose it serves in the Abrahamic religions, let alone the history of such movements. What is the history of this line of thinking? What are the reasons? Why is fundamentalism so prevalent now? These are gre The history of the various religious fundamentalist movements always intrigued me. Fundamentalists exist in all religions, and I always wanted to figure out the common thread that connect all such movements. I would say most people really do not know what fundamentalism actually is and what purpose it serves in the Abrahamic religions, let alone the history of such movements. What is the history of this line of thinking? What are the reasons? Why is fundamentalism so prevalent now? These are great questions, with difficult answers by Karen Armstrong. This is a book I believe that every human should read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    The author is a former Catholic nun who has studied world religons extensively. She has written some of the most objective Occidental studies of Islam I have read. In this book, she writes about the conflicts between Jews, Christians, and Muslims throughout history, largely without bias or judgement. In the current political climate, where it has become acceptable to treat Islam as the most violent religion in history, this book goes a long way towards revisting the equally violent histories of The author is a former Catholic nun who has studied world religons extensively. She has written some of the most objective Occidental studies of Islam I have read. In this book, she writes about the conflicts between Jews, Christians, and Muslims throughout history, largely without bias or judgement. In the current political climate, where it has become acceptable to treat Islam as the most violent religion in history, this book goes a long way towards revisting the equally violent histories of its sister religions. Any and all of Karen Armstrong's books are highly recommended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andityas Praba

    fundamentalism should be considered as twentieth-century movement. It is a reaction against the scientific and secular culture that first appeared in the West, but which has since taken root in other parts of the world. The West has developed an entirely unprecedented and wholly different type of civilization, so the religious response to it has been unique. The fundamentalist movements that have evolved in our own day have a symbiotic relationship with modernity.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Trujillo

    Karen Armstrong is a great writer. Here she provides insight into the conditions that have fostered the emergence of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It's a great way to learn a little bit about the history of and current issues affecting all three religions. The narrative voice is very straightforward and direct without being overbearring.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mian Usama

    This wonderful book is for those who are interested in religion but at the same time are confused or horrified by the acts of fundamentalist religious wings. A study of religious fundamentalism in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Explained with solid historical narrative of how fundamentalism grew into such a potent force.

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