Religion writer Karen Armstrong asks: Is it harder to find God today?
In our vaunted scientific and technological age, has Western society lost the knack of religion? Karen Armstrong, author of many acclaimed books on religious history, poses that startling proposition in her latest work, The Case for God.
She sees numerous signs. Although religious voices are raised frequently in the public realm, they often take strident, provocative, even militant forms. Many people believe that grasping the idea of God or religion should be quick and easy. Books promoting atheism, based on shallow knowledge of theology, have gained considerable popularity.
People still yearn to find ultimate meaning in life, but many are confused or alienated because much of contemporary religious thinking is “remarkably undeveloped,” Armstrong contends.
The British writer – who went through her own atheistic period before coming to a “freelance monotheism” – hopes to end some of that confusion and provoke fresh thinking about religion and what it demands of us. “The Case for God” is not a theological argument about God’s existence, but a sweeping historical review from Paleolithic to present times of how thinkers have pursued and experienced the transcendent.
“The desire to cultivate a sense of the transcendent may be the defining human characteristic,” she writes.
In a dense but accessible and compelling exploration of premodern and modern religious concepts and practices, Armstrong illustrates the unfolding, reshaping, and overturning of views of God, nature, and reality. She examines the roles of faith and reason among the ancients, Greeks and early monotheists, and major Christian, Jewish and Muslim thinkers, though focusing mostly on Christianity. She finds that religion is even making a comeback among some postmodern philosophers.