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Books I Haven’t Read (part one)

In which we discuss Karen Armstrong’s “A History Of God”


Following on from Thursday’s post, here’s the first Book I Haven’t Managed To Finish Reading Yet.

I’ve always been interested – in an academic kind of way – in trying to understand what other people believe;* partly because I can rarely understand why they believe it. That’s why I wanted to read A History of God by Karen Armstrong. I’ve started it three times now, but it’s still a book I haven’t managed to finish reading yet.

It’s a very good book, but the problem I have is that it’s very information-dense. As I was brought up as a good little Anglican, I still know a lot about basic Christian theology and a fair amount about the Bible itself. Because of that, I already had a fairly good grounding in the Christian side of the history of God, and the early Jewish part too. The problem comes with the development of Islam, which I know relatively little about, and the later developments in Deist philosophy. It just goes right over my head, and I get stuck in a thicket of theologians’ names and hair-splitting beliefs. Every time I try to read the book, I slow down but plod on when I get to Islam, then get stuck somewhere in the medieval philosophers. I’m hoping that if I make it past that section we’ll eventually get to the growth of fundamentalism. I know a bit about that, mostly from an apocalyptic viewpoint,** and it should hopefully start to be an easier read again after that point.

* although I have to admit to a certain amount of point-and-laugh too.

** but then, the apocalypse is the most important aspect of most Christian Fundamentalist theology, not to mention all the other 19th-century and later Christian sects, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and so on. The next time a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door, remind them that for many years they taught that Armageddon would occur during the lifetime of members who were alive in 1914.

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2 comments on “Books I Haven’t Read (part one)”

  1. jaq says:

    In this book and also her Battle for God (which is focused on fundamentalism across the board), I get bogged down in the politics of early Islam, which unfortunately is key to understanding a good bit of it. The same is true, I suppose, for the early Christian church, but since that’s part and parcel of European history (drummed in incessantly through school) I don’t struggle as much with it. Maybe it is all about reading and re-reading, self-administered drumming it in.

  2. Forest Pines says:

    Yes. Essentially, that’s the same problem I have.

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