Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Case for God - Karen Armstrong

An uninspiring case

'God' seems to be a good currency these days for the publishing industry, considering the number of books that have been coming out recently, for and against God. I guess Richard Dawkins stirred the pot with the 'God Delusion' and it seems to have provoked a large number of people. 'The Case for God' by Karen Armstrong is the latest in this saga.

Karen Armstrong is an excellent religious historian. She also writes very well. However 'The Case for God' does not make a good case. Most of the content is a rehash from her earlier books and a lot of historical details are not enough to make a good case. The books attempts to track the evolution of religion from the paleolithic age to the present, though depending more on the Western world than the Eastern. Through that, the author tries to make the case that religion is a practical discipline which can be understood only though rigorous practice like how we acquire any other skill (example of the way a musician learns an instrument). However the author fails to realize that this is exactly what Dawkins was pointing to the harm being done by religions across the world. By indoctrinating young minds from childhood, religious rituals create imprints of awe and fear that are very difficult to erase later. That these are false imprints is obvious by the fact that we do not feel the same awe or fear for other religions which seem to inspire millions of other people.

How much we all might argue for or against God, it cannot be denied that any human civilization has craved for spiritual relief and sought answers to the questions of existence. While it has created plenty of strife and suffering (as any effort by humans seem to do), religions have provided peace and solace to billions of people through the centuries. It has also inspired many, to do good things and fight against seemingly impossible odds. So, was religion and God a basic necessity for human evolution and survival? If so, is it still needed in the future? These are questions that I feel 'The Case for God' should have answered.

The book is still a good read - especially the Introduction, the two chapters on Science & Religion and the last chapter on the 'Death of God?' These chapters can be read independently too - if you don't want to spend time reading the full book.

1 comment:

Prem Kamble said...

It was interesting to go thru your blogs on Religion, a topic close to my heart apart from IT Management. I have done some independent 'brooding' on the origin of religion and the concept of God. I believe the two had independent origins - religion as a code of conduct and God as a means to attain spiritual heights. Somewhere down the line, religion and the concept of God had a marriage of convenience. Do read my full analysis which will be an eye opener at A summary of the book is available at I welcome your candid feedback on the views