“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Morning Musings




One of the books I'm reading is Karen Armstrong's The Case for God. I've only read the introduction and the first chapter - but find it captivating and interesting. I am drawn to the primal rituals and myths that have shaped and formed our modern religions. I'm also curious to read how she will argue her case for God. She offers this in the introduction:

“Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart.” Pg xiii It requires hard work, practice, and discipline to understand its truths and falsehoods, which only become clear from ritual and practice – one cannot assess the truth of a religion from reading about it.
Theology, like music and art contain meanings that will not translate into logical structures or verbal expression. (page xiv)
A rationalized interpretation of religion has led to fundamentalism and atheism – fundamentalism chose logos over mythos (logic over mystery).
Then she goes on to say this about fundamentalism:
“At an early stage of their history, Christians and Muslims were both called “atheists” by their pagan contemporaries, not because they denied the reality of God but because their conception of divinity was so different that it seemed blasphemous. Atheism is therefore parasitically dependent on the form of theism it seeks to eliminate and becomes its reverse mirror image. Classical Western atheism was developed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, whose ideology was essentially a response to and dictated by the theological perceptions of God that had developed in Europe and the United States during the modern period. The more recent atheism of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris is rather different, because it has focused exclusively on the God developed by the fundamentalisms, and all three insist that fundamentalism constitutes the essence and core of all religion. That has weakened their critique, because fundamentalism is in fact a defiantly unorthodox form of faith that frequently misrepresents the tradition it is trying to defend. But the “new atheists” command a wide readership, not only in secular Europe but even in the more conventionally religious United States. The popularity of their books suggests that many people are bewildered and even angered by the God concept they have inherited. ....atheists refuse to dialogue with theologians who are more representative of mainstream traditions. As a result, their analysis is disappointingly shallow, because it is based on such poor theology....In fact, the new atheists are not radical enough. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians have insisted for centuries that God does not exist and there is “nothing” out there; in making these assertions, their aim was not to deny the reality of God but to safeguard God’s transcendence. Pg xvi
I'm curious about her statment about Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians insisting that God does not "exist and that there is 'nothing' out there." And also that the aim of this was to safeguard God's transcendence....I think where she is going is to talk about the tendency to "personalize" God and humanize God while pushing aside the mystery of God.

Have you read this book? What do you think about what she writes in this introduction? Do you have any thoughts about how Christianity has pushed aside the mystery of God for a personal God?