Battle For God by Karen Armstrong

Battle For God by Karen Armstrong

The Battle for God is a book that examines the rise of fundamentalism in the three major monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Karen Armstrong explores how each movement has developed its unique way of combating the assaults of modernity.

She argues that fundamentalism is 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’.

Armstrong characterizes fundamentalism as one of these new ways of being religious that have emerged in every major faith tradition. Focusing on Protestant fundamentalism in the United States, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Muslim fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran, she examines the ways in which these movements, while not monolithic, have each sprung from a dread of modernity — often in response to assault (sometimes unwitting, sometimes intentional) by the mainstream society.

The central theme of the book is that fundamentalism is essentially the result of confusing one kind of truth with another. Armstrong sees fundamentalist groups as complex, innovative, and modern — rather than as throwbacks to the past — but contends that they have failed in religious terms.

Maintaining that fundamentalism often exists in symbiotic relationship with an aggressive modernity, each impelling the other on to greater excess, she suggests compassion as a way to defuse what is now an intensifying conflict.

What I Liked

I really like all of Karen Armstrong’s books. She’s detailed, nuanced, and embraces the complexity inherent in religion. She writes fascinating books.

What I Did Not Like

All of Armstrong’s books can get a bit academic in parts.

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