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A History of God


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Armstrong ( Muhammad , LJ 4/15/92; The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World , LJ 2/15/91) presents a well-written overview of the changing idea of God as understood by the three great religions of the West. Besides providing a great deal of religious history, she discusses the various philosophers, mystics, and reformers associated with these religions. The author suggests that ``God'' is primarily a ``focus of meaning'' created by humanity. If He survives at all, it will be in a much-altered form. Public librarians should be aware that conservative readers may be offended by this book, and even religious scholars may find Armstrong's rather one-sided ``death of God'' optimism about humanity a bit passe. Otherwise, this is an excellent and informative book. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-- C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, Ind.

This searching, profound comparative history of the three major monotheistic faiths fearlessly illuminates the sociopolitical ground in which religious ideas take root, blossom and mutate. Armstrong, a British broadcaster, commentator on religious affairs and former Roman Catholic nun, argues that Judaism, Christianity and Islam each developed the idea of a personal God, which has helped believers to mature as full human beings. Yet Armstrong also acknowledges that the idea of a personal God can be dangerous, encouraging us to judge, condemn and marginalize others. Recognizing this, each of the three monotheisms, in their different ways, developed a mystical tradition grounded in a realization that our human idea of God is merely a symbol of an ineffable reality. To Armstrong, modern, aggressively righteous fundamentalists of all three faiths represent ``a retreat from God.'' She views as inevitable a move away from the idea of a personal God who behaves like a larger version of ourselves, and welcomes the grouping of believers toward a notion of God that ``works for us in the empirical age.'' 25,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Oct.)

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