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October 2010


The Case for God

Patricia and I are not long back from a nice relaxing holiday cruising the Mediterranean in glorious sunshine. I had determined that I would do no work, read no mathematics or theology while away. I had been to Bargain Books and picked up three page-turning novels for a fiver. But then a book on theology that I had ordered arrived three days before departure and I started to read it. Big mistake, because I couldn't put it down, and it had to come with me, along with the paperbacks.

It was Karen Armstrong's 2009 book, The Case for God - What Religion Really Means, and the opening chapters were so fascinating that I wanted to read it all right away. Well, it took me most of the two weeks to finish it as one cannot rush through it. Moreover I was also "cruising" and seasoned cruisers will know what I mean!

Armstrong traces the history of man's understanding of God right from the Palaeolithic Age about 30,000 BCE through to the present. She shows how the meaning of words such as "belief", "faith" and "mystery" has been altered so that people now think and speak about God in a way that previous generations would have found astonishing. She explains carefully the distinction between "mythos - myth, a story that was not meant to be historical or factual but which expressed the meaning of an event or narrative and encapsulated its timeless, eternal dimension" and "logos - dialogue speech, reasoned logical and scientific thought" which is distinct from mythos.

I was particularly interested in the chapter on Scientific Religion which describes thinking about God  at the time of Isaac Newton (1642-1727). His "Laws of Motion" - still revered by engineers and physicists alike - explained everything, except the first thing, and it was agreed by many that "God was essential" to get the universe moving in the first place. Thus science "proved" the existence of God.

And the chapter titled "Death of God?", dealing with 20th and 21st century thinking was equally fascinating. The scientific discoveries of the last 150 years or so gave birth to relativity theory and quantum theory,. which re-introduced the idea of "unknowing", and led people away from the conclusion of Newton's time. Thus we no longer say that science proves God's existence. Some go further, citing Darwin's theory of evolution, and saying that there is no need of God at all to explain things.

Karen Armstrong leads her readers though these difficult thoughts, giving Richard Dawkins and other aggressive atheists short shrift, pointing out that science and religion seek to explain different things, that belief in God is a matter of faith, and that really there need not be conflict between believers and atheists.

You need to study the book for yourself!

The Case for God - What Religion Really Means, is published by Vintage, London, 2009


14 October 2010 (Sorry this is a bit late. Too many other jobs to catch up on!)

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