Book Reviews 2005 (61)

The 61st and last book of 2005 is a non fiction one appropriate for the season:
A History of God, by Karen Armstrong

History Of God : The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
A gift from a new friend, A History of God is a fascinating look at the history of development of the idea of monotheism. That is to say, the conceptions of monotheism as envisioned in the Abrahamic religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It was a real eye-opener.
Although I’ve heard of some of the twists and turns and side branches that Christianity has taken over the centuries, the book illuminated the development of the thought of God in it, and the other two religions, in a way I had never known before. Too, the development of monotheism both by the Jews and the Arabs is meticulous in detail. And now I understand the differences between the Shia and the Sunni much better, for example.
While I might have been aware of the divide between the Old Testament Yahweh versus the post-Jesus depiction of God the father, Armstrong’s well researched and presented work shone a real spotlight for me on the history of that conception. I was amazed to learn that, for example, literalism in bible reading is a relatively new phenomenon in history. Earlier luminaries in the Middle Ages would be aghast at the antics of some of our current fundamentalists in this regard.
Her major point throughout the book seems to be her contention that God truly is ineffable, transcendent of categories, and turning God into a larger version of ourselves in the sky, the “man with the white beard” as a character in Solaris says, does a grave disservice to ourselves, and to God.
I will definitely be looking to read more of Karen Armstrong’s work in 2006 and beyond.Reading about religious history may not be for everyone, if you have any interest in the subject, the book is well worth your while.