I've just started reading 'The Case for God' today. In the introduction the author posits that atheism and fundamentalism are polar opposites in the arena of thought. Despite apparently being an atheist herself Karen Armstrong has some critical words for the 'New Atheist' authors, criticisms that have been sort of on the periphery of my mind as well. She argues that religiosity will not fade away the louder and more prevalent atheism becomes but will only rise to match the phenomenon, much like a war of escalation.

I have seen this to an extent. Much of the fundamentalism that we see today is a relatively recent phenomenon and is likely very much a response to the scientific progress and abandonment of age old ways of living life which modern rationalists promote. I am quite curious what other arguments she will present.

Tags: Armstrong, Karen, books

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So, what if she`s right and some fundies are extra- steered by scientific progress and cutting of useless traditions? Should we role over, present our bellies and have "faith" in christian mercy? IGAD! The only way to bring the light of reason to the religiously opressed is to fight the theisitc dogmas and the clergy who revel in disgusting parasitism.
I've only read the first chapter so far but so far the premise of her book seems to be that myth is a way of enhancing life and dealing with aspects of it on which reason alone cannot have any effect.

If we agree that a behavior that enhances life is useful and that a behavior which is detrimental to life is not useful then we might make allowances for some types of tradition which are ordinarily discounted by activist atheists as serving no rational purpose while still holding that organized religion is harmful and not to be tolerated.
Much of the fundamentalism that we see today is a relatively recent phenomenon and is likely very much a response to the scientific progress and abandonment of age old ways of living life which modern rationalists promote.

I see just the opposite. The Inquisitions, the tortures, these are not permitted today except in theocracies. Those were the fundamentalists of yesteryear and they were much worse because they usually had the blessings of god and king. So, no. It is in no ways a "recent phenomenon." You're only looking at a time frame that is your approximate span of life. You are lucky, as a non believer, to be born in these times. Trust me.
Agree AcesLucky, what we call fundamentalism has always been prevalent in religion. The dark ages were precisely a time when fundamentalism reigned. In our modern culture as well, it is not a recent phenomenon. The difference is that with broader communication, fundamentalism is more visible and the distinction between reason and religious ignorance is more difficult to ignore. It is that increased communication and freedom that most troubles religion. In a sense, even without a strident new atheist movement, religion and free expression/thought, are incompatible, as demonstrated by Pakistan's reaction to "Everyone Draw Mohammad Day."

I think the author is wrong on just about everything, but especially the idea that new atheism will only result in a backlash. Totally wrong. It has always been a contest of ideas (memes) and religion has dominated brutally, with censorship, for thousands of years. They defined any other way of thinking as morally disgusting. These attitudes still prevail. People are brought up to believe that to not be religious is a sin. Yet this author thinks we should just be nice and let the repressive ignorance continue without protest.

I don't think so.
Have you read this book, or are you just disagreeing with my crude summary of the introduction?

For what it's worth, Karen Armstrong seems to have thoroughly researched the history of religious tradition and her book begins with the cave painting hunters around 30,000 BCE. She charts from there though the pre-monotheistic traditions before moving on to modern religion. Her argument is that in those terms the sort of fundamentalism we see now is a relatively recent phenomenon. Her premise is that myth prior to Christianity was never used to represent history but, instead, was used to help people of that time period understand questions that they face. Interpreting these stories as historical narratives is a recent, and invalid, behavior.

I am finding the book fascinating so far despite having some fears similar to those voiced here. I think I will end up recommending it when I'm done. For now, all I can say is that there is nothing there, so far, which suggests not combating religious fundamentalism.
Right, only reacting to your crude description of the book. Yet just considering the title "The Case for God" suggests a false premise. I very much doubt she makes a case for the existence of god. It is clear that she is trying to justify the human phenomenon of religion, and not god. That she would replace the word "religion" or "spirituality" with "god" in her title speaks volumes.

"Her premise is that myth prior to Christianity was never used to represent history but, instead, was used to help people of that time period understand questions that they face. "

So the fact that primitive people benefited from myths means that there is a case for continuing these myths? Maybe someone should write a book called "The Case for a Flat World."

I'm unlikely to find her argument that fundamentalism is a recent phenomenon compelling. I don't consider the dark ages recent just because they are more recent that the earliest cave paintings, which do not necessarily show us that the artists were monotheists, or even that they had a clear concept of deities.

But then why discuss this when you seem to be the only to have read the book. There are too many good books to read, I doubt I'll get around to one that excuses religion and confuses religion with "god."
I sort-of agree that fundamentalism is a recent phenomenon, but it's complicated. The thing is that most people really did take things in the Bible as literally true, same as with modern fundamentalists. However, as science began to debunk those myths, most believers took the side of science - until, at some point, there was just so little left that was literally true that certain individuals started saying that either science had to be wrong, or religion was. That's basically where fundamentalism comes from.

So, depending on what spin you put on it, either side could be correct. Previous generations of Christians definitely were Biblical literalists (technically, they still are, just less so), but they were also pro-science - it's just that the two hadn't come into clear conflict yet.
For every action there's always a reaction. It's only natural to expect some reaction to the growing number of secularist. The racism was strongest when the civil rights movement was at its peak.
Racism was LOUDEST - not strongest. I think that is what we see now. Rachel Maddow used a great metaphor - the tuning fork. Until you ground it - you don't hear the tone - but it is thrumming all along. Nevertheless - it runs out of steam unless struck again. And, while I have seen people overcome their bigotry (to some extent) and their children move even further forward - I have rarely seen someone become the bigot they had not been before. It happens - a traumatic event involving the 'other' or whatnot - but it is rare for it to move that direction. It is also more likely for someone to deconvert to atheism than to convert from atheism to theism.
This is ludicrous. No false and dangerous paradigm was ever shifted by the silent.
Chapter 2 was an engaging coverage of the evolution of the religion of the Hebrews and the myths written by the J,E, and P authors which would later become the Torah. I have read about this history before but the detail and clarity given here are impressive. The author notes that archeological evidence does not match up with the written myth but she explain how the myths were relevant for the time period (and not outside of that time period).

I'm beginning to enjoy this book despite my earlier reservations.
I'm sure the history and how it got to be where it is, as far as we can tell, is very interesting. I'm glad I looked up who this is, at first my brain was mixing her up with S.E. Cupp. My most sincere apologies to Ms. Armstrong.

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