green numbers give full details.     |    back to list of philosophers     |     unexpand these ideas

Ideas of Karen Armstrong, by Text

[British, fl. 1993, A former nun. Biblical scholar and freelance writer on religion.]

1993 A History of God
Intro p.1 Faith is not just belief in propositions, but also putting trust in them
     Full Idea: There is a distinction between belief in a set of propositions and a faith which enables us to put our trust in them.
     From: Karen Armstrong (A History of God [1993], Intro)
     A reaction: This is interestingly distinct from the usual idea that faith is putting belief in propositions which are not sufficiently rationally justified. How many philosophers actually have faith in the propositions they say they believe?
Ch.1 p.31 There is virtually no sign of monotheism in the Pentateuch
     Full Idea: It is very difficult to find a single monotheistic statement in the whole of the Pentateuch, and even the Ten Commandments take the existence of other gods for granted ("There shall be no strange gods for you before my face").
     From: Karen Armstrong (A History of God [1993], Ch.1)
     A reaction: The transition from polytheism to monotheism is very strange. First God is 'jealous' of other gods, then supremely above them, and eventually totally exclusive. It's like watching the rise of Stalin.
Ch.1 p.38 Around 800 BCE teachers superseded gods in India
     Full Idea: Around the eighth century BCE the gods ceased to be very important in India, and would be superseded by the religious teacher, who would be considered higher than the gods.
     From: Karen Armstrong (A History of God [1993], Ch.1)
     A reaction: At least there has been one culture that gave an appropriate status to teachers. It seems astonishing in that age that human beings could have higher status than gods - way before the European 'humanists'.
Ch.1 p.46 In the Bible God changes his mind (repenting of creating humanity, in the Flood)
     Full Idea: In the Bible God changes his mind, as when he repents of having made man and decides to destroy the human race in the Flood.
     From: Karen Armstrong (A History of God [1993], Ch.1)
     A reaction: It becomes apparent that the most startling feature of Christian fundamentalism is its uncritical reading of the Bible, in which passages are wilfully lifted from context, and inconvenient inconsistencies are ruthlessly ignored.
Ch.2 p.61 Monotheism introduced intolerance into religious thinking
     Full Idea: We have become so used to the intolerance of monotheism that we may not appreciate that its hostility towards other gods was a new religious attitude; paganism was an essentially tolerant faith.
     From: Karen Armstrong (A History of God [1993], Ch.2)
     A reaction: The comedian Dave Allen always signed off with "may your god go with you". To me the most striking feature of monotheists is frequently their barely controlled aggression, beneath a mask of strained compassion.
Ch.3 p.98 The idea that Jesus was God was only settled in the fourth century
     Full Idea: Jesus himself certainly never claimed to be God, and the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalised until the fourth century.
     From: Karen Armstrong (A History of God [1993], Ch.3)
     A reaction: It was this final view which seems to have provoked Muhammed into developing a religion with the slogan "there is only one God". In Christianity an initially promising set of teachings grew into a prolonged irrational hysteria.