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The Battle For God
Karen Armstrong
Book Review with commentary

Ms. Armstrong focuses on the monotheistic fundamentalisms. She describes religious fundamentalism as one of the more powerful forces shaping current events. Historically, fundamentalists in each monotheism have typically turned first against the very sects from which they sprang. Only then did they war on secularism. Those wars, however, were rarely what they seemed; the fundamentalists often joined forces with equally extreme secularists--a phenomenon seen today.

Fundamentalism in the 20th Century grew steadily more polarized. Clothed as a reaction against secularism, fundamenalists from each monotheism fought not only secular ideas but each other, sometimes bitterly. Such internecine warfare is seen today in the lands of Islam.

In Armstrong's view, fundamentalism was so embattled at the turn of the 20th Century, that it went on a campaign to re-secularize society. In the process, it became aggressive and distorted. Armageddon may indeed be in progress.

Armstrong is not all negative, she offers a map for the road ahead:

    "If fundamentalists must evolve a more compassionate assessment of their enemies in order to be true to their religious traditions, secularists must also be more faithful to the benevolence, tolerance, and respect for humanity which characterizes modern culture at its best, and address themselves more emphatically to the fears, anxieties, and needs so many of their fundamentalist neighbors experience but which no society may safely ignore."

And while easier said than done, there is much truth in this, especially when considering the inter-nation context. Each side needs to reach out to the other in new respect and trust.

Whether your orientation is religious or secular, this book will be an eye opener.

We endorse The Battle For God as a must read for understanding some of the mechanics of religious extremism.


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