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In the late twentieth century, fundamentalism has emerged as one of the most powerful forces at work in the world, contesting the dominance of modern secular values and threatening peace and harmony around the globe. Yet it remains incomprehensible to a large number of people. In The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong brilliantly and sympathetically shows us how and why fundamentalist groups came into existence and what they yearn to accomplish.
We see the West in the sixteenth century beginning to create an entirely new kind of civilization, which brought in its wake change in every aspect of life -- often painful and violent, even if liberating. Armstrong argues that one of the things that changed most was religion. People could no longer think about or experience the divine in the same way; they had to develop new forms of faith to fit their new circumstances.
Armstrong characterizes fundamentalism as one of these new ways of being religious that have emerged in every major faith tradition. Focusing on Protestant fundamentalism in the United States, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Muslim fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran, she examines the ways in which these movements, while not monolithic, have each sprung from a dread of modernity -- often in response to assault (sometimes unwitting, sometimes intentional) by the mainstream society.
Armstrong sees fundamentalist groups as complex, innovative, and modern -- rather than as throwbacks to the past -- but contends that they have failed in religious terms. Maintaining that fundamentalism often exists in symbiotic relationship with an aggressive modernity, each impelling the other on to greater excess, she suggests compassion as a way to defuse what is now an intensifying conflict.
Includes a reader’s guide.
“Whether or not you see fundamentalism as a threat, as Karen Armstrong does in The Battle for God, hers is one of the most penetrating, readable and prescient accounts to date of the rise of the fundamentalist movements in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Rather than make sweeping pronouncements, she wisely focuses on the fundamentalist strains in the United States, Israel, Iran and Egypt. She displays, as she should, sympathy for the plight of those who turned to fundamentalism after being shunted aside by forces and states that have little patience with the quest by the poor and the dispossessed to find meaning and purpose.”
–Chris Hedges, The New York Times Book Review
"Former nun Armstrong has done it again. As in her justly acclaimed A History of God (1993), she has written a well-researched, highly informative, accessible, and otherwise superb study of the three great Western monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam)....[It] is so well written that it is must reading for anyone with a serious interest in contemporary religion." --Kirkus Reviews
"Provocative...Combining synoptic and interpretive historical manners, Armstrong, author of the widely read and well-received History of God, produces another splendid book." --Booklist
"Excellent...This is a book that will prove indispensable, not only for the student of comparative religion, but also for anyone who seeks insight into how these powerful movement affect global politics and society today and into the future...Highly intelligent and highly readable book." --Baltimore Sun
"Armstrong is a masterful writer, whose rich knowledge of all three Western traditions informs the entire book, allowing fresh insights and comparisons." --Publishers Weekly
"Armstrong succeeds--brilliantly--in placing fundamentalist movements in a historical context, showing how each is both a product of its times and typical of recurring trends...With her astonishing depth of knowledge and readily accessible writing style, makes an ideal guide in traversing a subject that is by its very nature complex, sensitive and frequently ambiguous. Her unwavering respect for the great faiths and their followers balances nicely with her apparent disdain for extremism in all its forms." --San Francisco Chronicle
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Pt. 1. The Old World and The New. Jews: The Precursors (1492-1700); Muslims: The Conservative Spirit (1492-1799); Christians: Brave New World (1492-1870)–Jews And Muslims Modernize (1700-1870)–Pt. 2. Fundamentalism. Battle Lines (1870-1900)–Fundamentals (1900-25)–Counterculture (1925-60)–Mobilization (1960-74)–The Offensive (1974-79)–Defeat? (1979-99)