Saturday, November 07, 2015

Karen Armstrong. The Great Transformation (2007)

     Karen Armstrong. The Great Transformation (2007) Armstrong traces the shift from tribal, localised gods, who protected and nourished their worshippers, to a wider ranging perception of gods, and eventually God as the source of all being, who requires his devotees to consider not only themselves but all humankind as members of one family. Although in the East the concept of God disappeared, the notion of a single human family, and a single moral law that binds us to each other, appeared at about the same time in all parts of the world.
     More precisely (although Armstrong doesn't say so explicitly), it appears at the same stage of cultural development: when the nomadic life of the herders gives way to the settled life of the farmers, which enables the rise of cities and states. These larger conglomerations of human societies necessitate the toleration of differing religions and world views; hence the development of the five major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam), which have far more in common than even their most enlightened followers generally accept.
      A thoroughly researched book, sometimes tedious in its detail, that reminds us that we are all the same species, and one way or another must find common beliefs and values if we are to survive what we have done to the planet and to each other. Her A History of God presents the same thesis in a shorter and more thematic form. ***

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