City of God

For better or worse, British religious writer Karen Armstrong is rapidly becoming a publishing phenomenon. Partly because of the demographics of an aging baby boom, religious books are becoming a very hot item on the best-seller charts, ranging from reports of cuddly angels who allegedly guard our steps, through the pour épater les bourgeois efforts of the Jesus Seminar and the like, to valuable popularizations of complex religious thought and history. In recent years, this last category has included best-sellers and prize winners like jack Miles' God: A Biography and Armstrong's A History of God. The History was a distinctly mixed project, evincing as it did conspicuous learning about abstruse byways of Islamic philosophy and mysticism, above all from the Sufi tradition she clearly loves. However, this sensitive treatment was constantly juxtaposed with malicious digs at every aspect of Western intellectual tradition. The Greeks achieved this . . . the Muslims discovered that . . . the Hindus began their golden age of intellect . . . meanwhile Western European peasants like Thomas Aquinas shambled out of their caves long enough to write simplistic trash gratuitously perverting the cultural treasures they had stolen from their neighbors. . . . Not a direct quotation, to be fair, but a reasonably accurate rendering of a pervasive sentiment in that odd and wrongheaded oeuvre.


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