UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

The Case for God

Karen Armstrong embraces religious complexities

By James Christie

The Case for God
By Karen Armstrong
(Knopf) $34.95

That author Karen Armstrong felt it necessary to add a glossary to her most recent offering should convey the message this is not an

easy book. She didn’t intend it to be. Right off the mark, Armstrong notes, “We think that the concept of God should be easy.” Readers, shaking their heads in faint reproof, have told me, “That book is really hard.” I want to reply, “Of course it is. It’s about God.”

So don’t expect an easy read, but do expect a good one. In fact, anticipate a critical one. With The Case for God, Armstrong may well have offered the English-speaking world the most useful book on theology and religion so far in this already troubled century: and religion will be the politics of the 21st century.

Readers familiar with Armstrong’s work will discern a pattern that has been emerging over time. The Case for God is the most recent plateau on which she has pitched her tent along a pilgrimage of ascent to discover both the human constructs and the nature of God.

That pilgrimage has led Armstrong from her early years as “a religious,” which she describes poignantly in The Spiral Staircase; through her years of deconstruction, which found useful expression in volumes like A History of God; to her “becoming religious” in a renewed way, captured in The Great Transformation and this newest volume.

As an invaluable quick reference guide, The Case for God provides brief yet comprehensive commentaries on — among other topics — anthropology, biblical criticism, spirituality and the implications of science.

The Case for God is a testimonial to Armstrong’s conviction that by embracing religious complexity and having the courage to unlearn much of what has been taught to us about our own faith story, we may find ourselves being, well, born again. To do so, she writes, theology must learn to emphasize silence and listening as tools to faithful living.

Armstrong accomplishes all of this through an elegant and eloquent extended discourse on the religious history of humanity, emphasizing at every stage that religion is inseparable from lived experience, actual and liturgical.

The result is to affirm American theologian Huston Smith’s conviction that “we are in good hands, and in gratitude ought to care for one another and bear each other’s burdens.”

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image