A Case For God

Since I’ve read the book “A Case For God” by Karen Armstrong, I have the feeling that a tight knot has released and many feelings that were common to me in years in the past have returned. She gives a subject language which I have always tried to express with a bumbling, confused and sometimes incomprehensible style that often had people misunderstanding me.

Karen Armstrong argues that the current discussion (if you can call it that) between Atheists and Christians is completely on the wrong footing and both groups find themselves with a simplistic, rationalised, cramped and dangerous view on what Religion can be. The mutual antagonism that these groups feel towards each other only destroys the potential that “real” Religion contains and prevents a development in our culture which could be wholesome and inspirational, bringing people together rather than separating them, and give the global village peace and cohesion – something we desperately need, lest we destroy ourselves first.

I have said in the past that Religion is related to Art forms, or is a form of expression, which tries to find a way to express the Ineffable. This Ineffable is a collation of the variety of absolutes we witness in life, but which we cannot grasp, like love, compassion and generosity or charity. They are attributes which we desperately wish for our lives, but seem to elude us. Thereby they remain a goal, a hope which we aspire to, and believe in.

The Ineffable also contains aspects of the mystery of life, which is born out of the question: Why is there something and not nothing? And, why are we able to unravel so much, but end up with more questions than before? Why do we know what is good, but are so often unable to do it? There are millions of such questions which leave us silent, and experiences for which we have no words. This is where Religion is incredibly valuable and helps human kind develop und cultivate.

By what I have said, it is obvious what Religion isn’t – the blunt ideologies which try to compete against each other for the dominion of the earth. We find them all over and not just in Christianity. Shouldn’t we try to find ways of loosening the knot, not just in ourselves, but in our civilisation and cultures? Isn’t it a case of “common-sense” which seems to be less and less common?

What do you think? Is there a case for God, if we understand it in this way?

… duplication

Reason tells me that what KA has done is to reduce God to a mythical idea. Not real. Not tangible, Not the creator of the Universe but nothing else that an idea. A figment of the mind.
She does this by re-writing history in the pretence that religion was always supposed to me mythos, and that people have misconstrued it as logic.
As a student of ancient history I can tell you that this is a poor characterisation. People in ancient times took this stuff very seriously indeed, in fact they took things rather more literally than you would think it possible. Aristophanes joked that The Persian King could not button up his arse until the portents were right.
KA wants to be able to account for the missing years of her christian god. Why did god come so late into human history. The Catholics tried to block up the whole by adoption Aristotle and Plato, and pretending that the world was only 6000 years old. Karen does it by pretending that god, placed and image of himself into out hearts to be expressed by mythos, rather than reason.
What KA is actually doing is inventing her own mythos, a means by which she can have her cake and eat it too. God being the cake and mythos being the eating of it. But what she leaves behind is nothing more that a god shaped hole on the plate.

But sure there is indeed a case for god by understanding it this way. The case is like unto that we have for unicorns too, only with the pretence that god is real. I suppose this is not unusual. Most of our conception of reality is a construction. Politics does not really exist as an identifiable entity. Remove people and politics ceases to exist. Ecology depends on our observation of nature for example. God is an idea, a glue that binds people by agreement of a certain religious creed.
But she does nothing for the ontology of god as such. For which there is not case to offer.

Was that her goal? I haven’t read it, but Bob doesn’t characterize what he read that way at all.

The question that arises in my mind is whether she is really reducing at all, since the God-Hypothesis suffers badly when we try to explain the phenomena in terms of science and logos. When we allow the poets, mystics and prophets to talk about the attributes of God, the whole subject erupts with life and creativity, whereas when we talk of God on modern scientific grounds it becomes fundamentalist and complicated.

The second thought is whether a myth actually constitutes a “reduction” at all. Clearly that is the case for people who have no time for mystery and poetry, but want straightforward facts. But what facts do we actually have? The Bible? How many times must it be shown that the Bible, like other scriptures, are an anthology of very diverse literary styles, clearly poetical and analogous in many cases. Secondly, there is no historical progression as suggested by evangelical sources, but more a spiralling portrayal of human spiritual development, a coming to terms with an invisible Deity which even in the Prophets (Jer.31:31) is becoming an inward reality, rather than an external force.

I don’t see her re-writing history at all, but revising the development of the idea of God throughout history, in which there were of course instances of what you are saying, but which are irrelevant to the case at hand. The question is whether we are going to stick to our guns (pun intended) defending a relatively modern concept of God and dividing the world, or whether we are able to see that, not only in Christianity, but in other forms of (Poly-)Theism the same is true, that God is a metaphor for the ineffable absolutes which we experience, but can’t grasp. An address for the mysterious aspects of life which elude us.


“Ineffable absolutes” is causing me some confusion. Can you explain what you mean by “absolute” in this context?

An absolute is in this sense inviolable like love, compassion, truth, wisdom and justice, which are traditionally attributes of God. But they are, as Karen Armstrong says, something which we never find in its pure nature, whether in ourselves or others. It is always something to aspire to, and consequently, as something we wish for, it is a mystery. Where does it come from? How does it manifest itself? And why is it so ephemeral?

A German theologian said that the experience of such absolutes is a little like seeing a new bright star in the sky which fades as sunlight increases and we are left yearning for the next chance to see it again.

you have really sparked my interest…this sounds like a very important thread bob…
i see this as a huge problem between so-called atheists and so-called religious people…
they are fighting over whos god is the best…they are fighting over power and control…
my god is better than your no-god…what a silly but tragic thing…most people are not aware of what is really going on…

thank you bob for introducing this…and also ierrelius brought this up…

Thanks, I hope we can put this issue up in a way that will promote understanding of the fallacy which people are quibbling over.

Another thing which occurred to me is that Karen Armstrong has pointed to the fact that God is only experienced in a form of kenosis, understanding that our interpretation of reality is an illusion and only by a process of self-emptying, which is also characteristic of Buddhist meditation, are we able to re-look and see things with a “beginners mind”. It is continually noted that God is forever confounding the professional prophets by calling laymen as prophets, who then proceed to criticise the religious practise of the day although the pious are keen to do what God told them to do.

The God of the Bible is a God who refuses to be an Idol and continually warns against Idols. He is elusive and not as we expect him to be. This is why he turns up in a manger and is crucified on a cross. It is the impossibility of such things in the eyes of the pious Jews which are making the point that a God that is predictable is no God at all, but the projection of humanity. Only when he retains his ineffable qualities, is he God.

bob i have been watching some u-tube stuff with karen armstrong…i love what she is saying…i am getting on board for a trip
that will be very interesting…she is a leader…and she is not a guy…i am tired about what the guys have been saying and doing…

I take your point. I began by following the writings of a German lady Theologian who promoted “atheistic faith in God” as well as feministic Theology (although I found that not as cultivated and generally just reactionary) and proceeded to Karen Armstrong. We need more of the feminine in theology.

What attracts me in Armstrong’s book is her use of Eastern concepts to describe how we can “know” God–a knowing that is a participatory action, an immersion of self in ritual and rite. This is certainly not going to be understood by atheistic fundamentalists who see logos as invalidating mythos.


i would like to hear from secular humanists what they think of her messages after seeing the profile ted talk…

If myth is a synonym for superstition, Campbell (SIC) and Jung wrote much in vain.

I think that anyone doing comparative studies must notice that the relationship that Thomas Merton was beginning between western and eastern meditative and contemplative traditions was pointing to the fact that kenosis is common to both. Having been to Sri Lanka and stood on the spot before the Buddha image where Thomas Merton knelt and “saw”, I have long felt that there is this connection before following the lead of others. But Karen Armstrong seems to have voiced this as best as can be done. It is in experience that we “know”, as I have said before, otherwise it is only theory. Adam “knew” his wife in such a way that his “knowing” produced a son.

The participatory aspect of what Armstrong has presented is a discovery that self or ego, is an illusion that our mind creates for good reasons, but when we are onlookers of other peoples lives, we can see that there is a continuing process going on, like a film reel, with numerous stills forming a moving picture. The call for absolute continuity is something which we can’t comply with, although we try. When we sit, we come to realize this and that it is our concepts which prevent us from seeing clearly. This also explains where “evil” comes from, since the illusion we fall foul to can also lead to adverse behaviour which nobody can understand except the person guilty of such behaviour. In the positive sense, by “practicing” the behavior which we admire, we come closer to “completeness”, but it requires a mentality which is prepared to embrace kenosis as a method by which we can gain a clear field of vision.

The problem with fundamentalists is that they fail to realise the most basic understanding that it is our mind that creates our reality. For these people, it has been apparent to me that they believe their own perception infallibly and even accept their emotional responses as something guided by the spirit. They are often critical of psychology, mistrust their reason that causes them to doubt and they are prepared to believe that it is rationally acceptable that the Bible is to be taken literally. Doubt doesn’t promote learning for these people, it is “evil”.

When God is the address of those qualities which we aspire to, but which we otherwise never find in their pure state, our practise is similar to Hindus before the gods of hellenistic Polytheism.


“It is in experience that we “know”, as I have said before, otherwise it is only theory. Adam “knew” his wife in such a way that his “knowing” produced a son.”

“The problem with fundamentalists is that they fail to realise the most basic understanding that it is our mind that creates our reality.”

I might cut and paste those two quotes every time someone whines about how we can know something, or when they talk about being 99℅ sure of something!

That said though, what do you mean by “inviolable”, especially when you also say “not pure”?

When I say that these absolutes are inviolable, I mean that they are without criticism or sacred, but on the other hand we can’t find them in their pure state in ourselves or others. This begs the question, where they come from, which is what scripture tries to discuss. How can we desire something which we do not ourselves embody it and where do we get the ideas which lead us forward in our development?

Is it just that we see something good and enlarge it, imagining how it would be if it were in everybody and permanent? Is it that easy? Religions of the world think not and suggest that we have a number of problems which we need to get out of the way before we can make progress. One of them is kenosis, self-emptying.

The problem with kenosis, however, is that if we do it with a goal in mind, it often goes wrong. This is where the moral finger of the pious and hypocrisy stems from. Well meant but badly done, it is ironically often a sign of the particularly ambitious and aspiring people.

I know what I’m saying – I’ve been there #-o

What she intended, and what she ended up proving to others are not the same thing.

Maybe it would help you by reading this review?

shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/20 … -or-idiot/

If god is a metaphor for the ineffable mysteries then we have already accepted that there is no such thing as god. That seem to me to be a very good starting point indeed to accept the truth of the ineffability of existence and to get on and make of existence what we can without the self imposed set of delusions that god represents.
When we are at that point, then a LOTR a book acknowledged to be fiction, or the secular version of the bible The Good Book , by A C Grayling being HONESTLY metaphorical give us a better opportunity for discussion than hopelessly claiming that there is a big sky god looking down on us how is going to be pissed if you do not do what I tell you he wants you to do.