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Publisher's Summary

In the late 20th 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 16th 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.

©2000 Karen Armstrong (P)2020 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"One of the most penetrating, readable, and prescient accounts to date of the rise of the fundamentalist movements in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." (The New York Times Book Review)

"Excellent...highly intelligent and highly readable.... This is a book that will prove indispensable...for anyone who seeks insight into how these powerful movements affect global politics and society today and into the future." (The Baltimore Sun)

"Armstrong succeeds brilliantly.... With her astonishing depth of knowledge and readily accessible writing style, [she] makes an ideal guide in traversing a subject that is by its very nature complex, sensitive and frequently ambiguous." (The San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle)

What listeners say about The Battle for God

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The most important book you haven’t read yet

I was stunned to discover that the paper version came out 20 years ago. At the very end, that becomes clear, but what doesn’t change is the importance of the analysis, and the prescience of the book’s publication. Wondering how the world got where it is? Read this book!

One final point. Armstrong is, of course, an historian of religion, but this book also works as profound sociology of knowledge, and pretty good political science, to boot!

Do yourself a favor. Read the book!

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Expert analysis of fundamentalism, of mythos/logos

useful for understanding the (relatively) current state of affairs in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalism. provides a persuasive argument for the modern roots of fundamentalism and of its misunderstanding and misuse of logos and mythos

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Faith, compassion, and politics!

Where does God end and the Devil begin? Karen Armstrong challenge to ideology and the best and worst of human nature never fails to deliver.