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Old 12-03-2011, 07:27 AM   #31
mldavis2
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Originally Posted by toomanybooks View Post
Karen Armstrong has written several books about religion. A Battle for God explores the rise of fundamentalism and A History of God is a more general explanation of mankind and religion. I believe that she is a RC nun. She writes well and I find her books interesting. I'm a lifelong atheist and don't understand the attraction of religion. I read her books to see where religious folks were coming from.
Armstrong was a nun. Her book The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness is an autobiography of sorts that explains how she left Catholicism and became, in her words, a monotheist. I would argue that Armstrong is perhaps the finest author on world religions in that she, unlike virtually all other theologians, does not preach from one perspective or denomination. She has written excellent books on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism as well as various interpretations of Christianity and has lived with families of these various belief systems. She was denied a doctorate at (I believe) Cambridge many years ago because her thesis was considered too radical and anti-religious by her mentor, so she became a world authority on her own.

Armstrong's books are exhaustively foot-noted. Many are almost like reading a PhD thesis. She is, of course, criticized by the fundamentalists, but her opinions are so well documented that there are few if any chinks in her armor, and I view her as incredibly objective.

To comment on @patrickt's post, I think many people are insecure in their beliefs. Often things such as prayer appear to fail, justice and injustice is distributed unequally and unfairly, and things just seem to go to hell (so to speak). Many people begin to question the existence of a superior being, or the claims of others that are divergent, narrow minded, hypocritical, or just plain impossible, so they seek answers. I suspect most religious people adopt their beliefs from their culture and teaching as children and they begin to see holes or naturally begin to question 'authority,' so they look outside and see the world from other perspectives. That usually does one of two things -- strengthen their beliefs or show them as questionable, if not false or inappropriate. I would guess most atheists have become so because of a lack of acceptance of literal fundamentalism (talking snakes, walking on water, etc.) and they seek to understand how others can claim to believe in descriptions that defy the laws of nature and common sense.

Many of us read to gain knowledge. That may be to support our own biases in the case of believers. It may be to support or accumulate information and ammunition to withstand prosyletization from other beliefs, attempts at which can be overwhelming. It may be to better understand the origins of humanity and the historical origin and divergent nature of human belief back far before the writing of the Quran or the Bible. Those who fear will often avoid looking outside their own belief system, but many of us are naturally curious as to where it all came from, so we read everything and try to understand and adapt something that works.
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Old 12-04-2011, 12:19 PM   #32
BenG
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I began to wonder what the point of a book for atheists would be. I can't think of any reason. I'm pretty sure true believers wouldn't pick up the book so they could see if their faith makes sense or is in any way logical. An atheists has already decided. Why would someone bother reading a book about being an atheist?
So you think that everyone has already decided one way or the other?
Young people growing up are often questioning the beliefs they were raised on. Even people who don't abandon their childhood faith often look for reasons for believing beyond "because that's what I was always told."
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