There are plenty of items in Christian books that are designed to build faith – these are usually testimonies or words of encouragement. But there are also books that convey historical facts. Such discoveries turned out to be for me two books of Karen Armstrong – „History of God” and ” Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence”.
„So God has a story! He is not a mobile, ever-revealed God of catechisms, an Eternal Being enchanted in the fossils of sacred words and verses, but he turns out to be a living, changing reality. What’s more: the reality depends on man, on his ideas and superstitions, on the social rules of action and dilemmas of the individual, on internal crises and philosophical systems, on the literary convention and the madness of kings. „
(A History of God, Karen Armstrong)
It is important to mention that the author is not intended to overthrow someone’s faith – she was a nun for several years, she left the nunnery, she had a search period (which usually lasts a lifetime in a reflexive man’s life) and although she has no theological education … it’s hard to believe!
She writes brilliantly, knowing who the average reader is and walks him through periods of history from the beginning; first hers (quite extensively presents herself and her beliefs) then humanity. Curiously and humbly, she quotes various voices about God from around the world. She quotes in detail the stories I know from the Old Testament, but now I also get to know Buddha and Mohammed as fascinating characters.
Mohammed was one of the few leaders in history who managed to build an empire mainly through negotiation. („Fields of Blood”)
Karen Armstrong does not explain anything (she does not use phrases such as „and this is where today’s tradition …”), but her consistent narrative of the story of a God who has not bypassed any place on the earth, makes man draw conclusions and suddenly everything, what he knew until now seems flat. The reader has a chance to confront history again. Similarly, in the „Fields of Blood” – Karen tells the story again, trying to answer this offensive charge, as religion leads to wars only.
And we’re dealing with an unmarked with emotions description; neither positive nor negative. We learn the way – not dry facts and this path reveals another turn to the reader.
Muslims created ummah (umma) – a „community” that was an alternative to the greed and systemic injustice of Mecca’s capitalism. After all, the religion of the followers of Muhammad began to be called Islam, because it required that man „surrender” his whole being to Allah. („Fields of Blood”)
The author describes the entire route of the rise of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions – she also touches on Buddhism. And it starts with something seemingly unrelated to religion like … agriculture. It presents an interesting point of view on the beginnings and fate of agrarian societies – connects the dots, and we follow it, drawing conclusions.
She also describes the path of the individual reformers; their problems, doubts, dependencies.
In „Fields of Blood” we read about the beginnings, course and disappearance of the crusades, martyrdom, and how this religion alternated with secularism.
The monks became the symbolic vanguard of brutal Christianization. Their monotonous songs were enough for the governor of Antioch to leave his court and flee the city.
(„Fields of Blood” )
What is the difference between these 2 books?
When I read the „History of God” I wondered what else the author can write in „Fields of blood” ?! Everything seemed to be said. And yet these books differ significantly – in the History of God Karen A. devotes a lot of attention to man as a religious being, seeking, and to what these qualities led individual tribes, nations and single people. It shows us God seen through millions of different eyes over the centuries.
„Fields of Blood” is a book divided into 3 parts and 13 subtitles:
Farmers and shepherds
India – a noble path
China – warriors and gentlemen
Jesus: Out of this world?
Byzantium: the tragedy of the empire
Crusade and Jihad
The emergence of religion
Triumph of secularism
Religion strikes back
This is the history of beliefs being formed, followed by denominations and religions; changing fates, their attempts to come into existence and domination.
Loss of faith in favor of knowledge?
After reading the History of God, I began to think about this image of MY God, which has changed so much for several years – actually, just reading the Bible to … begin to doubt? Or at least begin to doubt your mental health (as many unbelievers accuse us of). Well, if you – a believer – do not have a personal relationship with God, who gave you to know Him in your place, in your time, based on your way of understanding things, yes – you can doubt.
I read K. Armstrong’s books and did what I always did: I closed my eyes and recalled my memory – to the previous day, a year earlier, 15 years ago. I have so many experiences with Him, we have come through such an intense way until now, on which God constantly gives me evidence of His presence, love, conduct which I agreed to, that to deny all of this by calling only the effect of imagination – would be pure madness at this point.
Karen Armstrong’s books have taught me that
– everyone deserves to be heard
– every man is on his way
– I just thought I knew something about the world of religion
– I have drawn wrong, shallow conclusions many times
– I now have a large field of knowledge to talk with Muslim friends
– nothing is black and white
– I am freed for greater love for other people.
And above all that
The seeker of truth cannot, „avoid any knowledge, despise any book, or cling to any religion.” (Karen Armstrong)
What I strongly encourage you to do. Bless you all!