The Battle For God: A History of Fundamentalism
Karen Armstrong
New York: Ballantine Books, 2001
480 pp; $15.00 (paper)


Not long ago I taught a seminar on science and religion that required three of the most widely read gospels of the so-called new atheism: Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell,and Sam Harris’s The End of Faith. As I read along, I found the Buddhist in myself in large agreement. After all, Gotama himself had been highly skeptical of the God-idea, involving as it often did an omnipotence he could not square with either the world’s suffering or his belief in human freedom. And like these authors, Gotama rejected miracles. His central insight, dependent arising, left no logical space for supernatural interventions into the normal causal order of the world. Like them too, the Buddha urged a pragmatic empiricism, teaching his disciples to assess truth claims according to their wholesome or unwholesome results in action, and never to accept them on the basis of mere venerability, the authority of scripture, or the reputedly enlightened mind of the claimant.

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