A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
ONE OF THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR’S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The significance of scripture may not be immediately obvious in our secular world, but its misunderstanding is perhaps the root cause of many of today’s controversies. The sacred texts have been co-opted by fundamentalists, who insist that they must be taken literally, and by others who interpret scripture to bolster their own prejudices. These texts are seen to prescribe ethical norms and codes of behavior that are divinely ordained: they are believed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong shows in this chronicle of the development and significance of major religions, such a narrow, peculiar reading of scripture is a relatively recent, modern phenomenon. For most of their history, the world’s religious traditions have regarded these texts as tools that enable the individual to connect with the divine, to experience a different level of consciousness, and to help them engage with the world in more meaningful and compassionate ways.