The History of “The History of God”

“The History of God,” written by former nun Karen Armstrong, has been sitting on my bookshelf for a decade. I bought it in a small bookstore in Mumbai, where I also purchased a book by the Nobel writer V.S. Naipaul, Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” and a practical book of mantras. This bookstore is a place of magic in my mind, a place where I purchased, more than four stacks of bound, typed pages, four wondrous doorways.

For some reason, I never felt the time was ripe to read Armstrong’s four hundred page intricate work, and I say that with no sarcasm. The question though is not so much why I never read it but why I want to read it now.

Why did I elect to lug it on a lightning trip to Peru? There is an answer in its pages, no doubt, to my outward spiral questions of God. A history of God tells us not just of the events that let to today’s major world religions, but the thought processes as well. What the Hell was Man thinking when he conceptualized God? Of Heaven? Of Earth? Of survival? Perhaps, of conquest?

Probably not of fullness, of enriched daily experience. Not five thousand years ago when the fearsome God of Abraham first appeared. When, and how, did God become a possible force of positive personal transformation for Western society? Laozi, Confucius, Buddha all lived between the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Then Jesus, and Mohammed. A long time ago great prophets professed love.

But, who can forget Europe’s Dark Ages? A godless, pious time forged by Church. It seems any spiritual progress is marred, for centuries, by the institutions of God. How then to practice a clean, functional, compassionate version of God? Not sure of the answer, I read.