The Case for God Cover
The Case for God

1. In her introduction, Armstrong writes that "Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart" [p. xiii]. Why does Armstrong repeatedly assert the primacy of religious practice, ritual, and discipline over merely assenting to a set of abstract beliefs?

2. In what ways is The Case for God surprising? How does it challenge conventional ideas of God, religious history, and the relationship between science and religion?

3. Armstrong writes that her aim "is not to give an exhaustive account of religion in any given period, but to highlight a particular trend - the apophatic - that speaks strongly to our current religious perplexity" [p. 140]. What are the main features of the apophatic tradition? What is the value of arriving at a state of "unknowing"? How does the apophatic experience speak to our current religious predicament?

4. What is the distinction between mythos and logos? Why is it important that these modes of thought remain separate? In what ways have they been confused in the modern era? What are the consequences of confusing them?

5. Why would premodern Christians regard as misguided the kind of literal interpretation of the Bible favored by fundamentalists today?

6. What are the dangers of idolatry? Why are monotheistic religions, as well as absolutist secular philosophies, especially prone to idolatry?

7. "We tend to tame and domesticate God's 'otherness,'" Armstrong writes. "We beg God to support 'our' side in an election or a war, even though our opponents are, presumably, also God's children and the object of his love and care" [p. ix]. What are some recent examples that support these claims?

8. How did theologians respond to the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution it engendered? What effect did these large intellectual and historical movements have on the way people viewed the truth of scripture?

9. Armstrong writes: "By revealing the inherent limitation of words and concepts, theology should reduce both the speaker and his audience to silent awe" [p. 142]. What is the value of being reduced to silent awe? Why might a state of silent wonder, or receptivity, be preferable to a state of religious certainty?

10. Why does Armstrong object to the kind of aggressive atheism and vehement anti-religious rhetoric exemplified in the work of writers like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins? In what ways do their arguments against religion mirror the thinking of the fundamentalists they so despise?

11. Armstrong writes that "the desire to cultivate a sense of the transcendent may be the defining human characteristic" [p. 9]. Does this seem true? Why might the desire for transcendence be such a central human impulse?

12. How are postmodernist and deconstructionist ways of reading similar to ancient rabbinical forms of exegesis?

13. Armstrong summarizes the thought of a huge range of philosophers, theologians, and religious figures, from Socrates to Jacques Derrida. Within this broad overview, what religious ideas or practices seem most useful or relevant today?

14. Paul Tillich asserts that "God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him" [p. 282]. What is the meaning of this apparent contradiction? In what ways does Tillich's statement speak to the major themes of The Case for God?

15. The Case for God ends with a provocative question: "…how best can we move beyond premodern theism into a perception of 'God' that truly speaks to all the complex realities and needs of our time?" [p. 317]. Why is it appropriate that Armstrong end with a question rather than an assertion? How might this question be answered? What are the most pressing needs of our time?