The Great Transformation
The centuries between 800 and 300 BC saw an explosion of new religious concepts. Their emergence is second only to man’s harnessing of fire in fundamentally transforming our understanding of what it is to be human. But why did Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jeremiah, Lao Tzu and others all emerge in this five-hundred-year span? And why do they have such similar ideas about humanity?In The Great Transformation, Karen Armstrong examines this phenomenal period and the connections between this disparate group of philosophers, mystics and theologians.
St Paul is known throughout the world as the first Christian writer, authoring fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. But as Karen Armstrong demonstrates in St Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle, he also exerted a more significant influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the world than any other figure in history.
It was Paul who established the first Christian churches in Europe and Asia in the first century, Paul who transformed a minor sect into the largest religion produced by Western civilization, and Paul who advanced the revolutionary idea that Christ could serve as a model for the possibility of transcendence. While we know little about some aspects of the life of St Paul – his upbringing, the details of his death – his dramatic vision of God on the road to Damascus is one of the most powerful stories in the history of Christianity, and the life that followed forever changed the course of history.
God Is Not Great
The bestselling cult classic
god Is Not Great is the ultimate case against religion. In a series of acute readings of the major religious texts, Christopher Hitchens demonstrates the ways in which religion is man-made, dangerously sexually repressive and distorts the very origins of the cosmos. Above all, Hitchens argues that the concept of an omniscient God has profoundly damaged humanity, and proposes that the world might be a great deal better off without ‘him’. In god is Not Great Hitchens turned his formidable eloquence and rhetorical energy to the most controversial issue in the world: God and religion. The result is a devastating critique of religious faith
From the historical Jesus and his disciples through to the present day, Greg Sheridan has written an impassioned, informed and utterly compelling case for the truth and importance of Christianity in our lives. He presents a strong argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament, meets the living Jesus there, explores the extraordinary personality of Paul, celebrates Mary’s activism and examines the magnificent richness of John.
Filled with insights, intelligence, warmth and humour, Greg also introduces us to a range of fascinating Christians today, among them political leaders, and young activists offering the radical Christian interpretation of love to their generation. His book explores the journey of those who have been guided by faith, such as Gemma Sisia, whose school in Tanzania has transformed the lives of thousands of children, and the dynamic Chinese Christians pursuing their beliefs under harsh restrictions. He examines where Jesus can be found in popular culture and talks to Christian leaders – Pentecostal, Catholic, Evangelical and others – in Australia, the US and Britain.
At a time when the chasm of understanding between secularism and faith has never seemed wider, Christians is timely, relevant and convincing.
God is Good for You
The Judeo-Christian tradition has created and underpinned the moral and legal fabric of Western civilisation for more than 2000 years, yet now we’ve reached a point in both Australia and many parts of the West where Christianity has become a minority faith rather than the mainstream belief. It’s a situation that’s fraught both for Christians and our wider society, where the moral certainties that were the foundation of our institutions and laws are no longer held by the majority.
At this point of crisis for faith, God is Good for You shows us why Christianity is so vital for our personal and social well-being, and how modern Christians have never worked so hard to make the world a better place at a time when their faith has never been less valued. It carries a vital torch for Christianity in a way that’s closely argued, warmly human, good humoured yet passionate, and, above all, convincing.
Two brilliant scholars at the height of their powers conduct a profound investigation of the history of anti-Western stereotypes – and find their origins in the West itself.
In this book, Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit show that the idea of ‘the West’ in the minds of its self-proclaimed enemies is still largely unexamined and woefully misunderstood. Occidentalism is their groundbreaking investigation of the demonizing fantasies and stereotypes about the Western world that fuel such murderous hatred in others.
‘Radical Islam’ is generally perceived as a purely Islamic phenomenon, but Buruma and Margalit show that groups like al-Qaeda share key traits with revolutionary movements going back to the early nineteenth century. The same prejudices appear again and again: the soulless Western city-dweller, the sterile Western mind, the machine society, controlled from the centre – often by Jews – pulling the hidden levers of power, like some demonic Wizard of Oz. The anti-Western virus has spread to the Islamic world for a number of reasons, but it is not an exclusively Islamic issue.
A work of extraordinary range and erudition, Occidentalism will permanently enlarge our understanding of the world in which we live.
The Message and the Book
Most people alive today (more than three-quarters of the world’s population) belong to one of the great religions. These faiths are built on the foundation-stones of key texts, to which people go for spiritual inspiration and moral guidance.
But what are these texts and what do they mean? Introducing and describing their content and core tenets, and quoting their key passages, The Message and the Book will help believers and unbelievers alike to understand why these sacred texts matter so much to so many people in today’s world: the Bible remains the best-selling book world-wide, and other texts from the past are hugely influential in the present – for example, the Analects of Confucius in Asia and the Quran for Muslims. Historically, sacred texts have had a critical impact on the drafting of landmark political documents, such as the Constitution of the United States.
The Message and the Book is an accessible, scholarly and informative guide not only to such well-known texts as the Bible and Quran, but also to more than 400 others. It is essential reading for those who want to understand the influence of religious texts both in the past and in the world of today.
Few books in history are as poorly read or understood as the Qur’an. Sent down in a series of revelations to the Prophet Muhammad, it is regarded by the faithful as the unmediated word of Allah. It is revered by Muslims throughout the world, it inspires unparalleled levels of devotion, passion, fear and, sometimes, incomprehension.
In this book, the distinguished scholar Bruce Lawrence shows precisely why the Qur’an is Islam. He describes the origins of the faith in seventh-century Arabia and looks at why the Qur’an needs to be both memorized and recited by its followers. Lawrence also discusses the book’s many doubters and commentators and assesses its important influence in societies and politics today. Above all, Lawrence emphasizes that the Qur’an demands interpretation, and can only be properly understood through its history.
In these increasingly troubled times, The Qur’an: A Biography is a beautifully written and authoritative account of one of the world’s most famous, and most misunderstood, books.