Karen Armstrong, author of "The Case for God" speaking at Progressive Forum in Houston

I hope others will join me at this event to pose questions for the author in regards to the assertions made in her book and talk.

The Progressive Forum - Houston
Thursday, October 8 at 7:30
Wortham Center, Cullen Theater

Tickets Start at $14, All Seating In Orchestra Level

Anybody else down?

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I'd love to hear an audio. someone please tape that shizz.
I'll see what I can do.
Good article on her for those looking for some background to decide whether to attend or, alternately, "Know thy enemy", lol

Thanks for that article! I needed some info on her because I just have no idea what to ask someone like this. But it seems like apparently she's an apologist.

From the story:
"Jews, Christians, and Muslims all knew that revealed truth was symbolic, that scripture could not be interpreted literally, and that sacred texts had multiple meanings, and could lead to entirely fresh insights," she writes. "Revelation was not an event that had happened once in the distant past, but was an ongoing, creative process." -Karen Armstrong

This critique has not been articulated often or clearly enough: the new atheists are, in effect, buying into one particular modern, Western fundamentalist notion of God in order to make God look ridiculous and knock him (or her or it) down. For them to fail to concede that what William James called "religious experience" is far more complex than what certain contemporary believers preach is extremely disingenuous.

Most provocative is Armstrong's focus on practice—on the activities that help a person engage with God: reading, singing, chanting, meditating, praying, and so on. She has a special affinity for the mystics. The yogi, the Christian mystic, the Kabbalist, the Sufi, the poet—all these, she argues, access transcendence through disciplined work, through failure, anxiety, and the redoubling of effort. By submitting to the unknown, mystics are supposed to become more wise and more loving. At its best, then, mythos has a positive, pragmatic effect on logos. "The point of religion was to live intensely and richly here and now," she writes. "Religious people are ambitious…They tried to honor the ineffable mystery they sensed in each human being and create societies that honored the stranger, the alien, the poor, and the oppressed." It doesn't always work, she adds, but it's worth a try. (Critics will charge that Armstrong's affinity for mysticism leads her naively to overlook the destructive differences among religions. Like Robert Wright, whose recent book, The Evolution of God, argues for a kind of divine morality among humans, Armstrong is more of an optimistist about religion than a pessimist.)

So since the religious have kinda "toned it down" we should all appease our arguments against religion and continue to try and find some good in it? lol com'n now

The last paragraph makes it seem to me she's just in denial, or a huge fan of culture - not necessarily religion - and is just confused.

From the story:
Armstrong's argument is prescient, for it reflects the most important shifts occurring in the religious landscape. In the West, believers are refocusing their attention away from creeds and on practice—on making the activity of faith meaningful in daily life. Examples of this are legion: in the Bay Area, a new school called the Gamliel Institute teaches Jews in every denomination about chevra kadisha, the ancient mitzvah of washing and shrouding a dead body. In evangelical circles, Christians are turning away from salvation talk and toward helping the sick and the poor. Pentecostalism, the fastest--growing brand of religion in the world, stresses the gifts of the spirit: healing, and speaking in tongues. In his new book, The Future of Faith,Harvard professor Harvey Cox calls this new era "the age of the spirit": "Faith, rather than beliefs, is once again becoming [Christianity's] defining quality," he writes. For me, the most refreshing change of all is the possibility, clearly articulated in Armstrong's book, that belief in God requires uncertainty as much as certainty.

It seems she is also articulating the fall of religion and the rise of actual human empathy. But decides to call if faith.

"Sixteen percent of Americans recently called themselves "unaffiliated," a figure that sent religious professionals scurrying for fixes and explanations."

"But these Americans may just be signaling to pollsters an unwillingness to choose sides."
yea we do it for the pollsters

Anyone have an idea for an eloquent question?

Much as I dislike half measures when I mentioned it to a friend of mine he had the best response: Agnosticism. Atheistic responses work best against fundamentalists, extreme against extreme. Given her new agey, middling, apologist stance I think agnostic is the best. She's prepared for hardcore rebuttals, I think softer would throw her off more.

"I have a question... before anybody can even answer the question 'Do you believe in God' doesn't God have to be defined? You know, WHAT am I suppose to believe or not believe in? Which definition of God? Also if 20 people answer the question 20 different ways how can anyone even answer other than just picking "yes" or "no" randomly out of a hat?"

She'd probably have a "Any answer is valid, it's just the ritual and prayer that are important" But that's an easy shoot-down. If you can't define it do you believe in it can't even be addressed. If you can't believe in it then she's advocating ritual and prayer directed to something that may or may not exist? Isn't that a bit silly? Why would it be helpful? At least not in any way that's any different from the benefits you get from any repetitive activity, in that case why not go out jogging? That gets you physical benefits too. Or a routine of tantric sex, or any one of a thousand other possibilities because at that point only the structure and routine is important and if that's all that's significant there are many things that fit that same role but also produce ancillary benefits that sitting around and Thinking Hard to yourself can't. I mean hell, drugs make you feel great but we don't encourage doing them do we? Even if they aren't harmful physically?

I think things along the real hardcore agnostic line as opposed to the TAP agnostic line could REALLY throw her.

Rambling but you get the gist.
Looking at the link to the forum above, and the three upcoming speakers currently listed there, reminds me of the childhood game (and Sesame Street Jingle) "which one of these things is not like the other, which one of these things just doesn't belong". Excuse my expletives, but what the *##k is she doing in that progressive forum?

I'll concede that Caine's strategy of tossing agnostic softballs rather than Ryan Express fastballs may throw her off her game, but it really leave a vile taste in my mouth.

Her style seems to be - don't care what you believe, so long as you do believe, actually don't care if you do believe, so long as you act like you believe - because if you act like you believe, you 'practice', then you will be consuming some level of the output of the spiritual/religious economic engine. They just want your donations/purchases/whatever. Just follow the money trail.

I know that sounds terribly cynical, and I don't mean to imply that she, or any other particular person in that realm consciously thinks that, but that as a collective spiritual industry they do. They are protecting their job, their marketplace, their industry. There are plenty of folks out there that actually believe the B.S. they are selling, most of them probably. But, there are many in that industry that definitely are only in it for the cash, I think most of them are referred to as tel-evangelists, or have mega-churches (Joel O. in Houston?). There also are certainly quite a few moderate to liberal theologians that have lost their faith, but just have to hang in there for the job, for the money, because they have no real training or education to do anything else.

I guess one approach to her is to ask what real tangible benefit there is to her 'practice' of religion in general, that can not be obtained without a belief in any gods. Supporting the poor or oppressed has long been on the freethinkers agenda. Most of the atheistic science minded, have a real elevated sense of awe and reverence for the magnificence of nature and the universe.

Wish I could be there, but I'm sure there will be plenty of good atheists there to give her hell. I hope to see/hear a recording of the entire event, especially a Q&A session.
I tend to think it's more of a softsell for faith that they see as less demanding belief-wise and therefore more palatable, to the average fence-sitter.

A gateway faith, lol.


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