Saturday, October 20, 2018
As a child, I had a number of strong religious beliefs but little faith in God. There is a distinction between belief in a set of propositions and a faith which enables us to put our trust in them. I believed implicitly in the existence of God; I also believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the efficacy of the sacraments, the prospect of eternal damnation and the objective reality of Purgatory. I cannot say, however, that my belief in these religious opinions about the nature of ultimate reality gave me much confidence that life here on earth was good and beneficent. The Roman Catholicism of my childhood was a rather frightening creed. James Joyce got it right in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: I listened to my share of hellfire sermons. In fact Hell seemed a more potent reality than God, because it was something that I could grasp imaginatively. God, on the other hand, was a somewhat shadowy figure, defined in intellectual abstractions rather than images. When I was about eight years old, I had to memorize this catechism answer to the question, "What is God?": "God is the Supreme Spirit, Who alone exists of Himself and is infinite in all perfections." Not surprisingly, it meant little to me, and I am bound to say that it still leaves me cold. It has always seemed a singularly arid, pompous and arrogant definition. Since writing this book, however, I have come to believe that it is also incorrect.
-Karen Armstrong, from the Introduction to A History Of God: The 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam