The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong
Click on the title link to read an excerpt from the introduction to the book.
All I've read is this excerpt, but Armstrong is no lightweight -- the intro has plenty of chewy ideas. In fact,
"'That book was really hard!' readers have told me reproachfully, shaking their heads in faint reproof. 'Of course it was!' I want to reply. 'It was about God.'"
I love her description of music's transcendence:
"Music has always been inseparable from religious expression, since, like religion at its best, music marks the "limits of reason."
"It is the most corporeal of the arts: it is produced by breath, voice, horsehair, shells, guts, and skins and reaches "resonances in our bodies at levels deeper than will or consciousness." But it is also highly cerebral. . .
"Yet this intensely rational activity segues into transcendence. Music goes beyond the reach of words: it is not about anything. A late Beethoven quartet does not represent sorrow but elicits it in hearer and player alike, and yet it is emphatically not a sad experience.
"Like tragedy, it brings intense pleasure and insight. We seem to experience sadness directly in a way that transcends ego, because this is not my sadness but sorrow itself. In music, therefore, subjective and objective become one.
". . . Every day, music confronts us with a mode of knowledge that defies logical analysis and empirical proof. . . Hence all art constantly aspires to the condition of music; so too, at its best, does theology."
(I broke up the dense pararaphs to make it easier to read online.)
From the Random House blurb:
"Karen Armstrong details the great lengths to which humankind has gone in order to experience a sacred reality that it called by many names . . .
"[She] examines the diminished impulse toward religion in our own time, when a significant number of people either want nothing to do with God or question the efficacy of faith. Why has God become unbelievable? Why is it that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God in a way that veers so profoundly from the thinking of our ancestors?"