In this wonderful lecture, Karen Armstrong tackles the big questions and determines that there are no answers -- not if you're doing it right. As I wrote yesterday, embracing unknowing is a key to dismantling oppressive hierarchy and abuses of power. And willingness to embrace mystery is the pathway to God.
What is God? The former nun recalls the answer she learnt in catechism: "God is the supreme spirit who alone exists of himself and is infinite in all perfections." That answer, while far too heady for an eight year old, is still too limiting to be meaningful. Instead Armstrong turns to the teachings of Maimonides, Avicenna, and Thomas Aquinas whose thoughts on the matter she paraphrases.
God is not the supreme spirit. God is not the supreme being. God is not a being at all. God is being itself.
What is religion? Again, there is no simple answer according to Armstrong. Religious experience shouldn't be definable. It should defy explanation.
In the pre-modern world, good theology was meant to tip you into a moment of transcendence and silence where you realized that you'd gone beyond the reach of words and concepts. Because our minds are tuned to transcendence.