Sunday, May 25, 2008

Karen Armstrong - SOF and TED

Years and years ago, I bought Karen Armstrong's A History of God; it was the early 90's and she had begun to make a name for herself. This book, as I recall, is still about the historical roots of the monotheistic religions and their construction. Armstrong analyzed the theology as it were. By now she has developed to something more: a criticism and a proposed alternative.

This was the subject of her talk at TED and this also brought her to Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. What I find attractive that in all instances, Armstrong lumps the three monotheistic religions together and given the chance, chips in some Buddhism as well. Her quest is not for theological doctrines, her quest, if I have to put it in my own words, is what religions have to offer to people. In the end she emphasizes, again in my words, the existential importance of faith, the experience, the effect on emotions and conduct. For her, religion must and can improve the quality of life and in this respect they do not differ and in this respect, those three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have so much in common, they nearly speak the same language.

In the interview with Tippett, she related her own spiritual path, from being a drop-out nun, to a secular theologian, a TV maker and eventually the writer and thinker she is today. This personal journey involves her own struggle with Catholic roots. This is tangible when she speaks of Paul, calling him Saint Paul. This may detach the non-catholic listener, but it is worthwhile to tag along. (audio, transcript, uncut audio)

One of the most important aspects of the religions and one that has gone lost in recent time, as she sees it, is compassion. This is also the subject of her presentation at TED.

More Speaking of Faith:
Wangari Maathai
Faith based diplomacy
Rachel Naomi Remen, (highly recommended)
New Evangelicals,
V. V. Raman.

More TED:
Ben Dunlap. (highly recommended)

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