Karen Armstrong

Karen
Armstrong
1944

British Author and Commentator on Comparative Religion, formerly Roman Catholic Sister

Author Quotes

I have nothing maternal in me, and men want to be mothered a lot of the time.

In the tenth century BC, the priests of India devised the Brahmodya competition, which would become a model of authentic theological discourse. The object was to find a verbal formula to define the Brahman, the ultimate and inexpressible reality beyond human understanding. The idea was to push language as far as it would go, until participants became aware of the ineffable. The challenger, drawing on his immense erudition, began the process by asking an enigmatic question and his opponents had to reply in a way that was apt but equally inscrutable. The winner was the contestant who reduced the others to silence. In that moment of silence, the Brahman was present - not in the ingenious verbal declarations but in the stunning realization of the impotence of speech. Nearly all religious traditions have devised their own versions of this exercise. It was not a frustrating experience; the finale can, perhaps, be compared to the moment at the end of the symphony, when there is a full and pregnant beat of silence in the concert hall before the applause begins. The aim of good theology is to help the audience to live for a while in that silence.

Mythology and science both extend the scope of human beings. Like science and technology, mythology, as we shall see, is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.

Buddhists talk about nirvana in very much the same terms as monotheists describe God.

Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith - even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity.

I like silence; I'm a gregarious loner and without the solitude, I lose my gregariousness.

Ironically, the first thing that appealed to me about Islam was its pluralism. The fact that the Koran praises all the great prophets of the past.

Now I think one of the reasons why religion developed in the way that it did over the centuries was precisely to curb this murderous bent that we have as human beings.

But human beings fall easily into despair, and from the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, that revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that, against all the depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, life had meaning and value.

Every fundamentalist movement I've studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced at some gut, visceral level that secular liberal society wants to wipe out religion.

I say that religion isn't about believing things. It's ethical alchemy. It's about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.

Islam is a religion of success. Unlike Christianity, which has as its main image, in the west at least, a man dying in a devastating, disgraceful, helpless death.

By increasing the amount of Torah (obligatory religious laws) in the world, they were extending His presence in the world and making it more effective.

Far from being the father of jihad, [Prophet] Mohammad was a peacemaker, who risked his life and nearly lost the loyalty of his closest companions because he was determined to effect a reconciliation with Mecca.

I was a lousy nun. I couldn't do it. I couldn't find God. It wasn't suitable for me. It is suitable for very few people.

It all depends on the weather. We're doubting a large number this year because the rivers aren't frozen.

Author Picture
First Name
Karen
Last Name
Armstrong
Birth Date
1944
Bio

British Author and Commentator on Comparative Religion, formerly Roman Catholic Sister