Today on NPR’s Fresh Air Terry Gross interviewed the great scholar of world religions, Karen Armstrong. Armstrong has written numerous books, including a history of Islam, biographies of Buddha, Mohammed, among others. Her latest book, The Case for God, is about religion as practice, of learning about the transcendence of God—however God is defined by the individual—and how religion teaches people how to develop a sense of compassion towards others. She points out that The Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) is found in all of the great religions of the world, and especially in the three faiths descended from Abraham: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As usual when I hear Karen Armstrong interviewed, or when I read her works, I am left in awe of her intellect and scholarship. It seems that she knows everything about religion; almost nothing is too obscure for her. Interestingly enough, she is not herself an observer of organized religion. In the ’60s she spent seven years in a convent preparing to take holy orders, but she had a crisis of faith and left the convent. Her study of the world’s religions has become her religion. She is the Pope of her chosen field.