Karen Armstrong: ‘We’re just not good at religion’

Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong: “All religions are designed to teach us how to live, joyfully, serenely, and kindly, in the midst of suffering.” Suggested reading: Nominating Karen Armstrong for Literature Nobel Prize

Source: Financial Times

The author on defending Islam, her unconventional family — and why she broke with a convent

“I always say”, Karen Armstrong admits with a conspiratorial grin, “that God bought me that place.” She is referring to the north London house she paid for with the proceeds of her series of bestsellers on religion — and Islam in particular. If there was one specific book that underpinned the foundations of her Islington home, it was her short history of Islam. Published in 2000, this was perfectly timed for the west’s agonising over religion and the potential for a clash of civilisations sparked by the September 11 attacks the following year. “I never saw the inside of a library” after that, she tells me as we are steered to our table. Instead, she was on the radio nonstop, “talking about Islam ” — as indeed she has been virtually ever since. She sees it as a civic duty to defend the religion — against both the misconceptions of non-Muslims and against what she sees as the corrupting influence of certain strains of Islamic theology, notably Saudi Wahhabism. It is, Armstrong says of the latter, “as if a tiny sect in the [American] Bible belt had petrodollars and international approval to export their form of Christianity over the rest of the world.”

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