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Karen Armstrong - Author

About the Author

Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, but then left her teaching order in 1969 to read English at Oxford. In 1982 she became a full-time writer and broadcaster. The best-selling author of over sixteen books, she is a passionate campaigner for religious liberty.

Featured books by Karen Armstrong

Fields of Blood Religion and the History of Violence

Fields of Blood Religion and the History of Violence

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/09/2014

Countering the atheist claim that believers are by default violent fanatics and religion is the cause of all major wars, Karen Armstrong demonstrates that religious faith is not inherently violent. In fact, the world's major religions have throughout their history displayed ambivalent attitudes towards aggression and warfare. At times they have allied themselves with states and empires for protection or to further their influence; at others they have tried to curb state oppression and aggression and worked for peace and justice. Taking us on a journey from prehistoric times to the present, Karen Armstrong contrasts medieval crusaders and modern-day jihadists with the pacifism of the Buddha and Jesus' vision of a just and peaceful society; moreover, she demonstrates that the underlying reasons - social, economic, political - for war and violence in our history often had very little to do with religion. While human beings have a natural propensity for aggression, collective violence and warfare emerged at a certain point in history when the invention of agriculture created a society and a state based on the accumulation of wealth. For most of history our destructive potential could be contained but with the industrialised warfare and all-powerful state of the modern age, humanity is on the brink of destroying itself. Vast in scope, impeccably researched and passionately argued, Fields of Blood is more than a corrective to the prevailing view that religion is to blame for most of the bloodshed throughout human history: it is a celebration of those religious ideas and movements that have opposed war and aggression and promoted peace and reconciliation.

Other books by Karen Armstrong

The Lost Art of Scripture

The Lost Art of Scripture

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 20/12/2019

In our increasingly secular world, holy texts are at best seen as irrelevant, and at worst as an excuse to incite violence, hatred and division. So what value, if any, can scripture hold for us today? And if our world no longer seems compatible with scripture, is it perhaps because its original purpose has become lost? Today we see the Quran being used by some to justify war and terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The holy texts at the centre of all religious traditions are often employed selectively to underwrite arbitrary and subjective views. They are believed to be divinely ordained; they are claimed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong, a world authority on religious affairs, shows in this fascinating journey through millennia of history, this narrow reading of scripture is a relatively recent phenomenon. For hundreds of years these texts were instead viewed as spiritual tools: scripture was a means for the individual to connect with the divine, to transcend their physical existence, and to experience a higher level of consciousness. Holy texts were seen as fluid and adaptable, rather than a set of binding archaic rules or a 'truth' that has to be 'believed'. Armstrong argues that only by rediscovering an open engagement with their holy texts will the world's religions be able to curtail arrogance, intolerance and violence. And if scripture is used to engage with the world in more meaningful and compassionate ways, we will find that it still has a great deal to teach us.

Religion Vintage Minis

Religion Vintage Minis

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/10/2019

'Because God is infinite, nobody can have the last word' What is this thing, religion, supposedly the cause of bloodshed and warring for centuries? What is 'God' and do we need 'Him' in our modern world? Karen Armstrong looks again at these questions in a refreshing and startling way. God is not to be 'believed in' as a child believes in Santa Claus; religion is not a story to be proven true or false, but a discipline akin to music or art that answers a deeply human need, and can teach us to discover new capacities of mind and heart. Selected from A Case for God, Fields of Blood and The Lost Art of Scripture VINTAGE MINIS- GREAT MINDS. BIG IDEAS. LITTLE BOOKS. A series of short books by the world's greatest writers on the experiences that make us human Also in the Vintage Minis 'Great Ideas' series- Art by Simon Schama Science by Ian McEwan

The Lost Art of Scripture

The Lost Art of Scripture

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/06/2019

'KAREN ARMSTRONG IS A GENIUS' A.N. Wilson 'One of our best living writers on religion' Financial Times 'Karen Armstrong is one of the handful of wise and supremely intelligent commentators on religion' Alain De Botton In our increasingly secular world, holy texts are at best seen as irrelevant, and at worst as an excuse to incite violence, hatred and division. So what value, if any, can scripture hold for us today? And if our world no longer seems compatible with scripture, is it perhaps because its original purpose has become lost? Today we see the Quran being used by some to justify war and terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The holy texts at the centre of all religious traditions are often employed selectively to underwrite arbitrary and subjective views. They are believed to be divinely ordained; they are claimed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong, a world authority on religious affairs, shows in this fascinating journey through millennia of history, this narrow reading of scripture is a relatively recent phenomenon. For hundreds of years these texts were instead viewed as spiritual tools: scripture was a means for the individual to connect with the divine, to transcend their physical existence, and to experience a higher level of consciousness. Holy texts were seen as fluid and adaptable, rather than a set of binding archaic rules or a 'truth' that has to be 'believed'. Armstrong argues that only by rediscovering an open engagement with their holy texts will the world's religions be able to curtail arrogance, intolerance and violence. And if scripture is used to engage with the world in more meaningful and compassionate ways, we will find that it still has a great deal to teach us.

A Short History Of Myth

A Short History Of Myth

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 02/08/2018

As long as we have been human, we have been mythmakers. In A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong holds up the mirror of mythology to show us the history of ourselves, and embarks on a journey that begins at a Neanderthal graveside and ends buried in the heart of the modern novel. Surprising, powerful and profound, A Short History of Myth examines the world's most ancient art form - the making and telling of stories - and why we still need it. The Myths series brings together some of the world's finest writers, each of whom has retold a myth in a contemporary and memorable way. Authors in the series include Karen Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, David Grossman, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Pullman, Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson.

St Paul The Misunderstood Apostle

St Paul The Misunderstood Apostle

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/09/2016

St Paul is known throughout the world as the first Christian writer, authoring fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. But as Karen Armstrong demonstrates in St Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle, he also exerted a more significant influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the world than any other figure in history. It was Paul who established the first Christian churches in Europe and Asia in the first century, Paul who transformed a minor sect into the largest religion produced by Western civilization, and Paul who advanced the revolutionary idea that Christ could serve as a model for the possibility of transcendence. While we know little about some aspects of the life of St Paul - his upbringing, the details of his death - his dramatic vision of God on the road to Damascus is one of the most powerful stories in the history of Christianity, and the life that followed forever changed the course of history.

If We Could Fly

If We Could Fly

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/03/2016

Fields of Blood Religion and the History of Violence

Fields of Blood Religion and the History of Violence

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 24/09/2015

It is the most persistent myth of our time: religion is the cause of all violence. But history suggests otherwise. Karen Armstrong, former Roman Catholic nun and one of our foremost scholars of religion, speaks out to disprove the link between religion and bloodshed. * Religion is as old as humanity: Fields of Blood goes back to the Stone Age hunter-gatherers and traces religion through the centuries, from medieval crusaders to modern-day jihadists. * The West today has a warped concept of religion: we regard faith as a personal and private matter, but for most of history faith has informed people's entire outlook on life, and often been inseparable from politics. * Humans undoubtedly have a natural propensity for aggression: the founders of the largest religions - Jesus, Buddha, the rabbis of early Judaism, the prophet Muhammad - aimed to curb violence and build a more peaceful and just society, but with our growing greed for money and wealth came collective violence and warfare. * With the arrival of the modern all-powerful, secular state humanity's destructive potential has begun to spiral out of control. Is humanity on the brink of destroying itself? Fields of Blood is a celebration of the ancient religious ideas and movements that have promoted peace and reconciliation across millennia of civilization.

St Paul The Misunderstood Apostle

St Paul The Misunderstood Apostle

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Hardback Release Date: 22/09/2015

St Paul is known throughout the world as the first Christian writer, authoring fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. But as Karen Armstrong demonstrates in St Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle, he also exerted a more significant influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the world than any other figure in history. It was Paul who established the first Christian churches in Europe and Asia in the first century, Paul who transformed a minor sect into the largest religion produced by Western civilization, and Paul who advanced the revolutionary idea that Christ could serve as a model for the possibility of transcendence. While we know little about some aspects of the life of St Paul - his upbringing, the details of his death - his dramatic vision of God on the road to Damascus is one of the most powerful stories in the history of Christianity, and the life that followed forever changed the course of history.

St. Paul

St. Paul

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: eBook Release Date: 22/09/2015

St. Paul is known throughout the world as the first Christian writer, authoring fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. But as Karen Armstrong demonstrates in St. Paul: The Apostle We Love to Hate, he also exerted a more significant influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the world than any other figure in history. It was Paul who established the first Christian churches in Europe and Asia in the first century, Paul who transformed a minor sect into the largest religion produced by Western civilization, and Paul who advanced the revolutionary idea that Christ could serve as a model for the possibility of transcendence. While we know little about some aspects of the life of St. Paulhis upbringing, the details of his deathhis dramatic vision of God on the road to Damascus is one of the most powerful stories in the history of Christianity, and the life that followed forever changed the course of history.

The Bible The Biography

The Bible The Biography

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 02/04/2015

The Bible is the most widely distributed book in the world. Translated into over two thousand languages, it is estimated that more than six billion copies have been sold in the last two hundred years alone. In this seminal account, Karen Armstrong traces the gestation of the Bible to reveal a complex and contradictory document created by scores of people over hundreds of years. Karen Armstrong begins her analysis with the origins of the very earliest books of the Hebrew Bible, in which God was called both 'Yahweh' and 'Elohim'. She then traces the development of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament to reveal the disparate influences that helped to form these sacred texts. From the Jewish practice of Midrash and the Christian cult of Jesus; to the influence of Paul's letters on the Reformation and the manipulation of Revelations by Christian fundamentalism, Armstrong explores the contexts in which these sixty-six books were understood and explains the social needs they answered. In the process she reveals an unfamiliar and paradoxical work that will permanently alter our understanding of the Bible.

Fields of Blood

Fields of Blood

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: eBook Release Date: 28/10/2014

From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence. For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisivenesssomething bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world's great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present. While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity's Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faithnot only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaismin its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with plenty powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.Industrialization and modernity have ushered in an epoch of spectacular and unexampled violence, although, as Armstrong explains, relatively little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerenceand what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time.At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong's sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.

Im Namen Gottes

Im Namen Gottes

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: eBook Release Date: 26/09/2014

In ihrem neuen Buch "e;Im Namen Gottes"e; nimmt die Autorin erstmals die Geschichte und Gegenwart von Judentum, Christentum und Islam in Bezug auf religiose Gewalt in den Blick. Karen Armstrong geht den Ursachen dieser Gewalt auf den Grund. Das Ergebnis ihrer Untersuchung: Jahrtausendelang waren Politik und Religion ineinander verwoben. Die Trennung von Politik und Religion in der Neuzeit konnte die Gewalt nicht eindammen. Mit ihrer Analyse schafft Karen Armstrong die Grundlagen fur das Verstandnis der aktuellen internationalen Konflikte, die von politischen, wirtschaftlichen, kulturellen und religiosen Interessen beherrscht sind. "e;Geistreich, informativ und nachdenklich: Karen Armstrong versteht es, komplexe Zusammenhnge einfach darzustellen, aber sie vereinfacht nicht."e; New York Times Book Review

Die Geschichte von Gott

Die Geschichte von Gott

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: eBook Release Date: 01/10/2012

Wer oder wie ist Gott? Die britische Religionswissenschaftlerin zeichnet die faszinierende Entwicklungsgeschichte der Gottes-Suche von den mythologischen Anfangen bis heute nach. Dabei kommt sie zu dem Ergebnis, dass die Menschen zu allen Zeiten das Bild von Gott nach ihren eigenen Bedurfnissen geformt haben. Das gilt fur die drei monotheistischen Religionen - Judentum, Christentum und Islam -, aber auch fur andere religiose Vorstellungswelten.

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 03/03/2011

The foundation stone of Jewish and Christian scriptures, the power of the Book of Genesis lies in its stories - Creation, the Fall, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. These ancient tales illuminate some of our most enduring and profound problems: cowardice, the struggle with evil, the difficulty of facing past mistakes, achieving a true understanding of our innermost selves. Karen Armstrong traces the themes and meanings of these stories, examining what they can still tell us about the human quest for meaning.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/01/2011

Drawing on a wide range of material - ranging from the spiritual character of the world religions to the findings of contemporary neuroscience - Karen Armstrong argues that compassion is hardwired into our brains, yet is constantly pushed back by our more primitive instincts for selfishness and survival. Since time immemorial religion has enhanced our altruistic tendencies: all faiths insist that the Golden Rule is the test of true spirituality - 'Always treat others as you wish to be treated yourself'. Taking as her starting point the teachings of the great world religions, Karen Armstrong demonstrates in twelve practical steps how we can bring compassion to the forefront of our lives. These steps both reveal the inadequacies of our knowledge of ourselves and others and enable us to unlock our potential for understanding, empathy and altruism that can be translated into acts of kindness and charity.They culminate in the most radical and challenging of all religious maxims - love your enemy. Yet in today's world, compassion in no longer a luxury but, in the words of Martin Luther King, 'an absolute necessity for our survival'. Practising these steps will not change our lives overnight and turn us into saints or sages: the attempt to become a more compassionate human being is a lifelong project. Yet Karen Armstrong argues that compassion is inseparable from humanity, and by transcending the limitations of selfishness on a daily basis we will not only make a difference in the world but also lead happier, more fulfilled, lives.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Author: Karen Armstrong Format: eBook Release Date: 28/12/2010

One of the most original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern worldauthor of such acclaimed books as A History of God, Islam, and Buddhanow gives us an impassioned and practical book that can help us make the world a more compassionate place.Karen Armstrong believes that while compassion is intrinsic in all human beings, each of us needs to work diligently to cultivate and expand our capacity for compassion. Here, in this straightforward, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book, she sets out a program that can lead us toward a more compassionate life.The twelve steps Armstrong suggests begin with Learn About Compassion and close with Love Your Enemies. In between, she takes up compassion for yourself, mindfulness, suffering, sympathetic joy, the limits of our knowledge of others, and concern for everybody. She suggests concrete ways of enhancing our compassion and putting it into action in our everyday lives, and provides, as well, a reading list to encourage us to hear one anothers narratives. Throughout, Armstrong makes clear that a compassionate life is not a matter of only heart or mind but a deliberate and often life-altering commingling of the two.From the Hardcover edition.

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