K. Armstrong on S. Harris & Bill Maher: “It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps”


Sam Harris, Karen Armstrong, Bill Maher (Credit: Knopf/Michael Lionstar/HBO)
Blaming religion for violence, says Karen Armstrong, allows us to dismiss the violence we’ve exported worldwide


By Michael Schulson|Salon

Karen Armstrong has written histories of Buddhism and Islam. She has written a history of myth. She has written a history of God. Born in Britain, Armstrong studied English at Oxford, spent seven years as a Catholic nun, and then, after leaving the convent, took a brief detour toward hard-line atheism. During that period, she produced writing that, as she later described it, “tended to the Dawkinsesque.”

Since then, Armstrong has emerged as one of the most popular — and prolific — writers on religion. Her works are densely researched, broadly imagined and imbued with a sympathetic curiosity. They deal with cosmic topics, but they’re accessible enough that you might (just to give a personal example) spend 15 minutes discussing Armstrong books with a dental hygienist in the midst of a routine cleaning.

In her new book, “Fields of Blood,” Armstrong lays out a history of religious violence, beginning in ancient Sumer and stretching into the 21st century. Most writers would — wisely — avoid that kind of breadth. Armstrong harnesses it to a larger thesis. She suggests that when people in the West dismiss violence as a backward byproduct of religion, they’re being lazy and self-serving. Blaming religion, Armstrong argues, allows Westerners to ignore the essential role that violence has played in the formation of our own societies — and the essential role that our societies have played in seeding violence abroad.

Reached by phone in New York, Armstrong spoke with Salon about nationalism, Sept. 11 and the links between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

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1 Comment

  1. Ganz herrlich ist der Satz zu Armstrongs Werken: „They deal with cosmic topics, but they’re accessible enough that you might (just to give a personal example) spend 15 minutes discussing Armstrong books with a dental hygienist in the midst of a routine cleaning.“ Schöner könnte man das intellektuelle Niveau nicht demonstrieren. Ein Dentist diskutiert mit einem Nicht-Dentisten auf der Basis von „accessible knowledge“, das eine religiös determinierte Nicht-Wissenschaftlerin zusammenstellte, „kosmische Fragen“. Und gleich „kosmisch“, darunter machen wir es nicht! „Oh mein Gott“, ist man versucht rufen. Das Magazin „Salon“ ist übrigens für seinen schleimigen Opportunismus bekannt.

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