Karen Armstrong quotes

  • We are addicted to our egotism, our likes and dislikes and prejudices, and depend upon them for our own sense of identity.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Identity #Prejudice #Likes

  • Religions have always stressed that compassion is not only central to religious life, it is the key to enlightenment and it the true test of spirituality. But there have always have been those who'd rather put easier goals, like doctrine conformity, in place.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Religious #Compassion #Keys

  • Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair. The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Fall #Men #People

  • [T]he family is a school of compassion because it is here that we learn to live with other people. (68)
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #School #Compassion #People

  • Deeds that seemed unimportant at the time would prove to have been momentous; a tiny act of selfishness and unkindness or, conversely, an unconsidered act of generosity would become the measure of a human life
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Generosity #Selfishness #Deeds

  • Today we often think that before we start living a religious life we have first to accept the creedal doctrines and that before one can have any comprehension of the loyalty and trust of faith, one must first force one's mind to accept a host of incomprehensible doctrines. But this is to put the cart before the horse.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Loyalty #Religious #Horse

  • there is no ascent to the heights without prior descent into darkness, no new life without some form of death.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Darkness #New Life #Ascent

  • Some people simply bury their heads in the sand and refuse to think about the sorrow of the world, but this is an unwise course, because, if we are entirely unprepared, the tragedy of life can be devastating.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Thinking #People #Sorrow

  • Theology is-- or should be-- a species of poetry,which read quickly or encountered in a hubbub of noise makes no sense. You have to open yourself to a poem with a quiet, receptive mind, in the same way you might listen to a difficult piece of music... If you seize upon a poem and try to extort its meaning before you are ready, it remains opaque. If you bring your own personal agenda to bear upon it, the poem will close upon itself like a clam, because you have denied its unique and separate identity, its inviolate holiness.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Unique #Mind #Trying

  • Compassion is the key in Islam and Buddhism and Judaism and Christianity. They are profoundly similar.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Buddhism #Compassion #Keys

  • Compassion is aptly summed up in the Golden Rule, which asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else. Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Pain #Attitude #Heart

  • Theologians in all the great faiths have devised all kinds of myths to show that this type of kenosis, of self-emptying, is found in the life of God itself. They do not do this because it sounds edifying, but because this is the way that human nature seems to work. We are most creative and sense other possibilities that transcend our ordinary experience when we leave ourselves behind.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Self #Creative #Way

  • Creation stories had never been regarded as historically accurate; their purpose was therapeutic. But once you start reading Genesis as scientifically valid, you have bad science and bad religion.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Reading #Purpose #Stories

  • Saint Augustine ... insisted that scripture taught nothing but charity. Whatever the biblical author may have intended, any passage that seemed to preach hatred and was not conducive to love must be interpreted allegorically and made to speak of charity.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Love #Biblical #Hatred

  • There must be no coercion in matters of faith!
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Coercion #Matter

  • 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.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Depressing #Fall #Despair

  • Compassion has been advocated by all the great faiths because it has been found to be the safest and surest means of attaining enlightenment. It dethrones the ego from the center of our lives and puts others there, breaking down the carapace of the selfishness that holds us back from an experience of the sacred. And it gives us ecstasy, broadening our perspectives and giving us a larger, enhanced vision.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Mean #Compassion #Perspective

  • I tremble for our world, where, in the smallest ways, we find it impossible, as Marshall Hodgson enjoined, to find room for the other in our minds. If we cannot accommodate a viewpoint in a friend without resorting to unkindness, how can we hope to heal the terrible problems of our planet? I no longer think that any principle or opinion is worth anything if it makes you unkind or intolerant.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Thinking #Our World #Mind

  • A theology should be like poetry, which takes us to the end of what words and thoughts can do.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Ends #Should #Theology

  • Often when religious leaders come together, they talk about a particular sexual ethic, or an abstruse doctrine, as though this, rather than compassion, was the test of spiritual life.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Spiritual #Religious #Compassion

  • Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Life #Motivation #Pain

  • Religious ideas and practices take root not because they are promoted by forceful theologians, nor because they can be shown to have a sound historical or rational basis, but because they are found in practice to give the faithful a sense of sacred transcendence.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Religious #Practice #Ideas

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

    #Silence #Solitude #Loner

  • 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.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Christian #War #Fighting

  • All religions are designed to teach us how to live, joyfully, serenely, and kindly, in the midst of suffering.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Suffering #Midst #Teach

  • Yet while nature is in constant flux, we always go against the grain and try to freeze our ideas and experiences and make them absolute. It is egotism that makes us identify with one opinion rather than another, become quarrelsome and unkind, say *this* could not mean *that*, and think we have a duty to change others to suit ourselves.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Knowledge #Mean #Thinking

  • Religion is not a nice thing. It is potentially a very dangerous thing because it involves a heady complex of emotions, desires, yearnings and fears.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Nice #Atheism #Desire

  • Even though the discples were not aware of it, the presence was with them while they were reviewing the scriptures together on the road. Henceforth, we will catch only a fleeting glimpse of it -- in the study of sacred writings, in other human beings, in liturgy, and in communion with strangers. But these moments remain us that our fellow men and women are themselves sacred; there is something about them taht is worthy of absolute reverence, is in the last resort mysterious, and we will always elude us.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Writing #Men #Together

  • Buddhists talk about nirvana in very much the same terms as monotheists describe God.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Buddhist #Term

  • If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, of self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Kindness #Compassion #Names

  • Religions don't own compassion; it is a human virtue.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #Virtue #Humans

  • Jesus did not spend a great deal of time discoursing about the trinity or original sin or the incarnation, which have preoccupied later Christians. He went around doing good and being compassionate.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Christian #Jesus #Sin

  • If we don't manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we'll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Motivation #Inspiration #Hands

  • Nirvana is something within you. It is not an external reality. No god thunders down from the mountaintop. Just as the great mystics in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths all discovered, God is within the self. God is virtually inseparable from ourselves.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #God #Christian #Reality

  • Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Reality #Law #Practice

  • Yet a personal God can become a grave liability. He can be a mere idol carved in our own image, a projection of our limited needs. fears and desires. We can assume that he loves what we love and hates what we hate, endorsing our prejudices instead of compelling us to transcend them.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Hate #Idols #Desire

  • Surely it's better to love others, however messy and imperfect the involvement, than to allow one's capacity for love to harden.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Imperfect #Capacity #Messy

  • Compassion is not an option. It's the key to our survival.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #Keys #Survival

  • And sometimes it's the very otherness of a stranger, someone who doesn't belong to our ethnic or ideological or religious group, an otherness that can repel us initially, but which can jerk us out of our habitual selfishness, and give us intonations of that sacred otherness, which is God.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Religious #Giving #Selfishness

  • Each of the world religions has its own particular genius, its own special insight into the nature and requirements of compassion, and has something unique to teach us.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #Unique #Special

  • God [is] not the exclusive property of any one tradition. The divine light [cannot] be confined to a single lamp, belonging to the East or the West, but enlightens all human beings.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Light #East #Lamps

  • If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Art #Self #Our World

  • When you feel compassion, you dethrone yourself from the centre of the world.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #World #Feels

  • There is nothing in Islam that is more violent than Christianity.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Islam #Christianity #Violent

  • 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.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Believe #Giving #Religion

  • ...there is something wrong with any spirituality that does not inspire selfless concern for others
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #Inspire #Selfless

  • A God who kept tinkering with the universe was absurd; a God who interfered with human freedom and creativity was a tyrant. If God is seen as a self in a world of his own, an ego that relates to a thought, a cause separate from its effect, he becomes a being, not Being itself. An omnipotent, all‐knowing tyrant is not so different from earthly dictators who make everything and everybody mere cogs in the machine which they controlled. An atheism that rejects such a God is amply justified.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Creativity #Tyrants #Knowing

  • 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.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Technology #World #Enabling

  • Compassion is a practically acquired knowledge, like dancing. You must do it and practice diligently day by day.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #Practice #Dancing

  • The great task of our time is to build a global society, where people can live together in peace
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #People #Together #Tasks

  • There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there's bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Art #Sex #Cooking

  • Fundamentalists are not friends of democracy. And that includes your fundamentalists in the United States.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Democracy #United States #Not Friends

  • If we want to create a viable, peaceful world, we've got to integrate compassion into the gritty realities of 21st century life.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Compassion #Reality #Peaceful

  • After a time I found that I could almost listen to the silence, which had a dimension all of its own. I started to attend to its strange and beautiful texture, which of course, it was impossible to express in words. I discovered that I felt at home and alive in the silence, which compelled me to enter my interior world and around there. Without the distraction of constant conversation, the words on the page began to speak directly to my inner self. They were no long expressing ideas that were simply interesting intellectually, but were talking directly to my own yearning and perplexity.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Beautiful #Home #Talking

  • We are most creative and sense other possibilities that transcend our ordinary experience when we leave ourselves behind.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Creative #Ordinary #Possibility

  • Mohammed was not an apparent failure. He was a dazzling success, politically as well as spiritually, and Islam went from strength to strength to strength.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Failure #Islam #Wells

  • Respect only has meaning as respect for those with whom I do not agree.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Agree

  • Well, logos is science or reason, something that helps us to function practically and effectively in the world, and it must therefore be closely in tune and reflect accurately the realities of the world around us.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Reality #Tunes #World

  • Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians have insisted for centuries that God does not exist and that there is 'nothing' out there; in making these assertions, their aim was not to deny the reality of God but to safeguard God's transcendence.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Christian #Reality #Doe

  • Compassion is not feeling sorry for others. It's not soft. It requires an intellectual effort.
    -- Karen Armstrong

    #Sorry #Compassion #Effort