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Karen Armstrong (REBROADCAST)

Former nun Karen Armstrong makes a deeply felt argument rooted in history, and a lifetime of learning, and drawing on religions from all over the world.

We’re reaching back into the archive to 2009 to bring you a powerful talk by Karen Armstrong, originally broadcast in 2016.  

Armstrong has written 30 books on faith and the major religions, studying what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and how these faiths shaped world history and drive current events. A former nun, Armstrong wrote her first book, Through the Narrow Gate, about her seven years in a convent, and then later, The Spiral Staircase, about her subsequent spiritual awakening. 

She first rose to prominence with her book A History of God in 1993 and later landed on the bestseller list with her book Islam: A Short History, which was published in 2000, one year before the 9/11 attacks.  

Armstrong came to Portland in 2009 to talk about her book The Case for God.  She makes a deeply felt argument for faith not based in absolutes, which she argues leads to violence, but in compassion and acceptance, and for a view of God, regardless of the religion, that accepts our limits of our own knowledge.  Rooted in history, and a lifetime of learning, and drawing on religions from all over the world, this is a fascinating talk that was urgent in 2009, and remains urgent today. 


A former Catholic nun who left the convent to study literature, Karen Armstrong is an authority on world faiths, religious fundamentalism, and monotheism. Her poignant and captivating talks, spark worldwide debate and healthy discussion. Armstrong’s bestselling books include The Battle for God, The Spiral Staircase, The Great Transformation, and The Bible: A Biography. Publishers Weekly called her book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, “Provocative and supremely readable…[Armstrong] sweeps through religious history around the globe and over 4,000 years to explain the yoking of religion and violence and to elucidate the ways in which religion has also been used to counter violence.” She was a key advisor on Bill Moyers’ landmark PBS series on religion, has addressed members of the U.S. Congress, and was one of three scholars to speak at the UN’s first ever session on religion. The Sunday Times calls her “a bridge between religions.”