>> my dream had been to become in the university with the english literature. even though i was a young girl i've lived away from that experience to have nothing to do with religion ever again. then a series of career disasters occurred one after the other i found myself to my surprise of television presenting programs, a controversial programs that were quite a angry about religion. and that career folded and i wrote to the history of god. but it was a very
informative period because in that time the experience of researching that book completely turned around my outlook on religion. for one thing, i was alone and all of my television friends have noted with me leaving the tv world, i was on my own in silence in a very remote part of london. theology is poetry. and you really can learn or repaid day poem in a night time you have to put yourself for your quiet and receptive. so the silence helps and i found it was adding something and nobody at egging me on to be a rages with the camera. it was just me and the text
that started to speak to me in a different way. and buying countered in a very learned books that glinted the fruit -- french islamist to save history of religion should approach the topic of the silence of compassion and that did not mean in the science of chemistry or physics but knowledge that you arrived at by compassion but to put yourself with the other and you can approach the spiritualities of the past with the superior air is what i have been doing all this time. you have to put yourself on the back burner and in a
scholarly way of reproducing of the circumstances of where you grew up the educational and political and social circumstances and not leave it until you find yourself feeling the same. but in those circumstances, you would have felt the same. and in that way you broaden your horizons and make a place for the other is in your mind and heart. >> host: karen armstrong why did you become a nun? >> guest: i was 17 and you know, how it is when you are young you are very idealistic and stubborn. i would not take advice from my parents. >> host: with a faithful catholics? >> no. they were catholics we were catholic light we would go to church early on sunday to
get it over with. we did go to catholic school because that is what you did. but i you wanted you know, how to adolescence is i thought if i became and then i would be like a buddha and enlightened and inspiring and i'd be tit. -- i would beat it and they all seemed to be cleaning or cooking and scrubbing to look at the men wear the nuns i could see came wonderfully unencumbered where their mind was on higher things. the irony was when i got into the convent all i did for years was scrubbed and cook and clean. [laughter] i was not very good at it.
but it was the next idea and i was a very shy young girl at that point*. clever but emotionally back word. and i was a bit scared to go into the big world but you don't stay in the convent just because you are scared of the outside world then you jump from the frying pan into the south fire it is like boot camp in their but the ada is to train you to be tough, to be a strong woman and that meant you were treated very partially. eventually had to give that up to. >> host: what happened to your spirituality? >> guest: i wanted nothing to do with religion. >> host: atheist? >> guest: probably. but even that sounds rebellious in the hichens
field but to me it was more giving up. i was helpless in the convent in prayer which you can imagine is a drawback for a nine. every morning i would struggle with meditation and completely fail at it. and to open myself to god and he had taken no notice. once i got outside died simply slipped away. matter how much i trying to bring it into my life he seemed to deprive me of him. and it's sort of fell away quite painlessly really. and i just got to leave it that is something i don't want to go back to. >> host: karen armstrong over 20 books on religion and god but later are you spiritually?
>> that answer is convalescence. i am still in recovery but my books but the research i do is my form of spirituality. sometimes when i am sitting at my deck doing the science of compassion and entering into the mind and the thoughts of some of the most wonderful things that have been written, i feel moments of uplift and seconds of transcendence. my jewish friends tell me i should have been a rabbi because that is what they do when they study the torah or the talmud. they don't talk to god. i cannot talk to god but you steady by immersing yourself, you get lifted somehow to a higher plane. also in the benedictine order monks are advised to spend hours every afternoon
with stevin's steady that you e. mercer self in the text and i suppose that is my form of spirituality it cannot see any one of the major religions that is any better than any of the others i don't think any is superior each one has its own particular genius, its own particular take the but we called the sacred and each has its own pataki -- particular falls -- fallback for drawbacks. and missile at the moment it is unorthodox decision but i get nourishment from my studies >> host: what is the most frequent question people ask you? >> guest: what you just
asked. where are you now? they asked me about death a lot. surely you have thought about the afterlife. and i am very conscious now coming into the last phase of my life. so many people i know have died and i seem to be heading up there to be the next in the queue and i have no thoughts about the afterlife. one of the things i have discovered that is not a religious preoccupation really. only christianity and buddhism and islam i should say that have this preoccupation with the afterlife to deism doesn't have said, it is an option. and in the eastern traditions the trick is to banish to have reincarnation but enlightenment means that
you will not be reincarnated or to come back or somewhere where you cannot know and what they say about the afterlife in the bible is it is a later idea and when asked what happened to the faithful when they died, paul said i have not seen nor have i heard nor has it entered into the heart of man what god has prepared for those who love him. i don't know. it is good enough for st. paul's it is good enough for me. my feeling is for what we have is now. this moment is all we're certain of having. so to live as fully and kindly and creatively as you can in that moment, a think constitutes a kind of immortality. >> host: some of the names of her books include a case
for guide, a history of god, the battle for god, faith after september september 11th, i going to the history of god, has mankind always had a spark of thinking there is a higher power? >> guest: a higher power, no. that puts it in a western and modern way but with transcendence our mind is so constructed that we naturally ticked into experiences and ideas we can explain. we looked at all kinds of sinews and art, music, and there is that moment at the end of the concert when the last note of the symphony die away and there is often a full beats of silence in the concert hall before the
applause starts. and you cannot put it into words what you feel. that is something we have and people look for it in all kinds of outlets. religion has been one of those and it has always expressed itself best in terms of art, poetry, song art, poetry, song, and music, architecture. and painting. and words as long as they fade away with the list -- the last bits of the symphony for a moment did should put you into that beats of silence that you have come to the end of what thoughts and words can do. and we seek these moments out because we feel we are inhabiting a humanity more than usual. you cannot say what it is. that is what we have that is
how our minds are. and we're also creatures that worry. we have great anxiety. when dogs don't have anxiety of the canine tradition of what will happen to them in the afterlife for the plight of dogs and the other part of the world but we do and we can fall easily into despair if we cannot find meaning in our lives and that quest for some kind of meaning goes right back to the caves in southern france where you have art, and religion, hard work if you ever go anywhere near those caves to get into pain to those is about 1 mile into the mountain. 1 mile underground and very dangerous cold and frightening and we see those caves paintings more clearly
than they ever would because they were just working with flickering little matches. but they were creating, dealing with the perplexity of how you live with the fact you have to kill other creatures without the beautiful animals that stone age man who had not developed agriculture entirely dependent upon and looking at these gods -- animals as a guide to honor them because it was the whole perplexity through march so that is what we have always done but it is hard work and not just a question of popping into church or that you will get enlightenment instantly as i thought i would as a young girl. it requires a constant beyond going of selfishness. >> host: what is the
history, a terrible question but organized religion. when did it begin? >> guest: i would say looking back maybe when we start having cities and states. pre-history because we don't know how they organize things that once you have the organization of a state state, and many states with the beginnings of agricultural settlements, that is in viewed with religion until the modern period every single political organization or political ideology was infused with religion. there was no part of life that was cut off as we do in the modern period or cordoned off for religion. the romans had no idea of religion in our sense of private activity. nor was religion for the greeks or romans confined at
certain times of the day or one day of the week it just in fused everything but in the modern period to take religion out it is like taking the agenda out of the cocktail. it has defused everything now we try to extract it. there are good reasons for that but if you have people living together they struggle with the difficulties of living together and the difficulties to have enough to live on as a community organizing the economy, warfare with the rival communities wanting your resources. and religion gets and becomes part of the apparatus of the ancient state. >> host: one of the similarities, karen armstrong is long and christianity and judaism?
>> guest: they all were shipped the same god and the latest is very clear with islam with the curve on that you cannot be a muslim unless you also are a believer of jesus and abraham and moses and all the great profits of the past. and did they all are a faith that sense the divine in the workings of history. but somehow the defined is known in current events it is not like a buddhist where you extract yourself from history or the hindu that say it is just a passing it is femoral to have nothing to take us but jews and christians all steady it very hard but it is like political commentators. they are very much commenting on the turbulent
history of the middle east to look at the great empires in the political problems and trying to find the hand of god and islam is the same throughout their history, muslims have agonized about the state of the muslim community which is suppose to be just and decent society. when they see their community in the hands of corrupt and effective leaders, or they see their community defamed by foreign people or humiliated or disgraced, they can have this same kind of dismay as a christian who sees the bible desecrated. all the early days of islam the great spirituality
spirituality, jurisprudence spirituality, jurisprudence, philosophy, they all develop from a political contemplation of the present. how to refined god or how do we serve god in these particular circumstances? >> host: does that lead to fundamentalism when people are upset? >> guest: no. upset, yes. every fundamentalist started in those three religions have begun what is perceived to be the secular or liberal establishment. christianity for example, begins in the united states in the north in chicago for in fact, when the liberal members of the chicago divinity school at university attack the moody institute a much more conservative school on the obverse side of town to tell them that they are on the side of the germans and they
hit back and that is when it begins. and it is very much a response to modernization and that is difficult. we have got through to the other side of it, but it took us 300 years in europe to develop this society. and it was a time of great turbulence with wars of religion, bloody revolutions , followed by dictatorships, followed by the abuse of children and women in the factories, the countryside and now we look at other parts of the world going to the same process and we see bloody revolutions revolutions, dictatorships, wars in religion and reins of tear. with modernization is not just getting a few skyscrapers or fighter jets
or computers but to reorganize your entire society over a different economy. >> host: karen armstrong you have also written about the city of jerusalem. why is jerusalem, jerusalem? >> guest: why is it such a problem? >> host: why did it become the place where three of the major religions of the world of all claims the conflicts there? >> guest: we are talking about the concentration on history and historical events. the fact that the jews were key to the people of israel with their history in biblical times, and that jesus died there for example. may have made it to a central place. the cultivation of a holy place is one of the oldest and most universal forms of
religious expression and a poker match to a holy place that you find in every culture. and, before we had our world scientifically mapped we had a sacred geography where certain places where absolutely central to us to gave us our sense of the world and where we are. with islam, the holy city because it was home to christians and jews and the profits celebrated and with the muslim in jerusalem he would have shrines dedicated to the profits of israel, as well as for muhammed. again it is a sense of expressing the sense of continuity with the past.
of it becomes a contest in place when it belongs to them and that is the issue. the definition it doesn't belong to anyone. it belongs to god. and somehow you have to negotiate that and it is part of that universal urge to center self were jews and christians to pray in the direction of jerusalem and of the church is oriented to face jerusalem people die and are buried facing jerusalem as it were it is so rare what is my orientation and where am i headed? when muslims turn five times a day.
>> the action is it says wear my going with my life? really? me interrupt a reordering to point* yourself in the direction wray you feel you should be doing it is a reminder of what your priorities are. that is something that occurs in every phase just a reminder wear my headed where is my true center? >> host: we're visiting london talking with british authors. today is speenine. you'll -- over 20 books on religion on booktv and c-span2. what your thoughts of the process of the pope? >> guest: i was watching it last night thinking there was a simpler way to do this but perhaps that is not very kind.
who has really found a decent way to elect people? they always have problems with notes or counting things. the process is what it is. my feeling is it won't make much difference who was elected because i think the last two popes have been very conservative with john paul has had a long time to plant conservative bishops and cardinals so i think it will be one of those. but some who have been catholics or a professional x catholic and stacey that but i don't at all and i am very grateful to the catholic church for the
ritual and i have a much more catholics sold and protestant to take scripture much more likely -- lightly than the protestant. and i find now they have lost it of course, the duty that i learned as a young nun. it isn't a spiritual thing it is something that i am very grateful for, but when it comes to the vatican my heart just sinks there have been all these scandals, as the sex abuse cases, i wish we could have a pope that would come out to say look, we really have lost the flock in the recent years with the sex abuse has to stop. we have to speak kindly and look with contrition at the things that the church has done to people and persecuted in the past and
it lets us repellent and move forward to the rest of humanity and reach out that is the challenge of the world i think for religious people not to be stock in your own little box but to deal with the fact that we're sharing the world that many people are different from us unless we learn to treat -- treat one another with greater respect and compassion we will not have a viable world. however separate and special we think we are we cannot live without one another. we are interdependent as never before the when stocks fall in one part of the
world the stocks plummet all over the globe but in london and new york and also the world wide web so what happens in afghanistan today could have repercussions in new york tomorrow. and to with this interlinking or interdependence so too caught up with us yet. we still think we can sit back from a call and we are separate and we don't achieve a global outlook the world would come to us. >> host: one of your most recent books is called a letter to pakistan.
what is that about? >> guest: i go to pakistan a great deal. they treat me like a rock star there because of the western voice i think. and i won the prize in 2008 that gives you the wish for a better world that i suggested the compassion that was written by a leading activist and thinkers of the six major world space as a sign despite their many differences can only of the compassion and "the golden rule" we were all in agreement to right this together for a better world. one of the people it is from pakistan which is one of the leaders i went in 2011 in the most compassionate schedule i was talking
literally by the thousands so when i came out there the young businessman your book the 12 steps to a compassionate life is an important book and very expensive. can you persuade your publisher to waive their rights and pakistan so it can be sold cheap or else let the oxford university press which has a huge franchise in pakistan on do a cheap edition? they will not agree to that when health freezes over. but i said at a weak moment i heard these words coming not of my mouth and i try to breed them back but perhaps i could write a little book especially for pakistan. so doing the 12 steps from a
pakistan me and islam perspective. so that is what it was. said at the end of the book we invited scholars and journalists to comment on it i said this is your letter and you make of it as you wish. so actually than my publisher then said of course, we would waive their rights so of course, it is cheaper addition of the 12 steps. >> host: y 12 steps? >> guest: alcoholics anonymous, of course. because compassion requires "the golden rule" never treat others as you would not be treated yourself and requires that you look into your own heart and discover what gives you pain and then any circumstances do not
afflict this pain and anyone else. the confucius' the first person to enunciate the golden rule as far as we know said you do it all day every day. year in england we have a habit of saying when we have done some good -- something nice for somebody so say that is my good deed for the day so like the other 23 hours you could be selfless -- selfish see you have to lay aside your ego but we are addicted to the ego. sweeney to be or we would not survive as a species but so to the likes and dislikes we don't know what we would do without them we are a foil to our own sense of our on self we're everything those people are not.
so i depend upon them like the on call it depends upon the drink and if you say something vital about your ex-wife or your unpleasant boss or people with him you're at war and you can get a buzz or a rush of righteousness just as the first drink of the day if you are an alcoholic and gives you that kind of rush and a moment we can only weaner soc from that as they do in alcoholics anonymous, a day by day day, step-by-step, gradually incorporating more empathic ways of living into your daily living. i believe really why i have a sense of urgency about
this is that as implement the goal -- golden rule globally to treat all people of whoever they are that the world will not be a little place. >> host: another one of your books is faith after 9/11, we were told by many politicians in the states we were not at a board necessarily with islam but islamic terrorists. >> guest: i would say if the word islamic terrorist is not really a valid. these people are not muslims. they are criminals, the people who do these acts are criminal acts and when they say is monetarism you get a sense that islam they could segue easily. it is not so.
also the discourse is really very scary in the west sometimes i am asked to write a piece something comes up in the news. to say what the islamic position is and the volume of hate mail is shocking. this time last year i was in canada and global mail asked me to do a piece on islam also be in canada. my house were absolutely appalled with the first 500 letters that were threatening and these are not religious fanatics i write for a good liberal paper in london and people would say they will come
burn down your house. and all of this hate goes right down the web is a gift to the extremist who can point* to the disaffected followers to say they hate is on and our profit they can read -- could never reach accommodation so warfare is the only way that we have. so of course, the administration was careful to say this is not a war against religion but it has segued into that in people's minds i wish the media could do a better job to publish tough -- stuff to go against the grain to give a better perspective. muslims are working more energetically than christians or jews.
past to be said. the largest organization in the u.s.a. and canada as of last september introducing compassion into their own schools, training the leaders of tomorrow, setting up mosques said are gender friendly andy friendly and discussion of communities no religion is perfect. we all have the malcontent and the criminals. and the sooner we separate the criminals and also see where they're coming from. not just a few from islam. they have been doing this for the last 1500 years.
where in fact, islam has a better record -- a better record than western christianity over the last 100 years. and the disruption of colonialism with these unfortunate moments have arisen. but to be appalled by the events of september 11th as are we. >> host: three final questions. >> guest: if people wish to contact you do you have a web site? >> the best place is to go to. [inaudible] >> host: the professor has been part of the series year end 2011 and i take on the
bible but he said in his interview he has friends in high authority in the church of england that don't believe the resurrection happened. did it happen? >> guest: looks. the gospel does not tell us a man walks out of a tomb. people have a very simplified view of what the resurrection is. the gospels only tell us of people's experiences. they have apparitions. this is not a corpse watching a lot of the tomb because jesus is here one minute then disappears the next. then they see him in another person and this story of the road is instructed here. the story that disciples'
just after the crucifixion and it is important they not tell which to because it is all of us. they are walking along and they are distressed and a stranger walks beside them and says you seem very upset and anything i can do to help? i always think it is just as well that the disciples were british because they would have said no. thank you. we are absolutely fine and that would have been the end. [laughter] but instead they opened their vulnerability to this stranger and they say we thought he was our messiah and he has been crucified. the stranger could have laughed at them to say you thought that for sap was a messiah and made them feel worse but they opened themselves to him. and as they walk along he opens the scripture and says to realize it away said that
the messiah will suffer but nothing that he would make any such claim but this stranger, they allow this stranger to change their view of religion and they come along at the end of the evening, stay with us and he comes in and he breaks the bread. at that moment he vanishes human bodies just don't do that. he vanishes and they say that our hearts and burned within us as we walked along the way. what to luke is saying, i think, how we know the risen christ is first in the scripture discussing it with one another when two or three gather in my name there i am in the midst of them. in the eucharist of the
breaking of the bread and in the stranger, opening yourself to the stranger which is what the jews and pagans and gentiles we're doing in the communities communities, and mixed communities of jews and gentiles learning to live with one another and learning to accommodate one another, learning about their difficulties and electing their egos go a bit. we read scriptures and judds -- just the end imaginative way that is now with the agent writers who would have thought here is the cut and dried view of history. the gospel is a call to action and luke is here to give a call to action this is what you want to do if you want to know the risen jesus. paul says and he talks about
visions and none of this appears in the gospel he appeared first to peter, and then james and finally to me. equating his own vision on the road to damascus to see the apostles. they are visions. it doesn't stop there. right now our lives change but it is a call or a summoned to change your life to a new kind of life, to live according to a new kind of humanity that jesus try to sketch out. >> host: finally, karen armstrong white you think your book sells so well in the u.s.? >> guest: dell sol so well here wait till you. i am a profit not recognized in her own country but there is a great hunter in the u.s. and i am a bit -- they are very interested in religion and a great curious ness but over
here people think christians in america are fundamentalist hand of clapping saying how laelia. i say not at all. very exciting things are happening people of very, very open they want things to make sense and they very generously try a in that conversation. >> host: we have been talking with author karen armstrong on booktv on c-span2. in london.
>> first on my list i already read the first chapter is called eating animals. my daughter read it who is an environmental studies major and interested in the whole food movement and fighting against saturated food. i eats meat i eat chicken and seafood i may come away from this book not wanting to eat any of fatter be more selective but i know he is a very compelling writer and i am looking forward to that. next on my list is a tribute to my son the new biography of david foster wallace called every love story is a go story i hear it is very well researched. a professor from the college were my son graduated and he is a big fan. he was regarded by many to
be one of the most interesting and creative -- creative writers of his era tragically killed himself a few years ago and i am very interested in what happened in his life. i know he had many struggles and i loved biographies. that is my biography for the summer. next is a book by a friend of mine called our commonwealth. he sadly passed away two years ago without having finished the books of his friends came together to pull together his essays all about the comments which is basically anything that belongs to humanity, the air, water, public spaces spaces, internet to a and one of his purposes was to protect the commons to make sure it is not taken over by private enterprise. that is very much on my list
and i have heard it is very interesting. last, a fiction, then new book called and the mountains echoed. i read the first two books. this is my little way to go to afghanistan without getting on the plane. it is a intergenerational family and i think he is a wonderful writer. i plan to cry and just enjoy every minute of its. thank you. >> talk about the importance of continents in the united states senator but being a woman and how important it is to feature women leaders or business owners.
>> i encourage young women to be involved and stepup frankly. i always say to graduating class is, i could never have imagined i would be in the united states senate when i was in your position in either. but we have open the possibility to do that because it is critical to have those examples of governing institutions and all places are important to have of women in our population and the second part is they bring a different experience and that is also important to have that voice at the table. i encourage them to think of it as a possibility in the future and when the choices present them self even as i was passionate about politics of public office i could come to washington washington, you always have
to go against the grain that is what it is. that is what i always did and i felt so strongly about the things that i believed in. so that made changes of policy with the direct correlation. i love the fact even today with the disclosure of the nih excusing -- excluding women in clinical study chiles, to this day it is so revealing and life-saving discoveries and that is so important to cause and effect to have women participate in the process of what evolves from its. to new talk about title ix, i was talking the other day
who was a beneficiary i said i love the fact you have young women who are so active that have no second thought about that their active in sports because for so long they were treated equally. >> host: it is fascinating those rights and responsibilities when those protections came during, many during you're for decades of service that you're there at a formative period with people when men younger than you would take for granted you were a witness to the challenges and women especially should read about the fights you had to reach on behalf of women. i also loved an anecdote about your much revered senator from maine to gave a speech called the declaration of conscience
about mccarthyism in june of 1950 as a finance year and a political consultant who said if the man had made the declaration of conscience he would be the next president of the united states. you mentioned in the book talking about hillary rodham clinton who is an old friend as an extraordinary role model because your husband served as governors together did they sit next to each other? that is how they sit. >> it was so serendipitous serendipitous, you were old friends and colleagues and said the united states is ready for a woman president. i have to ask you of the great many women whether or
not you want her to run our would support her with enduring respect for her service and whenever wraps her up in the current benghazi excitement when you look at the future and think the country is ready, would you as a republican and sit it out? >> that is too far down to speculate that if hillary wanted to run she should. she did say -- set an example of how a woman can run for public office so she broke down that barrier single-handedly and as she chooses to do that many women will embrace her candidacy.
but i think her country is prepared to have a woman president so what they're able to accomplish to dispel any notion that a woman could not be prepared even though she did not win the primary but by virtue how she conducts herself she has basically eradicated any fears how a woman would handle herself. >> host: as those delightful anecdotes in the book but one of my favorites and how frequently the senators got together this set a precedent and you're also dine with the female justices that i have never known before that i thought
was wonderful. and really that is another reason to dauphin not only the way things used to be but how women lookout for each other in positions of power and it is bipartisan and the way you talk about hillary clinton and your friendship that formed before she was in the senate is a unique connection. that is very interesting. you want to tell them there is a way out even if it is not near term there is a path to unity and future for the congress diminished polarization in the future
if steps are taken in the meantime. you list them in the book book, you have recommendations for the five day workweek, and the annual budget, in the bi panel -- by annual budget of a bipartisan leadership committee that means they have to lead the congress to get out of their own partisan leadership. no budget, no pay that its members are derelict they will not collect their own paycheck. that is more open of an amendment process and to return this is so critical they you cannot throw off the emergency super committee sequester bill at the last minute everything has to go back and the leadership pacs to be abolished may be your only one of five without wine.
so with the open primary i am a big believer of that and of the commissions of the state legislators on redistricting and it is important for americans to read your book especially on the chapter on all of these political is so if they don't know about redistricting or how huge they swing every election cycle and 79 percent of us should not giving get in the car because it is already decided. you have all the rights ideas and if you can share the outline in your book. you have a great anecdote but where do you get the establishment or the incumbents the crusty old
system that might seem new but is so set weird you get them to throw away the leadership back to change? >> if anybody had to stand down both sides of the aisle that is the key. any changes on campaign finance reform has to be a level playing field on both sides. that is what we have to orchestrate with mccain-feingold that was my provision that was struck down with citizens united but it was even-handed. if bull's-eyes had to do it, that is one less level of financing of raising money. think about it. in the house of representatives overwhelming the majority has a leadership pac but it is another avenue to get money to candidates at a much higher level than the individual with the point*
being not only raising money for their own campaign, they also have to raise this money for the leadership pac because it is expected that you will raise some much money and. >> if you want to be in power than you are expected. >> guest: it takes so much time and is another huge distraction. years ago when members of congress would be paid for speeches and so the whole schedule would revolve around the days they would give speeches on monday to friday battle to man they came to the conclusion that we could stop these and had an impact because then they had the people back in town. doing what they were supposed to do. that was one less level of raising money. because that is a huge time consuming effort and not too