Photo: Robin Holland

Karen Armstrong

Religious Thinker

Best-selling author Karen Armstrong has dedicated her life to the study of religion, earlier from inside the walls of a convent during her seven years as a Catholic nun and now as an author of books on the world’s faiths.

A prominent scholar of religion and society, Armstrong left a British convent to pursue a degree in modern literature at Oxford. In 1982, she wrote a book about her convent years, Through the Narrow Gate, which angered Catholics worldwide. Her subsequent book, The Spiral Staircase, discusses her spiritual awakening after leaving the convent, when she began to develop her iconoclastic take on the great monotheistic religions.

She has written more than 20 books examining the commonalities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and their effect on world events, including the best-selling A History of God, Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World and The Bible: A Biography. Her latest book is Twelve Steps To A Compassionate Life (2010).

Armstrong is a recipient of the 2008 TED Prize. Her TED wish was to create a Charter for Compassion that would be written by leading thinkers across a variety of major faiths to restore compassion to the heart of religious and moral life. Launched in November 2009, religious leaders across the globe are now working to translate the Charter into practical action.