Evidence; A Red Herring?


Nineteenth Annual Darwin College Lecture Series 2004


Lecture 2   :   23 January 2004

Karen Armstrong





Karen Armstrong spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, but then left her teaching order in 1969. She studied English Literature at the University of Oxford, earning the degrees of B.A. and M.Litt.. Since then she has taught modern literature at the University of London, and headed the English department in a girls' public school. In 1982, she became a full time writer and broadcaster.

Her television work has included The First Christian, a six-part documentary series on St. Paul, which she wrote and presented [1984] and two interview series: Varieties of Religious Experience [1984] and Tongues of Fire [1985]. She now regularly appears on radio and television to comment on religious affairs in England and the United States, and is a frequent contributor to conferences, panels, newspapers and periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic.

For ten years, Karen Armstrong taught part time at the Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism and the Training of Rabbis and Teachers.

Her books include: Through the Narrow Gate, an autobiographical work [1981]; The Gospel According to Woman [1986]; Holy War, The Crusades and their Impact on Today's World [1988]; Muhammad, A Biography of the Prophet [1991]; A History of God [1993], which became an international bestseller; Jerusalem, One City, Three Faiths [1996]; and In the Beginning, A New Interpretation of Genesis [1996]; The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism [2000]; and Islam, A Short History [2000] Her books have been translated into forty languages.

Her most recent book is a short biography entitled Buddha for the Penguin Lives series, which was published in February 2001, and immediately became a bestseller in the United States.

Since September 11th, however, she has become chiefly known for her work on Islam and Fundamentalism, particularly in the United States. Islam and The Battle for God immediately became national bestsellers there, and she was given more time on the American media than almost any other scholar in the field. She has addressed members of the United States Congress on three occasions, has participated in the World Economic Forum in New York and Davos, and was one of three scholars invited to speak in the United Nations in the first session ever devoted to religion in that body. She has also advised members of the Canadian parliament on relations with the Islamic world. In June 2002, she gave the keynote address at the annual convention of the American Muslim Council.

She is at present working on a history of the Axial Age, the period when all the major world religions came into being, a short book entitled A History of Myth, which will be published in the Autumn of 2003. 

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