Karen Armstrong

We must make religion a power that is conducive to peace.

Founder of The Charter for Compassion

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Karen Armstrong | Founder of The Charter for Compassion
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Karen Armstrong is the most original and inclusive speaker on the role of religion in the modern world. Her bestselling books, including A History of God, and sought-after talks examine the differences and the profound similarities between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and their impact on world events.

 

“She is perhaps the world’s best-known living writer on religion.”

Globe and Mail

As a result of her 2008 TED Prize, Karen Armstrong has set out to create The Charter for Compassion, a universal framework for understanding religion based on the principles of justice and respect; to complete it, she has reached out to the UN and to thousands of religious leaders. “We need to create a new narrative, get out of the rat-run of hatred, chauvinism and defensiveness; and make the authentic voice of religion a power in the world that is conducive to peace.”

 

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. Her most recent book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, has been called “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” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). 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.”

In 2013, Karen won the inaugural  British Academy Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding. The jury awarded the £25,000 prize in recognition of her body of work that has made a  significant contribution to understanding the elements of overlap and  commonality in different cultures and religions.   

Speech Topics

Social Science
12 Steps to a Compassionate Life

One of the most original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world—author of such acclaimed books as A History of God, Islam, and Buddha—now gives us an impassioned and practical talk that can help us make the world a more compassionate place. Karen Armstrong believes that while compassion is intrinsic in all human beings, each of us needs to work diligently to cultivate and expand our capacity for compassion. Here, in this straightforward, thoughtful, and thought-provoking talk, she sets out a program that can lead us toward a more compassionate life.

 
Religion
The Great Transformation

From Karen Armstrong, the bestselling author of A History of God and The Spiral Staircase, comes this extraordinary investigation of a critical moment in the evolution of religious thought. In the ninth century BCE, events in four regions of the civilized world led to the rise of religious traditions that have endured to the present day—the development of Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism in Israel, and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Armstrong, one of our most prominent religious scholars, examines how these traditions began in response to the violence of their time. Studying figures as diverse as the Buddha and Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah, Armstrong reveals how these still enduring philosophies can help address our contemporary problems.

 
Religion
The Spiral Staircase

In 1962, at age seventeen, Karen Armstrong entered a convent, eager to meet God. After seven brutally unhappy years as a nun, she left her order to pursue English literature at Oxford. But convent life had profoundly altered her, and coping with the outside world and her expiring faith proved to be excruciating. Her deep solitude and a terrifying illness—diagnosed only years later as epilepsy—marked her forever as an outsider. In her own mind she was a complete failure: as a nun, as an academic, and as a normal woman capable of intimacy. Her future seemed very much in question until she stumbled into comparative theology. What she found, in learning, thinking, and writing about other religions, was the ecstasy and transcendence she had never felt as a nun. Gripping, revelatory, and inspirational, this talk is an extraordinary account of an astonishing spiritual journey.

 
Religion
The Case for God
In this talk, Karen Armstrong gives a nuanced exploration of the part that religion plays in human life, drawing on the insights of the past in order to build a faith that speaks to the needs of our dangerously polarized age. Moving from the Paleolithic age to the present, Karen Armstrong details the great lengths to which humankind has gone in order to experience a sacred reality that it called by many names, such as God, Brahman, Nirvana, Allah, or Dao. Focusing especially on Christianity but including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese spiritualities, Armstrong examines the diminished impulse toward religion in our own time, when a significant number of people either want nothing to do with God or question the efficacy of faith. Why has God become unbelievable? Why is it that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God in a way that veers so profoundly from the thinking of our ancestors? Answering these questions with the same depth of knowledge and profound insight that have marked all her acclaimed books, Armstrong makes clear how the changing face of the world has necessarily changed the importance of religion at both the societal and the individual level.