Thursday, January 20, 2011

AN Wilson Reviews Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life"

In the Financial Times, AN Wilson reviews Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, 224 pages, ($13.73 in hardcover on Amazon).

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Review by AN Wilson

Published: January 7 2011

An interfaith rally in Manila

Representatives of the Catholic, Buddhist and Muslim faiths at a prayer rally, Manila University, October 2007

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, by Karen Armstrong, The Bodley Head, RRP£12.99, 224 pages

The religious slanging match that divides the media of the western world – Dawkins v Creation, Allah v Hitchens, however you like to define it – disguises the actual state of play in the world at large. Many regular attenders at synagogue or church are agnostic in belief. And many non-practisers of a faith recognise the truth and sagacity of the greatest religious texts of the world.

Karen Armstrong, who has been a Roman Catholic nun, and then a non-believer, and then a sort of theist, is now an ambassador for all that is best in the great religions of the world. She is a guide for those who want to be more compassionate without subscribing to some of the more arcane doctrines and propositions of organised religion. She quotes with approval the Dalai Lama’s saying: “Whether a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being.”

Lately, Karen Armstrong won a prize from TED, the lecture and conference organisation committed to “ideas worth spreading” (the letters stand for technology, entertainment and design). Now, with the help of those who could be called, in a benign sense, the usual suspects – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Rabbi Julia Neuberger et al – Armstrong has launched her Charter for Compassion. This book is a distillation of 12 steps that readers can follow to become more compassionate persons and hence, it is to be hoped, the moulders of a more compassionate world.

Read the whole review.

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