Excellent interview with Bill Moyers
Excellent interview with Bill Moyers...
She was a spark plug in my PBS series on Genesis, her books are best sellers, "The History of God", "The Battle for God", "Jerusalem". She's written a biography of Buddha, and a short history of Islam. Soon we'll have her new memoir of her life after the convent where she spent seven years as a nun. Joining me now is one of the world's foremost students of religion, Karen Armstrong. Thank you. KAREN ARMSTRONG:
Thank you Bill.BILL MOYERS:
If you were God, would you do away with religion?ARMSTRONG:
Well, there are some forms of religion that must make God weep. There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there's bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too. Religion that has concentrated on egotism, that's concentrated on belligerence rather than compassion.MOYERS:
And so much of religion has been the experience of atrocity.ARMSTRONG:
But then you have to remember that this is what human beings do. Secularism has shown that it can be just as murderous, just as lethal, uh, as religion. Now I think one of the reasons why religion developed in the way that it did over the centuries was precisely to curb this murderous bent that we have as human beings.MOYERS:
You get September 11th ... you get the Crusades, you get ... do you remember the young Orthodox Jew who assassinated Itzhak Rabin? I can see him right now, looking into the camera, and he says, everything I did, I did for ... ARMSTRONG:
For God. MOYERS:
... for the glory of God. ARMSTRONG:
Yes. Yes. Well, this is ... this is bad religion. Compassion is not a popular virtue. Very often when I talk to religious people, and mention how important it is that compassion is the key, that it's the sine-qua-non of religion, people look kind of balked, and stubborn sometimes, as much to say, what's the point of having religion if you can't disapprove of other people? And sometimes we use religion just to back up these unworthy hatreds, because we're frightened too. MOYERS:
There's great fear. We fear that if we're not in control, other people will cut us down to size, and so we hit out first.
From the beginning, violence was associated with religion, but the advanced religions, and I'm talking about Buddhism, Hinduism, monotheism, the Hebrew prophets, they insisted that you must transcend this violence, you must not give in to this violence, but you must learn to recognize that every single other human being is sacred. MOYERS:
That's what we're taught when ... growing up, you know, Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. But as soon as they grow up, they go for each other's throats. ARMSTRONG:
Yes. And a lot of this talk about love and compassion can be on the rather sloppy level. Or rather easy, facile level, where compassion is hard. It's nothing to do with feeling. It's about feeling with others. Learning to put yourself in the position of another person. There were years in my life when I was eaten up with misery and anger, I was sick of religion but when I got to understand what religion was really about, uh, not about dogmas, not about propping up the church, not about converting other people to your particular wavelength, but about getting rid of ego and approaching others in reverence, I became much happier.
But you have to go a long journey, a journey that takes you away from selfishness, from greed. And that leads you to value the sacredness in all others. I'm thinking of Abraham in Genesis