On April 18th I am going to hear Karen Armstrong speak at an Action for Happiness event. I was not aware of who she was before I was sent the details of the talk. What a fascinating woman and what a mission she is on. I watched a video of her speaking and it really resonated with some of the things I had been mulling over myself for a while.
She is a former nun who believes that religion has been hijacked and at the same time that the central tenet of the main religions has great relevance for society. According to her, that message is compassion.
She talks about Christianity, Judaism and Islam and describes how each of them has a similar core principle of compassion which boils down to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ or on the flip side ‘ don’t do to anyone else what you wouldn’t want done to you’.
She also points out that each of the religions specifically mentions that this golden rule of compassion should not be restricted to your own group, whatever that might be, but that strangers should be honoured.
She points out at one stage that believing is easy but consistently practising compassion is difficult, and that sometimes very religious people prefer to be right than compassionate. I guess the same might be said of very anti-religious people – as soon as there is entrenchment it becomes more about winning that being kind, open minded, or generous.
She is on a mission to reclaim religion and to make it a source of peace in the world, and to move people from toleration to appreciation. I thought this was a very good point. The first is passive and the latter active and therefore takes more effort but will have a greater impact on peace.
In order to achieve this mission, she has set up the Charter for Compassion. The project used a unique web-based decision making platform, thousands of people from over 100 countries added their voice to the writing of the Charter. In a six-week period, thousands of submissions were entered which were then read and commented upon by over 150,000 visitors. These contributions were then reviewed by the Council of Conscience, a multi-faith, multi-national group of religious thinkers and leaders, and incorporated into the final document.
You can read it and also sign up to here:
If you’d like to hear her speak you can get a ticket for the event on April 18th in London here: