Annual Lecture 2018

Karen Armstrong

On October 4th, 2018, the sixth Annual Pluralism Lecture was delivered in London, England, by Karen Armstrong, author and religious historian. The lecture was livestreamed on the Centre’s YouTube channel at 7pm BST, 2pm EST.  Ms. Armstrong’s speech, entitled “Compassion or Toleration? Two Approaches to Pluralism,” addressed why she sees pluralism as “no longer simply a nice idea; it is now an urgent global imperative.”

Karen Armstrong is a British author of numerous books–including Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence as well as two memoirs, Through the Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase. Over the last 20 years, she has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, exploring what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common. Her work has been translated into 45 languages. Armstrong was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2015 and is a former trustee of the British Museum and a fellow of the Royal Academy of Literature.

In her lecture, Ms. Armstrong spoke about the value of religion during what could be the “last gasp” of nationalism: “What the religions all tell us… [is] that enlightenment insists on overcoming the ego, letting the ego go. Nationalism is about ego, it’s about swelling the ego, and often that means excluding the other, as Lord Acton pointed out.”

Citing her current work on the scriptures of three of the world’s great religions, she went on to say that “the scriptures — all, in every tradition — say you have to work for the good of others, all others, not just those in your own camp, practically and creatively. That is the route to enlightenment.”

During his introduction, His Highness the Aga Khan remarked that “I think that one of the greatest challenges for the entire world will be finding ways in which we can all achieve a deeper understanding of the other, and what makes each of us distinct, as human beings and as communities. To achieve this vital goal, reflective, creative and empathetic thinkers and writers will be critically important.”

In partnership with the High Commission of Canada to the UK.

Read the press release.

Karen Armstrong