Ted Talks – Karen Armstrong – Religion in the World Today

Over at the international teacher blog, I’ve started writing about TED. I’m not going to explain here what TED is. If you don’t know about TED, please take a look at the international teacher blog from yesterday, or better yet, go to the TED website to see what they have to say about themselves.

Yesterdays TED blog was put on the international teacher blog because it was specifically about education. There are over 200 talks on TED, and the one that I’m going to briefly comment on today is very much related to one of the projects that I’ve undertaken here which is to write a book about Islam for non-Muslims and examine, as part of that book, how Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists co-exist peacefully in Bali.

Almost ten years ago, just after the time when I converted to Islam, one of my Pakistani students came to me with a book titled, Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. My student said that I needed to read this book because it was a sympathetic account of Islam by a Westerner and that it was important that books like this were written and read by non-Muslims so that they could better understand what Islam is and, perhaps more importantly, what it is not. This was all pre-9/11.

photo from lahore.metroblogs.com

photo from lahore.metroblogs.com

I read his copy of the book and was so impressed with the book that I went out and bought other books by Karen Armstrong. Over the years, I’ve read four of her books and have always found them to be enlightening as well as enjoyable to read.

In Ms. Armstrong’s TED talk, she notes that religion is not about belief but about behavior, about commitment, about engagement. She says that religion is about behaving differently. Religious doctrines can only be understood when put in practice. She focuses on compassion – the ability to feel with the other. She says that all major religions have compassion at the center point. First it is necessary to get rid of ego and then people are ready to see the divine. She talks about the Golden Rule. Do not do to others, as you would not have them do to you.

Ms. Armstrong notes that religion has been hijacked; Religion used to oppress others because of human greed. It is necessary not only to have compassion for our own group, but especially for people from other groups.

She argues that religion should be a force for harmony. She sees a hunger for change around the world through all the religions – people seeking a way to use religion as a source of peace in the world.

She finishes her talk by saying that it is time to move beyond toleration to appreciation of the other. This is a key thing that needs to be done. It’s only by understanding and appreciating the other that we can see God.

This is an inspiring talk by one of the world’s most popular religious scholars. I wish that I had come across this video while I was still teaching because one of the courses that I taught was on world religions. This talk would have been an excellent introduction to the course.

Go over to Ted and download the video and listen to what Karen Armstrong has to say. I’m sure that you will find it enlightening and motivating.

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~ by drbrucepk on July 24, 2008.

One Response to “Ted Talks – Karen Armstrong – Religion in the World Today”

  1. How are you?, Do something to help those hungry people in Africa or India,
    I made this blog about this subject:
    in http://tinyurl.com/6bz6t7

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