Sunday, May 18, 2008

Karen Armstrong on Belief and Practice

Karen Armstrong

I gleaned this from the National Public Radio website after hearing a remarkable interview with Karen Armstron on the "Speaking of Faith" radio program. I found the following quote downstream from the original site and thought it said quite a bit for our current time and historical place in Anglicanism. You can listen to teh whole interview here

"I found some astonishing things in the course of my study that had never occurred to me. Frankly, in the days that when I thought I’d had it with religion, I just found the whole thing absolutely incredible. These doctrines seemed unproven, abstract, and, to my astonishment, when I began seriously studying other traditions, I began to realize that belief, which we make such a fuss about today, is only a very recent religious enthusiasm. It surfaced only in the West, in about the 17th century. The word ‘belief’ itself originally meant to love, to prize, to hold dear. In the 17th century it narrowed its focus, for reasons that I’m exploring in a book I’m writing at the moment, to mean an intellectual ascent to a set of propositions — a credo. ‘I believe’ did not mean ‘I accept certain creedal articles of faith.’ It meant, ‘I commit myself. I engage myself.’ Indeed, some of the world traditions think very little of religious orthodoxy. In the Qur’an, religious opinion — religious orthodoxy — is dismissed as zanna — self-indulgent guesswork about matters that nobody can be certain of one way or the other but which makes people quarrelsome and stupidly sectarian.

So, if religion is not about believing things, what is it about? What I’ve found is that, across the board, religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you do something, you behave in a committed way, and then you begin to understand the truths of religion. And religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action: you only understand them when you put them into practice."


At 4:22 PM, Anonymous lori said...

That's beautiful

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Muthah+ said...

Scott, I have read almost everything I can get my hands on and attended lectures by Karen Armstrong because she lets her struggle with God show. Her struggle in religious life in the Spiral Starcase mirrors mine although mine was not as abusive as hers.

I have found that the move from the idea of belief to that of relationship with God is how I make the distinction between tenets of faith to which I give cognitive assent to and an experience of oneness with the Holy One. It is somewhat making the difference between the disciplines of spirituality and theology. One deals with what humanity can reason about and the other is being able to participate in the mystery of God.

Both of them we need and both need to be taught in our parishes and congregations. But all religion has to do with transformation. It is through the "knowledge" of God, both cognitive and experiential are we changed by God's grace.

I am glad you found this quote. I would like to use it too on my blog.

Lauren Gough+


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