KAREN ARMSTRONG Biography - Writers


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Karen Armstrong (b. November 14, 1944 in Wildmoor, Worcestershire, England) is         
an author who writes on Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Armstrong is         
a former nun, now a "freelance monotheist". She has advanced the theory that           
fundamentalist religion is a response to and product of modern culture. She was         
born into a family with Irish roots who, after her birth, moved to Bromsgrove           
and later to Birmingham. According to professor Juan Eduardo Campo, Karen               
Armstrong has been influential in conveying the more objective post-19th-century       
scholarship of Islam to a wide readership in Europe and North America.                 
From 1962 to 1969, Karen Armstrong was a nun in the Society of the Holy Child           
Jesus. This was a teaching order, and once she had advanced from postulant and         
novice to professed nun, she was sent to St Anne's College, Oxford University,         
where she studied English. Armstrong left the order during her course of study.         
After graduating, she embarked on a D. Phil. (still at Oxford) on Alfred, Lord         
Tennyson. She continued to work on it while later teaching at the University of         
London, but her thesis was rejected by an external examiner. She eventually left       
academia without completing her doctorate.                                             
This period was marked by ill-health (Armstrong's life-long, but at that time           
undiagnosed, epilepsy as described in The Spiral Staircase (2004)) and her             
readjustment to outside life. In 1976, she became an English teacher at a girls'       
school in Dulwich, but her epilepsy caused her to miss too many school days, and       
she was asked to leave in 1981.                                                         
Armstrong published Through the Narrow Gate in 1982, which described the               
restricted and narrow life she experienced in the convent (and earned her the           
enmity of many British Catholics). In 1984 she was asked to                             
write and present a documentary on the life of St. Paul. The research for the           
documentary made Armstrong look again at religion, despite having abandoned             
religious worship after she left the convent. She has since become a prolific           
writer on subjects touching on all of the three major monotheistic religions.           
She is a fellow of the Jesus Seminar.                                                   
Armstrong has written a number of articles for The Guardian. Her latest book,           
The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, was               
published in March 2006; a revision of her biography of Muhammad: A Prophet For         
Our Time, was published in October of 2006 by Harper Collins.                           
In 2006, she appeared on BBC Radio 4's "Desert Island Discs". She also made             
commentaries on the documentary, "The Fundamentalists". Armstrong was one of           
three winners of the TED Conference's TED prize in 2008. In 2007, she was               
invited by Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to deliver "2007 MUIS Lecture"       
in Singapore.