Pans Narrans, Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong recently got some space in Foreign Policy to deliver a precis of her The Case for God book – which in my view is how it should have been published in the first place.

Here Armstrong rifles through the battered deck of her rationalisations.  Religion doesn’t cause harm; if religious people kill and torture, it’s because they’ve been provoked by aggressive secularists; even if they think and say they are killing in the name of God, they are really killing because of Iraq or Zionism or McDonalds; if they quote scripture while doing so, they have misinterpreted or perverted essentially compassionate doctrines. People continue to believe that despite the crimes of religious movements and governments, and despite copious justifications in the texts, that there exists some impenetrable core of religion that is essentially peaceful. It’s not given to most clerics or politicians to understand and penetrate this core: increasingly, it seems that Karen Armstrong is the only thinker capable of comprehending the benevolent nature of all faiths. If only we could all be more like Karen Armstrong!

Religion has been with us for a long time, therefore it is here to stay – because everything lasts forever. Never mind that Islamic parties are regularly hammered at the ballot box and that the world’s premier theocratic regime is creaking and tottering on its pedestal. If they were more like Karen Armstrong, Middle Eastern democrats would give up the idea of having a say in how they are governed and instead hope and pray that Islamic ‘reformists’ like Tariq Ramadan will blunt some of the nastier aspects of sharia.

If we were more like Karen Armstrong, we would be able to reduce the joy, complexity, terror and gratitude of the human experience to a set of ancient superstitions.

Armstrong says: ‘Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus.’

No, Karen Armstrong. Homo sapiens is pans narrans.


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