Freelance monotheism

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Karen Armstrong describes herself as a "freelance monotheist". I like this term because I think it comes close to describing me as well. She travels more freely across the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions than I do--I mostly locate myself within the Christian orbit, although, as orbits go, mine is about as close to orthodox Christianity as Pluto's is to the sun. I share her respect for all the Abrahamic faiths, and even if I mostly focus on Christianity, I am a committed religious pluralist.

In a recent Salon.com interview, she was asked if she liked the question about whether she believed in God. She said "No, because people who ask this question often have a rather simplistic notion of what God is." I absolutely agree; I find that I cannot answer this question in the affirmative without also quickly adding the qualifying statement, "but my concept of God may not be the same as yours." She also described the question of an afterlife as a "red herring." Again, I agree.

The funny thing is that I've never really been a fan of her books. I managed not to finish her book on the Buddha, and I found her book "A History of God" to be a difficult and tedious read, a nonstop swirl of alternative theologies that after a while just became an almost meaningless blur. Still, as a speaker, she is interesting. Her recent interview with Alan Jones as part of the City Arts and Lectures Series is definitely worth checking out. So even if she is not necessarily my favorite author, her honest search for God outside of the restrictive confines of dogmatic religion is something I can relate to.

5 comments:

Mike L. said...

I feel the same way about Armstrong. Her books never do it for me. I've started about 3 or four of them and rarely finished.

She is a wealth of knowledge and she has a unique perspective given that knowledge.

SocietyVs said...

Freelance Monotheist - add me to the category as well...I am not sure where I fit in the Christian realm (my leanings are to the teachings) - I know I am not from any real modern stream in Christianity I see around me.

Joliene said...

yay pluralism. i am involved with the muslim jewish christian coalition on my campus and am committed to interfaith efforts. studying comparative religion has definitely strengthened my view that pluralism is ultimately the direction that this world needs to be headed into.

OneSmallStep said...

I find that her books work better if I read the same theme at once. In the History of God, I read all of the Christian sections in order, and then went back and read all of the Muslim sections in order. Reading it with all the religions mixed together didn't work for me.

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