Karen Armstrong was a nun who couldn't pray. With 17 years he entered a convent, which he combined with his career in Oxford. But that life was not for her and she retired. In the study of the different sacred texts, the Upanishads of India or the Torah , he found what makes us more human: the need for transcendence. After publishing 27 books and receiving awards such as the Princess of Asturias, Armstrong warns in The Lost Art of Scripture (Paidós) that we have forgotten the subversive power and metaphorical burden of religious texts.Understand religion as an art form. Like poetry? Yes, religion depends on imagination, on thinking about something not present, be it God or nirvana. It is a mental journey and is expressed in artistic terms. We reach our complete humanity with music, dance, nature, love, sex or sport. And also with religion. What can the Bible or the Koran contribute today? All the sacred texts insist on doing things for others. Monotheists focus on justice and equality, on caring for the disadvantaged; The Quran even urges not to build a great private fortune. In China and India, nature is fundamental. What could be more urgent today than this concern for the environment or for world poverty? That is, could we be inspired by the Bible to address the issue of immigration? And in Hinduism for environmental awareness? For example. Migrants do not stop dying at sea or asphyxiated in boats and all that worries us is how to throw them out. In London, 25% of the population lives in a state of poverty and we have reached the record of people sleeping on the street. And we don't hear the archbishop of Canterbury, or the rabbi, or the Catholic prelate say a word on the subject. And what about violence in religions? All the scriptures are violent because they reflect us as a species. Just read the Apocalypse ... We are the only species that kills itself among her. We carry it in the DNA. And the scriptures are a human creation. Islamic terrorism continues to invoke holy war in the name of the Koran. The Quran is not about jihad but about building an egalitarian society. Religion is used as a tool to justify terrorism. During the first 400 years of Islamic civilization these verses of jihad were never taken, religious leaders ignored them, did not consider them valid or important. But 400 years after the death of the prophet, when they were attacked by the east and west, by the Mongols and the Crusaders, the leaders invoked them to encourage people to fight. Many opposed but it was that or the extinction.But in the West, Islamophobia is growing more and more ... When the West left the Dark Ages, Spain began the Reconquest. Muslims were much more advanced than us, and there it began ... Islam was like the United States: it was everywhere. To the United States I would say: 'When you fall you will feel like Muslims.' For centuries it was one of the greatest empires, until it collapsed. Today, people hate the United States because it is the great world power. We tend to hate the things we see in ourselves. Jesus proclaimed 'Love your enemy' and not 'kill them all in the Crusades'. We project our guilt on Muslims, we always think that they are violent or that they oppress women. And people want to continue clinging to these prejudices. In the book it is very critical of the effects of European colonialism ... People do not want to see their responsibility in the injustices and resentment they caused. The way in which we behave in the empires we create and support for Saudi Arabia only for oil does not help much ... In France, Muslims have been treated in a horrible way and they are often talked about as if they were garbage. We still adopt racist attitudes towards Muslims. What do you think of the veil or hijab controversy? Ridiculous. When I was a nun, nobody ever told me to take my habit off. And you get an idea of how awkward and unhygienic it is ... Taking the subway in London was a nightmare. Although I recognize that there was something liberating in wearing it: I never had a single thought about my appearance, I didn't have to worry about what to wear or all that aesthetic garbage ... No matter if they wear a veil or not, let's leave them alone. The more they are told to take it away, the more they want to take it. The problem is if they take it against their will, as happens in Saudi Arabia, where until recently women were not allowed to drive. In the West we adopt an attitude of superiority and arrogance, we should let them wear whatever they want, but nowhere in the Quran does it say that women should wear a veil ... Indeed. In fact, the Quran gives women rights to inherit and divorce that would not be achieved in the West until the 19th century. It was the governments of different countries that gave the most rights to men. The Quran is more feminist than we think: it is the first writing in which there are passages dedicated only to women. In the Bible, the New Testament insists on equality and the chapter in which one speaks of obedience to the husband was not written until the second century. All traditions are patriarchal. For centuries Christians had women in a subordinate position. Scripture is a masculine creation. That is the truth of the matter. He was a member of the Expert Committee of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. What were they doing there exactly? For a year we analyzed the strategies that the UN should adopt and we took the document to Kofi Annan. Our conclusion was that the problem was the conflict in Palestine: until nothing is solved it will work. For the Muslim world, Palestine has become a symbol of mass injustice. And there it continues ...
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