Karen Armstrong entered a convent when she was 17.
On stage at the Fitzgerald Theater, she said she treated getting into heaven like getting into Oxford.
“My early experience of religion — both before I became a nun and during it — was all about me,” said Armstrong.
“[It was] about my feelings about the Lord, my meditations and my progress, and was I going to be a good nun or was I going to get into heaven? Lots of times I doubted that.”
Armstrong and her peers were told not to focus on the outside world, but to look inward instead.
She laughed while remembering one notable exception, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were warned about the threat of war, but were never told that the threat was over.
“For three weeks, we were sort of scanning the horizon for mushroom clouds until eventually one of us had the courage to say, ‘What happened about Cuba?’”
She left the convent decades ago, but has spent several years closely examining religion.
In her new book she writes:
“In our increasingly secular world, holy texts are seen at best as irrelevant and at worst as an excuse to incite violence, hatred and division. So what value, if any, can scripture hold for us today?”
She spoke with MPR’s Kerri Miller about her new book “The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts.”
Use the audio player above to hear their conversation.