Karen Armstrong — winner of the 2008 TED Prize — is a provocative, original thinker on the role of religion in the modern world.

Why you should listen

Religious thinker Karen Armstrong has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, studying what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and how our faiths shaped world history and drive current events.

A former nun, Armstrong has written two books about this experience: Through the Narrow Gate, about her seven years in the convent, and The Spiral Staircase, about her subsequent spiritual awakening, when she developed her iconoclastic take on the major monotheistic religions -- and on the strains of fundamentalism common to all. She is a powerful voice for ecumenical understanding.

Armstrong's 2008 TED Prize wish asked the world to help her create the Charter for Compassion, a document around which religious leaders can work together for peace. The Charter is based on the Golden Rule: that we should treat others how we would want to be treated. In fall 2008, the first draft of the charter was written by the world, via a sharing website. In February 2009, the words were given to the Council of Conscience, a gathering of religious leaders and thinkers, who crafted the final document based on global input. The Charter was officially launched in November 2009. It has been signed by notable world leaders including Pope Benedict XVI, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra and Muhammad Ali. The Charter has led to the creation of the Charter for Compassion International (CCI) organization, the Compassionate Communities campaign, and Global Compassion Council – a group of leaders continuing the movement around the the world.

What others say

“Her idea is to start a new 'theology of power,' based on the Golden Rule.” — Washington Post

Karen Armstrong’s TED talks

More news and ideas from Karen Armstrong

TED Prize

Djimon Hounsou reads the Charter for Compassion

February 3, 2011

With a little help from Dave Stewart, actor Djimon Hounsou reads the stirring words of the Charter for Compassion. As it plays, onscreen, visit some of the places around the world — synagogues, mosques, churches, ashrams, even a prison — where the Charter for Compassion is hung and its words are lived.

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TED Prize

Peter Storey: "The World’s Cup runneth over with compassion"

June 10, 2010

In the Washington Post today, Peter Storey, one of the architects of the Charter for Compassion, shares his thoughts on the eve of the World Cup in his home of South Africa. Just last month, a plaque of the Charter, which was inspired by Karen Armstrong’s 2008 TED Prize wish, was installed by Archbishop Desmond […]

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