Program Particulars: The Freelance Monotheism of Karen Armstrong

Program Particulars

*Times indicated refer to web version of audio

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(01:39–02:14) Music Element

"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale


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(02:15–02:38) Music Element

"Fulget Nicolaus" from Legends of St. Nicholas: Medieval Chant & Polyphony, performed by Anonymous 4


(02:16) Religious Order of Armstrong

Armstrong followed the rule of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order

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(09:22–11:30) Music Element

"Book of Ways 1" from Book of Ways, performed by Keith Jarrett


(09:59) Reading of "Ash Wednesday"

While attending the University of Oxford, Armstrong encountered a professor, Dame Helen Gardner, who brought life to T.S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday", in which Armstrong took solace. Listen to poet T.S. Eliot read "Ash Wednesday" while reading along with the text. The following excerpt was taken from the first section of the poem and read by Michael Barone during the program:

Because I do not hope to turn again Because I do not hope Because I do not hope to turn Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope I no longer strive to strive towards such things (Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?) Why should I mourn The vanished power of the usual reign? Because I do not hope to know The infirm glory of the positive hour Because I do not think Because I know I shall not know The one veritable transitory power Because I cannot drink There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again Because I know that time is always time And place is always and only place And what is actual is actual only for one time And only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are and I renounce the blessèd face And renounce the voice Because I cannot hope to turn again Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something Upon which to rejoice

(12:55) Reference to Television Series

When Krista asks Armstrong about her early experience in television, Armstrong says that a number of career failures led to it. In 1984, Armstrong wrote and presented The First Christian, a six-part documentary series on St. Paul, and two interview series: Varieties of Religious Experience in 1984 and Tongues of Fire in 1985.

(13:49) Reference to Television Series

Armstrong refers to a television program based on Ian Wilson's book Jesus: The Evidence.

(15:21) Writings Attributed to Paul

During their conversation, Krista and Armstrong discuss the attribution of New Testament epistles to the apostle Paul — especially what some consider to be misogynist, anti-female writings. The debate over the authenticity of Pauline letters has taken place for nearly three centuries now.

The consensus among scholars is that seven New Testament writings are directly attributable to Paul: 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians. Three others are widely rejected as being written by Paul: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. And, an ongoing debate of three letters — Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians — can sometimes be found among critical scholars.

To read a more in-depth analysis of these matters, read "Part Four: Pauline Traditions" of Luke Timothy Johnson's The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation.

(16:46) Reference to Paul's Epistle

Read the complete version of 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 that Armstrong paraphrases in Paul's epistle, "You can have faith that moves mountains. You can give your body to be burnt as a martyr. But, if you lack charity, it's worth nothing at all."

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(16:57–17:20) Music Element

"Sunny Days III. Moderato" from Eroica, performed by Rick Sowash


(21:47) Jesus' Version of Golden Rule

Armstrong states that Jesus echoed Rabbi Hillel's golden rule when he says "Do unto others as you'd have done unto you." Following are examples of the Golden Rule as taken from sources other than Judeo-Christian origins:

  • Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5,18)
  • Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you. (Analects 15,23)
  • Islam: No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself. (Azizullah - Hadith 150)
  • Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gains as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. (T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien)
  • Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself. (Dadistan-i-dinik 94-5)
  • Jain: A man should treat all creatures in the world as he himself would like to be treated. (Wisdom of the Living Religions, #69 - I:II:33)
  • Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. (Mahabharata 5,1517)
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(24:10–25:52) Music Element

"Taqasim on the Beat" from Turath: The Masterworks of the Middle East, performed by Simon Shaheen


» Enlarge the image Dome of the Rock, general view from the northwest. <br><cite>(Harvard Fine Arts Library)</cite>

Dome of the Rock, general view from the northwest.
(Harvard Fine Arts Library)

(27:05) Armstrong Mentions Holy Shrine

Armstrong talks about the holy area the Jewish people refer to as the Temple Mount (in Hebrew, Har Habayit) and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary (in Arabic, Al-Haram al-Sharif). The BBC provides a helpful summary and images of the sacred space upon which the Dome of the Rock is perched.

In both Jewish and Islamic tradition, the area is identified as Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac in sacrifice. Also, it's here that King Solomon erected the First Temple and the Prophet Muhammad made the Night Journey.

(27:55) Armstrong's Reference to Sufism

In the On Being program "The Spirit of Islam," listen to Omid Safi describe his own understanding and experience of Sufi tradition. Learn more about this form of Islamic mysticism where the pursuit of spiritual truth is the quest

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(31:57–32:08) Music Element

"Troubled" from Passion: Music For the Last Temptation of Christ, performed by Peter Gabriel


(32:19) Book About Islam

The three-volume set, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, to which Armstrong refers was written by G. S. Marshall Hodgson.

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(35:57–36:06) Music Element

"Schredrin: Cardil" from From Jewish Life, performed by Paul Marleyn and John Lenehan


(36:06) Gregory of Nyssa

Armstrong talks about one of her favorite Greek Orthodox theologians, the fourth century mystic Gregory of Nyssa, who posited thaet the trinity can only be understood in a ritual context. Read a letter (On 'Not Three Gods') penned by Gregory of Nyssa, in which he explains and defends the concept of the trinity as he understands it. Also, Calvin College provides a comprehensive list of writings and letters by the bishop of Nyssa.

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(37:07–37:30) Music Element

"Highwire" from Tsirkus, performed by the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band


(41:46) Particular Title

Armstrong describes how the Arab-Israeli conflict started as a secular dispute. The Guardian Unlimited provides a brief history (Flash required) of the conflict — including maps and a timeline — and a glossary of terms.

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(42:40–43:20) Music Element

"Before Night Falls" from Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ, performed by Peter Gabriel


(44:27) Story About Christian Fundamentalist

Story About Christian Fundamentalist
Krista asks Armstrong to recount a story about a Christian fundamentalist who stood up at a conference, God at 2000 and left the panel struck dumb. The conference was part of Oregon State University's Ideas Matter lecture series.

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(48:21–50:25) Music Element

"Piano Trio #3: 'A Christmas Divertimento'" from Rick Sowash: The Four Piano Trios, performed by the Mirecourt Trio


(50:19) Reading of Ash Wednesday

Listen to poet T.S. Eliot read "Ash Wednesday" while reading along with the text. The following excerpt was taken from the sixth and final section of the poem and read by Michael Barone during the program:

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden, Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks, Our peace in His will And even among these rocks Sister, mother And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, Suffer me not to be separated And let my cry come unto Thee.

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(50:54–52:35) Music Element

"Fulget Nicolaus" from Legends of St. Nocholas" Medieval Chat & Polyphony, performed by Anonymous 4


Voices on the Radio

is a best-selling author, scholar, and former Catholic nun. Her latest book is The Case for God.