“Compassion is not a popular virtue. Very often when I talk to religious people, and mention how important it is that compassion is the key, that it’s the sine-qua-non of religion, people look kind of balked, and stubborn sometimes, as much to say, what’s the point of having religion if you can’t disapprove of other people?”
— Karen Armstrong
Karen Armstrong, a British religious writer, is among my favorite authors of books about religion. She has been through much religious discovery of her own, including several years as a Catholic nun, and a couple of subsequent years much closer to atheism. She has written extensively about the Judeo-Christian religions – including Islam, about Eastern religions, mysticism, and has written a history of God. Her open, honest, and pragmatic approach is something that I wish more people were capable of when discussing religious subjects. She is occasionally a contentious subject herself because her views on Islam are less critical than perhaps they should be. But she has had, over the years, much to say about compassion. In 2008 she won the TED prize, and called for the creation of a Charter for Compassion.
To borrow another quote from the final paragraph of the Charter:
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
To read the full Charter for Compassion, please click here.