This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with religious scholar Karen Armstrong about her efforts to promote understanding between cultures. Armstrong suggested that human nature has an inherent tension between compassion and the desire that one?s views be the absolute truth:
“Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn’t mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other, learning what’s motivating the other, learning about their grievances… The three monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have a besetting tendency: that is idolatry, taking a human idea of God, a human doctrine, and making it absolute, putting it in the place of God. Now, there have been secular idolatries too. Nationalism was a great idolatry. The state can be… We are constantly creating these idols, erecting a purely human ideal or value to the supreme reality. Once you’ve made something essentially finite, once you’ve made it an absolute, it has to then destroy any rival claimants, because there can only be one absolute… And we get a lot of secular people doing this too… I think the so-called liberals can also be just as hard-lined in their own way.”
Thank you! Bill Moyers and Karen Armstrong (recent TED winner) for relevant, insightful, stimulating and thought provoking discussions on the Journal. I wish your audience was much wider.