Over the past several weeks I have been reading three works of former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong: Islam: A Short History; The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness & Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence.
Ms. Armstrong is a superb thinker and writer and her book on Islam is the best I have read on the subject, capturing the approach taken by the Catholic Church and many other observers, that Islam is a great religion, as beset with the struggles between the unorthodox and the orthodox as any of the major religions, including Catholicism; but because Catholicism has a hierarchical management structure the unorthodox are usually sanctioned in some way; whereas Islam has no such structure.
Her memoir, The Spiral Staircase showing how she endured seven very unhappy years as a nun, moved on to graduate work at the academy and became a scholar of theology and writer; losing her Catholic faith, but discovering the essential truth in religion, compassion, and building a rich life on that insight; is also a great read, though I suspect that having given up on a personal God and a personal relationship with God, will eventually be changed as her continued study and prayer leads her back to the Pilgrim Church of her youth, which she will embrace, blemishes and all.
Fields of Blood is also excellent, and captures today’s turmoil in the context of history and politics, just a great read.
Here is the link to her page on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Karen-Armstrong/e/B000AQ72VE/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1415924906&sr=8-2-ent