|Often, women or men who leave a life dedicated to religion don't look back. However, in the case of Karen Armstrong, her formal religious life gave way to a broader, worldlier pursuit of God in the academic and journalistic arenas. Born in 1945 in a small town outside of Birmingham, England, Armstrong had a childhood of wild imagining and voracious reading. She thrived during 11 years of Catholic schooling before, in 1962, turning her life over to the religious order she had grown up with. Initially convinced that convent life would be fulfilling, Armstrong grew to feel differently and, after a strenuous novitiate, she left the order in 1969 and turned to Oxford, where she received her Bachelors degree in literature. Later, in addition to teaching literature at the University of London, Armstrong wrote her autobiography, THROUGH THE NARROW GATE (1983). This book not only allowed her to come to terms with the decision she had made in 1969, but it also granted her, in 1984, an invitation from British Channel 4 Television to write a documentary on St. Paul in Jerusalem, which gave Armstrong firsthand experience of the clashing of the three dominant monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Since that time, she has worked diligently on academic and journalistic projects oriented around these faith systems. She is known as the preeminent commentator on comparative religion in Britain and the United States: she has been a teacher at the Leo Baeck School for the Study of Judaism and was the recipient of the 1999 Muslim Public Affairs Council's Media Award. As for her own beliefs, though her work has brought her back to the religious life through the back door of academics, she is neither biased to any one faith system nor beholden to her history, referring to herself only as a "freelance monotheist."