Mary Karr once said in reference to memoirs (same holds true for any piece of writing) something to the effect of: No change, no story.
While many writers ignore this truth and it reflects in the quality of the story they tell (coincidentally, a book can be very well written, but not tell a story worth reading), Karen Armstrong seems to have taken this bit of advice to heart.
Her book, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness is a magnificent example of how to write about profound, multi-layered change. She begins the story as a nun hoping to have a personal relationship with God. Despite her best efforts and constant admonishment from the other sisters, she does not have the transcendent moment she desired and was told she would have. Disillusioned, she leaves the convent and enters Oxford with the desire to study literature, earn a doctorate, and teach.
Along the way, she cannot escape the convent's cloistering of her ability to think critically and independently, meets numerous characters, suffers what she believes is severe mental illness, is screwed out of her doctorate, becomes agnostic (closer to atheist), and suffers setback after setback. And yet, she perseveres to find not only a satisfying life and career writing about God, religion, and spirituality, but a better and deeper understanding of the true relationship of God, religion, and spirituality.
This is a book that my friends who take the Bible as literal truth would struggle with, but one that people who struggle with religion and faith would find immensely satisfying. Long story short: Religion's true--as it was founded--role and relationship with God is not to establish an untenable truth that God is a being with human traits, but that He does not exist in any form or way that humans could ever have words to fully describe.
Religion and the Bible--she includes other texts of faith--should be a means to commune with that spiritual entity that is beyond understanding. Therefore, faith is not about believing specific Biblical stories as literal truth. It is about seeing them as attempts by those of the distant past to explain what was un-explainable, create a historical record (primarily of Jesus), and basically foster a debate and questioning of the world and the nature and meaning of God.
As her core point of what role religion and faith should play in our lives and the world is her take on the Golden Rule, which goes back to Confucious (well before Christ). As she says, "Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you. Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain, and then refuse under any circumstance to inflict that pain on anybody else... This is civilization."
So rather than the liars, hucksters, and Elmer Gantrys who argue for wealth as a sign of godliness and use God to advocate for war and violence (currently we see a profane few doing this in all religions), the ideal of God, faith, and religion is compassion and to deliver kindness to ourselves and others.