From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence.
For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11 perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness - something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.
While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith - not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism - in its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with plenty powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.
At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong's sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.
"Armstrong again impresses with the breadth of her knowledge and the skill with which she conveys it to us." (Ray Olson, Booklist (starred review)
"A well-written historical summary of what have traditionally been viewed as "religious" wars, showing convincingly that in pretty much all cases it was not so much religion as it was political issues that fueled the conflict." (Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal (starred review)
"Provocative and supremely readable…. the comparative nature of [Armstrong's] inquiry is refreshing…. Bracing as ever, [she] sweeps through religious history around the globe and over 4,000 years to explain the yoking of religion and violence and to elucidate the ways in which religion has also been used to counter violence." (Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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Rethinking Violence and Religion
Makes you wonder if Karen's voice, and the fact that she turns on its head some conventional wisdom are behind the criticism of this audiobook. It all fits for me and reveals her usual and remarkable scholarship. Prepare to see things differently. That's why we read, isn't it?
- Milton Big Elk
Required reading for US foreign policy makers
- Lora Lucero