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.
©2014 Karen Armstrong (P)2014 Random House Audio
"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)
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?
Bill the Bookworm
Armstrong's well researched and broad overview of the history of religion and violence provides a powerful argument against the New Atheist saw that religion is the greatest source of evil. Instead she shows that violence is a complex response to external causes.
I think every member of Congress and President Obama should be required to read this book. I consider it one of the most important books I've read in many, many years.
Few writers should read their books, but Ms. Armstrong is one who can and should. No one writes as compellingly about religion or seems more knowledgeable. As an atheist, I agree with her main contention that religion is not the source of war, that different religions can be bent for both peaceful and violent reasons. Her scope is tremendous, her scholarship is thorough, her style is engaging and clear. Fascinating as usual.
This book provides a much needed perspective on global conflicts, both past, present and to consider in the future.
Karen Armstrong has surpassed her existing track record of great books with this Magnum Opus.
It's so well written and narrated that I would give it 6 stars of 5 if I could in this review. On second thoughts, I would rather follow "Spinal Tap" and turn the volume up to 11 in this review!! ;)
I found the book a series of cherry picked examples of where religion does, or does not incite violence in contrast to similarly timed secular inspired violence. Drifting through this history was interesting, but I never felt there was a solid thesis or definition of what the central argument was.
I think it goes without saying that few religions directly dictate violence... so I often found myself thinking that religion is simply a tool to be used however humans choose. No revelation there.
Tremendous narration of a breathtaking real-time journey into the great events of humanity, while simultaneously reflecting on the waypoint where we currently find ourselves, and raising questions about our collective rush to an apparent and ultimate destination.
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