Fields Of Blood: Religion And The History Of Violence

Paperback | September 15, 2015

byKaren Armstrong

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From the renowned and bestselling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion's connection to violence.

     In these troubled times, we risk basing decisions of real and dangerous consequence on mistaken understandings of the faiths subscribed around us, in our immediate community as well as globally. And so, with her deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong examines the impulse toward violence in each of the world's great religions. The comparative approach is new: while there have been plenty of books on jihad or the Crusades, this book lays the Christian and the Islamic way of war side by side, along with those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism and Judaism. Each of these faiths arose in agrarian societies with plenty of motivation for violence: landowners had to lord it over peasants and warfare was essential to increase one's landholdings, the only real source of wealth before the great age of trade and commerce. In each context, it fell to the priestly class to legitimize the actions of the state. And so the martial ethos became bound up with the sacred. At the same time, however, their ideologies developed that ran counter to the warrior code: around sages, prophets and mystics. Within each tradition there grew up communities that represented a protest against the injustice and violence endemic to agrarian society. This book explores the symbiosis of these two impulses and its development as these confessional faiths came of age. The aggression of secularism has often damaged religion and pushed it into a violent mode. But modernity has also been spectacularly violent, and so Armstrong goes on to show how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence--and what hope there might be for peace among believers in our time.

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From the Publisher

From the renowned and bestselling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion's connection to violence.     In these troubled times, we risk basing decisions of real and dangerous consequence on mistaken understandings of the faiths subscribed around us, in our immediate community as well as globally. And so, with he...

KAREN ARMSTRONG is the author of numerous other books on religious affairs, including The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha and The Great Transformation--and a memoir, The Spiral Staircase. Her work has been translated into 45 languages. In February 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:528 pages, 7.93 × 5.17 × 0.85 inPublished:September 15, 2015Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307401979

ISBN - 13:9780307401977

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Customer Reviews of Fields Of Blood: Religion And The History Of Violence

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic "History-Of-God" Karen Armstrong In good academic style, Armstrong builds an argument step by step. Agrarian societies are structurally violent (re-read your feminist theory for good definitions of structural violence) that throw up religions or religious reforms in protest. These become popular, mainstream, and eventually co-opted by ruling elites at which point they tend to justify the very violence protested in the first place. And so another round of religious reform. At the broader level, this is another anti-Hitchens, atheists-can-be-moderate-too book. Which suggests that that side is winning. The argument that religions aren't inherently violent will annoy some, but the reasonable reader will realize that all ideologies are open to violence. Indeed, there's almost an old "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument here. People can be violent. Class conflict can become violent and use religion as a mask. But religion isn't originally violent. Indeed, the logical conclusion of Armstrong's thinking suggests that religious ideas tend to have more corrective, self-critical mechanisms than non-religious systems. Like Stalinism.
Date published: 2014-07-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic "History-Of-God" Karen Armstrong. In good academic style, Armstrong builds an argument step by step. Agrarian societies are structurally violent (re-read your feminist theory for good definitions of structural violence) that throw up religions or religious reforms in protest. These become popular, mainstream, and eventually co-opted by ruling elites at which point they tend to justify the very violence protested in the first place. And so another round of religious reform. At the broader level, this is another anti-Hitchens, atheists-can-be-moderate-too book. Which suggests that that side is winning. The argument that religions aren't inherently violent will annoy some, but the reasonable reader will realize that all ideologies are open to violence. Indeed, there's almost an old "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument here. People can be violent. Class conflict can become violent and use religion as a mask. But religion isn't originally violent. Indeed, the logical conclusion of Armstrong's thinking suggests that religious ideas tend to have more corrective, self-critical mechanisms than non-religious systems. Like Stalinism.
Date published: 2014-07-27

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Editorial Reviews

• An Independent Best Book on Religion and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Praise for Fields of Blood: "I generally end up judging books in two ways: by whether I can remember them and whether they change the way I think about the world. It's too soon to know about the first test, but on the basis of the second I recommend Fields of Blood." --The New York Times"Could not have come at a better time." --Winnipeg Free Press