Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

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Bodley Head, 2014 - Violence - 499 pages

Countering the atheist claim that believers are by default violent fanatics and religion is the cause of all major wars, Karen Armstrong demonstrates that religious faith is not inherently violent. In fact, the world's major religions have throughout their history displayed ambivalent attitudes towards aggression and warfare. At times they have allied themselves with states and empires for protection or to further their influence; at others they have tried to curb state oppression and aggression and worked for peace and justice.

Taking us on a journey from prehistoric times to the present, Karen Armstrong contrasts medieval crusaders and modern-day jihadists with the pacifism of the Buddha and Jesus' vision of a just and peaceful society; moreover, she demonstrates that the underlying reasons - social, economic, political - for war and violence in our history often had very little to do with religion.

While human beings have a natural propensity for aggression, collective violence and warfare emerged at a certain point in history when the invention of agriculture created a society and a state based on the accumulation of wealth. For most of history our destructive potential could be contained but with the industrialised warfare and all-powerful state of the modern age, humanity is on the brink of destroying itself.

Vast in scope, impeccably researched and passionately argued, Fields of Blood is more than a corrective to the prevailing view that religion is to blame for most of the bloodshed throughout human history: it is a celebration of those religious ideas and movements that have opposed war and aggression and promoted peace and reconciliation.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

Armstrong wants to argue that religion isn’t inherently violent. Half of the argument works, but half descends into “no true Scotsman” territory wherein every religious justification for violence is ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - erwinkennythomas - LibraryThing

Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood will have a reader ask the question, “Is violence endemic to human nature?” From mankind’s early beginnings there was a great struggle for survival. When our ... Read full review

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About the author (2014)

Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, and then read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a full-time writer and broadcaster. Her books include A History of God, The Bible: A Biography, The Case for God and, most recently, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Armstrong has addressed members of the United States Congress, has participated in the World Economic Forum and, in 2005, was appointed by Kofi Annan to join the High Level Group of the United Nations initiative 'The Alliance of Civilizations'. In 2008 she was awarded the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal and, in the same year, won the TED prize. In 2013 she received the British Academy's inaugural Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for improving Transcultural Understanding.

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