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Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

por Karen Armstrong

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6412028,225 (3.92)18
"From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion's connection to violence. For the first time in American history, religious self-identification is on the decline. Some have cited a perception that began to grow after Sept 11: That faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance and divisiveness--something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? And does it apply equally to all faiths? 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.… (mais)
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Fields of Blood, by Karen Armstrong, subtitled "Religion and the History of Violence" discusses the world's great religions from prehistoric times to today. She really provides a history of the world's major civilizations and the transitions from their myths to their religions. I was familiar with the origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and most of their troublesome conflicts, but learned a lot about Buddhism, Hinduism, Confuciansim, Daoism, and their origins. The author attempts to show that the causes of conflict and violence, often blamed on religion, are more correctly attributed to political or cultural differences. I'm not sure I fully absorbed or agreed with her argument, but the insights offered made the book worth reading. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Very dense, even by Karen Armstrong's standards. The historical study is also, as to her standard, sweeping, spanning from Ancient Sumeria to China to the development/spread of Monotheistic Abrahamic 'Religions.' Always interesting to read her unpack how 'Religion' as we understand it today & the demand for the separation of religion & state was only introduced in Modernity; otherwise unthinkable requests for most of history. Felt rather discomforted by the essentialist insistence that humans have a natural propensity for aggression (in the beginning she spoke touchingly about how rituals set up by hunter-gatherers were often an antidote to the immense guilt & grief in having to kill animals for survival, one would think modern apathy to violence makes us seem less compassionate to our supposedly more primal/aggressive ancestors) but she does seem to capture a pattern that has repeated across civilizations starting with the violence of agrarian society. The first half of the book was much stronger for me because of this, I had hoped she could have managed to present the repeated violence of nationalism in modern times with the same strength, though in retrospect that is a lot to ask for (I think she did it quite well in A History of God though). Also, though this wasn't the concern of her thesis, I did wonder why she was so adamant & what has so secured her conviction & agreement with scholars that say that despite the immense cruelty of civilization, this was the only possible way humans could have progressed (did we really, though? especially since the metrics of progress have already been pre-determined as based on wealth though it is restricted, consistently, to the top 1%, it was never progress for anyone else). ( )
  verkur | Jan 8, 2021 |
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 followed by her reminding us that other people in the same faith tradition rejected violence. Sure, but does religion make violence more likely? Armstrong argues that, for much of human history, religion couldn’t be separated from the state, and it was the state (or even the tribe) that made war. As religion was separated from the state, she argued, it became harder for universalist claims about the equal dignity of persons to push back against nationalism, so national and ethnic hatreds did much more damage than religious hatreds. The Nazis, she suggests, waged ethnic war rather than religious war—though she doesn’t actually spend much time on German religion. ( )
  rivkat | Oct 11, 2019 |
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 ancestors were hunter-gathers they had to hunt and kill their prey. These humans lived through violent periods in the Paleolithic and Neolithic age. Later Mediterranean peoples continued to experience struggles during the Constantine’s empire, Crusaders, Spanish Inquisition, Wars of Religion, Thirty Years’ War, and Reformation.
In the 17th and 18th century religion was rejected in the West. During the Age of Enlightenment John Locke propounded the belief of the separation of Church and State, but this period saw the rise of scientific and cultural racism. In Europe and America the suppression of the indigenous populations and African slave trade for economic profit flourished. And Germans, who were world-leading secular thinkers, gave rise to death camps under Hitler that exterminated millions of Jews.
Secularism was marked by Western imperialism, and an imbalance of power. But what became of Asoka’s concept of peace, India’s ahimsa – non-violence, China’s Golden Rule, and Jesus Christ’s teachings to love your neighbor as yourself? In India there were renouncers, European monks took to monasteries, and Confucian and Taoist’s ideals, but still violence was prominent.
In the 20th century violence continued to rage in the Middle East. Historical observers point to many reasons, but one of Islam’s tenets is that of peace. Still there was 9/11, the Israeli-Arab conflicts, jihads, and the horrendous effects of the Jews Six-Day-War. Yet people were witnessing the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, the rise kookism of the Israeli secular right, and fundamentalism in America. It appears that with the rise of more nations with nuclear weapons humankind’s future has become more problematic. ( )
  erwinkennythomas | Oct 7, 2019 |
Violence, State and Religion
Based on a careful appreciation of the origin and development of religious beliefs, Karen Armstrong makes the argument that religion is not inherently violent. Neither, she points out, the separation of religion and state contributes to an era of peace. Violence, she argues, springs from the desire of tribes and states to accumulate wealth (lands, goods and money). Religious beliefs, history shows, counterbalance these aspirations and provides an alternative meaning to human life, giving direction to human endeavors. In this book, Karen Armstrong gives special attention to the development of religion in the west, mostly to the interactions of christianity and europeans states. The story is fluent and well researched. ( )
  MarcusBastos | Apr 4, 2019 |
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"From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion's connection to violence. For the first time in American history, religious self-identification is on the decline. Some have cited a perception that began to grow after Sept 11: That faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance and divisiveness--something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? And does it apply equally to all faiths? 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.

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