Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence
After Iyman Fariss foiled plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, however, most of the al-Qaeda central command had either been killed or captured, and there were no more major incidents.85 But just as the situation seemed to be improving, in March 2003, the United States, Britain, and their allies invaded Iraq, despite considerable opposition from the international community and strong protests throughout the Muslim world. The reasons for this invasion were allegations that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had furnished support for al-Qaeda, both of which eventually proved to be groundless.
A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair.
Am I my brothers guardian? Cain asked after he had killed his brother, Abel. We are now living in such an interconnected world that we are all implicated in one anothers history and one anothers tragedies. As wequite rightlycondemn those terrorists who kill innocent people, we also have to find a way to acknowledge our relationship with and responsibility for Mamana Bibi, her family, and the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have died or been mutilated in our modern wars simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ancient philosophies were entranced by the order of the cosmos; they marveled at the mysterious power that kept the heavenly bodies in their orbits and the seas within bounds and that ensured that the earth regularly came to life again after the dearth of winter, and they longed to participate in this richer and more permanent existence. They expressed this yearning in terms of what is known as the perennial philosophy, so called because it was present, in some form, in most premodern cultures.11 Every single person, object, or experience was seen as a replica, a pale shadow, of a reality that was stronger and more enduring than anything in their ordinary experience but that they only glimpsed in visionary moments or in dreams. By ritually imitating what they understood to be the gestures and actions of their celestial alter egoswhether gods, ancestors, or culture heroespremodern folk felt themselves to be caught up in their larger dimension of being.
As an inspiration for terrorism, however, nationalism has been far more productive than religion. Terrorism experts agree that the denial of a peoples right to national self-determination and the occupation of its homeland by foreign forces has historically been the most powerful recruiting agent of terrorist organizations, whether their ideology is religious (the Lebanese Shii) or secular (the PLO).
Ashokas dilemma is the dilemma of civilization itself. As society developed and weaponry became more deadly, the empire, founded on and maintained by violence, would paradoxically become the most effective means of keeping the peace.
But the state had no jurisdiction over the conscience of the individual and no right, therefore, to fight heresy or lead a holy war. While it could have nothing to do with the spiritual realm, the state must have unqualified and absolute authority in temporal affairs. Even if the state were cruel, tyrannical, and forbade the teaching of Gods word, Christians must not resist its power.37 For its part, the true church, the Kingdom of God, must hold aloof from the inherently corrupt and depraved policies of the Kingdom of the World, dealing only with spiritual affairs. Protestants believed that the Roman Church had failed in its true mission because it had dallied with the sinful Kingdom of the World.
Dropping cluster bombs from the air is not only less repugnant: it is somehow deemed, by Western people at least, to be morally superior, says British psychologist Jacqueline Rose. 'Why dying with your victim should be seen as a greater sin than saving yourself is unclear.'The colonial West had created a two-tier hierarchy that privileged itself at the expense of 'The Rest. The Enlightenment had preached the equality of all human beings, yet Western policy in the developing world often adopted a double standard so that we failed to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Our focus on the nation seems to have made it hard for us to cultivate the global outlook that we need in our increasingly interrelated world. We must deplore any action that spills innocent blood or sows terror for its own sake. But we must also acknowledge and sincerely mourn the blood that we have shed in pursuit of national interests. Otherwise we can hardly defend ourselves against accusations of maintaining an 'arrogant silence in the face of others pain and of creating a world order in which some peoples lives are deemed more valuable than others
Dropping cluster bombs from the air is not only less repugnant: it is somehow deemed, by Western people at least, to be morally superior, says British psychologist Jacqueline Rose. 'Why dying with your victim* should be seen as a greater sin than saving yourself is unclear.'The colonial West had created a two-tier hierarchy that privileged itself at the expense of 'The Rest. The Enlightenment had preached the equality of all human beings, yet Western policy in the developing world often adopted a double standard so that we failed to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Our focus on the nation seems to have made it hard for us to cultivate the global outlook that we need in our increasingly interrelated world. We must deplore any action that spills innocent blood or sows terror for its own sake. But we must also acknowledge and sincerely mourn the blood that we have shed in pursuit of national interests. Otherwise we can hardly defend ourselves against accusations of maintaining an 'arrogant silence in the face of others pain and of creating a world order in which some peoples lives are deemed more valuable than others
even the presidents of Harvard and Yale saw the War of Independence as part of Gods design for the overthrow of Catholicism.
Fighting and obtaining wealth were inseparable and interconnected: freed from the need to engage in productive work, the nobility had the leisure to cultivate their martial skills.84 They certainly fought for honor, glory, and the sheer pleasure of battle, but warfare was, perhaps above all, a source of profit, the noblemans chief industry.85 It needed no justification, because its necessity seemed self-evident.
In a conservative society, stability and order were far more important than freedom of expression.
In the inscriptions of Darius I, who came to the Persian throne after the death of Cyruss son Cambyses in 522 BCE, we find a combination of three themes that would recur in the ideology of all successful empires: a dualistic worldview that pits the good of empire against evildoers who oppose it; a doctrine of election that sees the ruler as a divine agent; and a mission to save the world.
In the West the idea that religion is inherently violent is now taken for granted and seems self-evident. As one who speaks on religion, I constantly hear how cruel and aggressive it has been, a view that, eerily, is expressed in the same way almost every time: Religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history. I have heard this sentence recited like a mantra by American commentators and psychiatrists, London taxi drivers and Oxford academics. It is an odd remark. Obviously the two world wars were not fought on account of religion. When they discuss the reasons people go to war, military historians acknowledge that many interrelated social, material, and ideological factors are involved, one of the chief being competition for scarce resources. Experts on political violence or terrorism also insist that people commit atrocities for a complex range of reasons.3 Yet so indelible is the aggressive image of religious faith in our secular consciousness that we routinely load the violent sins of the twentieth century onto the back of religion and drive it out into the political wilderness.
It is simply not true that religion is always aggressive. Sometimes it has actually put a brake on violence. In the ninth century BCE, Indian ritualists extracted all violence from the liturgy and created the ideal of ahimsa, nonviolence. The medieval Peace and Truce of God forced knights to stop terrorizing the poor and outlawed violence from Wednesday to Sunday each week. Most dramatically, after the Bar Kokhba war, the rabbis reinterpreted the scriptures so effectively that Jews refrained from political aggression for a millennium. Such successes have been rare. Because of the inherent violence of the states in which we live, the best that prophets and sages have been able to do is provide an alternative.
Moses explained, the goat will bear all their faults away with it into a desert place.1 In his classic study of religion and violence, René Girard argued that the scapegoat ritual defused rivalries among groups within the community.2
One of the characteristics of early modern thought was a tendency to assume binary contrasts. In an attempt to define phenomena more exactly, categories of experience that had once co-inhered were now set off against each other: faith and reason, intellect and emotion, and church and state.
people derived their faith in Jesus from the experience of living together in a close-knit, minority community that challenged the unequal distribution of wealth and power
pre-Islamic period jahiliyyah, which is usually translated as the time of ignorance. But the primary meaning of the root JHL is irascibilityan acute sensitivity to honor and prestige, excessive arrogance, and, above all, a chronic tendency to violence and retaliation.4
Since all premodern state ideology was inseparable from religion, warfare inevitably acquired a sacral element.
Skeletal remains show that plant-fed humans were a head shorter than meat-eating hunters, prone to anemia, infectious diseases, rotten teeth, and bone disorders.
the Council of Constantinople that made Nicene orthodoxy the official religion of the empire in 381.
The dispassion of paedeia also informed the doctrine of the Trinity, which these three men, often known as the Cappadocian Fathers,
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. Thats not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists dont represent peace. They represent evil and war.
Their monstrous forms represent the perverse defiance of normal categories and the confusion of identity associated with social and cosmic disorder.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English religion or religious. 6 The idea of religion as an essentially personal and systematic pursuit was entirely absent from classical Greece, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, China, and India.7 Nor does the Hebrew Bible have any abstract concept of religion; and the Talmudic rabbis would have found it impossible to express what they meant by faith in a single word or even in a formula, since the Talmud was expressly designed to bring the whole of human life into the ambit of the sacred.8
the Taliban travesty, a noxious combination of Deobandi rigidity, tribal chauvinism, and the aggression of the traumatized war orphan.
We have seen that, like the weather, religion does lots of different things. To claim that it has a single, unchanging, and inherently violent essence is not accurate. Identical religious beliefs and practices have inspired diametrically opposed courses of action.
We routinely and rightly condemn the terrorism that kills civilians in the name of God but we cannot claim the high moral ground if we dismiss the suffering and death of the many thousands of civilians who die in our wars as collateral damage. Ancient religious mythologies helped people to face up to the dilemma of state violence, but our current nationalist ideologies seem by contrast to promote a retreat into denial or hardening of our hearts. Nothing shows this more clearly than a remark of Madeleine Albright when she was still Bill Clintons ambassador to the United Nations. Later she retracted it, but among people around the world it has never been forgotten. In 1996, in CBSs 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked her whether the cost of international sanctions against Iraq was justified: 'We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean thats more children than died in Hiroshima Is the price worth it? 'I think this is a very hard choice, Albright replied 'but the price, we think the price is worth it.
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they probably did not fall into a state of original sin, as Saint Augustine believed, but into an agrarian economy.