With Karen Armstrong, OBE, FRSL, a former Roman Catholic nun and British commentator and author known for her numerous books on comparative religion. Her latest is Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence.
About the book:
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. She describes how each arose in agrarian societies with powerful landowners who brutalized peasants while warring among themselves, often under the banner of religion. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.
She shows us, however, that in each tradition a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.
At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent. 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.
*Get this interview and many others on the history of religion and politics as a part of our KPFA Fund drive Religion Pack, when you donate now. Other interviews included in the pack:
Gerald Russell – History of Religion
Reza Aslan – Jesus and the Roman Occupation of Palestine
David Kertzer – The Pope and Mussolini
Kevin Kruse – The Political Marriage of Capitalism and Christianity
Edmund Gharib – The History of the Ancient sites destroyed by ISIS
Jonhaton Lyons – Scientific Advancements of the Islamic Caliphates
Hatem Bazian and Iman Muhammad Ali – Shia Sunni Divide
Denise Spellberg – Jefferson’s Quran
Blase Bonpane – Liberation Theology
Sandra Blair – The History of the AME Church
Benjamin Zeller – Heaven’s Gate
Bart Ehrman – Forgeries in the Bible
John Julius Norwich – History of the Vatican
Mark Epstein – Buddhism
Reza Zarghamee – Ancient Persia
Peter Stanford – Judas Iscariat