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Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2014
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Description
A sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence—from the New York Times bestselling author of The History of God • “Elegant and powerful.... Both erudite and accurate, dazzling in its breadth of knowledge and historical detail.” —The Washington Post

In these times of rising geopolitical chaos, the need for mutual understanding between cultures has never been more urgent. Religious differences are seen as fuel for violence and warfare. In these pages, one of our greatest writers on religion, Karen Armstrong, amasses a sweeping history of humankind to explore the perceived connection between war and the world’s great creeds—and to issue a passionate defense of the peaceful nature of faith.  
With unprecedented scope, Armstrong looks at the whole history of each tradition—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism. Religions, in their earliest days, endowed every aspect of life with meaning, and warfare became bound up with observances of the sacred. Modernity has ushered in an epoch of spectacular violence, although, as Armstrong shows, little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different faiths in our time.
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Street Date:
10/28/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780385353106
ASIN:
B00KAFVNYM
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APA Citation (style guide)

Karen Armstrong. (2014). Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Karen Armstrong. 2014. Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.

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Karen Armstrong. Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books on religion, including The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha, and The Great Transformation, as well as a memoir, The Spiral Staircase. Her work has been translated into forty-five languages. In 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working with TED on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the general public, crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It was launched globally in the fall of 2009. Also in 2008, she was awarded the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal. In 2013, she received the British Academy’s inaugural Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding.  

      • name: Karen Armstrong
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fullDescription
A sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence—from the New York Times bestselling author of The History of God • “Elegant and powerful.... Both erudite and accurate, dazzling in its breadth of knowledge and historical detail.” —The Washington Post

In these times of rising geopolitical chaos, the need for mutual understanding between cultures has never been more urgent. Religious differences are seen as fuel for violence and warfare. In these pages, one of our greatest writers on religion, Karen Armstrong, amasses a sweeping history of humankind to explore the perceived connection between war and the world’s great creeds—and to issue a passionate defense of the peaceful nature of faith.  
With unprecedented scope, Armstrong looks at the whole history of each tradition—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism. Religions, in their earliest days, endowed every aspect of life with meaning, and warfare became bound up with observances of the sacred. Modernity has ushered in an epoch of spectacular violence, although, as Armstrong shows, little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different faiths in our time.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Philip Jenkins, Christian Century
      • content: "Impressive . . . Particularly valuable is the book's long historical span, which allows the reader to trace not just the early history of warrior faith in such societies but also its evolution in modern times . . . That long historical reach allows Armstrong to argue very convincingly against some modern clichés about religious violence . . . Fields of Blood has a terrific amount to offer virtually any reader."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Economist
      • content: "A vast overview of religious and world history, sketching the early evolution of all global faiths . . . Armstrong denounces authoritarian secularism with eloquent passion . . . [and] does a good job of explaining why people who are deeply invested in traditional beliefs and social systems feel threatened and inclined to fight back."
      • premium: False
      • source: Molly Farneth, Commonweal
      • content: "Careful, fair, and true . . . Armstrong demonstrates again and again that the great spasms of cruelty and killing through history have had little or no religious overlay . . . [and that] an overemphasis on religion's damage can blind people to the nonholy terrors that their states inflict . . . Apart from its larger argument, the book is packed with little insights and discoveries . . . The page-by-page detail of the book is much of the reason to read it . . . 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.'" --James Fallows, New York Times Book Review "A valuable, readable rebuttal of a pernicious contemporary myth. The problem is not that religion corrupts human nature, but that human greed too often corrupts religion . . . Armstrong goes through the centuries and assorted cultures to demonstrate again and again how religious principles and religious leaders were co-opted to support warfare." --Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch "A convincing case that the relationship of religion to violence is complicated and ambivalent."
      • premium: False
      • source: Rebecca Denova, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
      • content: "In a lucid and fleet prose . . . Armstrong argues that religion has been made a scapegoat for wars and violence . . . [She is] one of the keenest minds working on understanding the role religion plays in cultures around the globe."--Graydon Royce, Minneapolis Star Tribune "Armstrong comes out swinging . . . [Her] prose is crisp and lucid, her command of fact encyclopedic, and her insights often brilliant."--David Laskin, The Seattle Times "So important . . . [Fields of Blood] has been widely acclaimed for its scholarship, and deservedly so."--Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter "Thought-provoking . . . a tour-de-force of the history of the world's major religions."
      • premium: False
      • source: Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor
      • content: "[A] bold new book . . . Armstrong makes a powerful case that critics like Dawkins ignore the lessons of the past and present in favor of a 'dangerous oversimplification' . . . [Her argument] is strong enough to change minds."
      • premium: False
      • source: Patricia Pearson, The Daily Beast
      • content: "With exquisite timing, religious historian Karen Armstrong steps forth with Fields of Blood . . . Laden with example . . . [Armstrong's] overall objective is to call a time-out. Think before you leap to prejudice, she says . . . Among the most interesting stuff in [her] book is her deconstruction of the modern Islamic stereotype . . . In the end, the point Armstrong feels most adamant about is that by blaming religion for violence, we are deliberately and disastrously blinding ourselves to the real, animating issues in the Middle East and Africa."
      • premium: False
      • source: Mark Juergensmeyer, The Washington Post
      • content: "Elegant and powerful . . . Both erudite and accurate, dazzling in its breadth of knowledge and historical detail . . . [Armstrong] seeks to demonstrate that, rather than putting the blame on the bloody images and legends in sacred texts and holy history, we should focus on the political contexts that frame religion."
      • premium: False
      • source: Ferdinand Mount, The Spectator (UK)
      • content: "A timely work . . . This passionately argued book is certain to provoke heated debate against the background of the Isis atrocities and many other
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from September 8, 2014
        Bracing as ever, Armstrong (The Case for God) sweeps through religious history around the globe and over 4,000 years to explain the yoking of religion and violence and to elucidate the ways in which religion has also been used to counter violence. She goes back to the beginnings of human social organization and into the human brain itself to explain the origins of social structural violence as humans moved from egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies into more socially stratified agrarian cultures that produced enough surplus to fight over, and violent myths that justified conflict. From there she reads sacred texts of numerous cultures to find their contradictions: they portray and justify but they also strive to check it. Ahimsa (nonviolence) is an ancient Indian concept; Israel’s prophets thundered against its kings; Christianity turned its other cheek but also mounted Crusades. She relates—at length—contemporary terrorism to politics and regional histories: “As an inspiration for terrorism... nationalism has been far more productive than religion.” The comparative nature of her inquiry is refreshing, and it’s supported by 80 pages of footnotes and bibliography. Provocative and supremely readable. Announced first printing of 150,000.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from September 1, 2014
        Comparative religions expert Armstrong (Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, 2010, etc.) provides a comprehensive and erudite study of the history of violence in relation to religion. The author's global perspective is epic in scale and begins with the very dawn of human history. She begins the book by asserting, "[m]odern society has made a scapegoat of faith," and she ends by noting that the "problem lies not in the multifaceted activity that we call 'religion' but in the violence embedded in our human nature and the nature of the state." Armstrong also takes pains to explain that religion, as it is defined and discussed in modern society, is a construct of Protestant-influenced, Western culture and would not be understood by most cultures through time. Instead of a personal choice, religion has long been an ingrained aspect of most cultures, subject to the needs of societal survival along with every other aspect of a culture. Armstrong sees agrarian society as the source of most violence through history, in which a ruling minority controlled an agrarian majority by force while also attempting to expand territory. Religion served as a way of comprehending and handling the violence inherent in such societies. The rise of secularism-which, as the French Revolution handily proved, could be quite violent in its own right-created a void in which religion, and especially fundamentalism, could arise in a juxtaposing, visible role. This new role for religion has brought about the "religious violence" of modernity, whether it was Jonestown's "revolutionary suicide" or the spread of Islamic fanaticism. Armstrong leads readers patiently through history, from Mesopotamia to ancient India to the Palestine of Jesus to the China of Confucius. As always, her writing is clear and descriptive, her approach balanced and scholarly. An intriguing read, useful resource and definitive voice in defense of the divine in human culture.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from September 1, 2014
        The relationship of religion and violence arose, Armstrong relates, as nomadic hunter-gatherers settled into agrarian communities that developed a system in which protectors kept peons at work, especially to produce more than the community neededwealth that the protectors controlled with the same violence exerted against alien thieves. The religion of nomads was adapted to apologize for this master-and-subject structure of agrarian society, thereby inextricably entwining religion and politics. Eventually, though, in each major religion, a reaction set in, reaffirming the egalitarianism of hunter-gatherer society through mutual pacific love. The first part of thischaracteristically for Armstrongsweeping history traces that development and that reaction in Mesopotamia, India, China, and among the Hebrews. Reaction continues as the theme of the second part, examining the challenges of Jesus and Muhammad to the systemic violence of empires and the ethical crippling of Christianity and Islam as they were incorporated into empires. The third part, covering modernity, reports the conceptual separation of religion from the state, the emergence of secularism, and the battles seemingly between religion and secularity in our own time, in which secular movements have proved as violent as religious ones, and religion is often only opportunistically claimed to inspire a violent political movement, for instance, al-Qaeda. Armstrong again impresses with the breadth of her knowledge and the skill with which she conveys it to us. High Demand Backstory: A book from this recognized biblical authority always commands attention and creates library demand.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from September 15, 2014

        Believing that it is far too easy to make religion a scapegoat rather than trying to see what is really going on in the world, Armstrong (independent writer; The Case for God) offers a well-written historical summary of what have traditionally been viewed as "religious" wars, showing convincingly that in pretty much all cases it was not so much religion as it was political issues that fueled the conflict. Hers is a scholarly rejoinder to such books as Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great, which blames most of the world's ills on religion. Addressing both Eastern and Western religions, Armstrong argues that fundamentalism is not in itself a violent phenomenon, and that the aims of secular societies have led to more wars than has the promotion of religion. The book is particularly timely, given the number of conflicts in the world today that are viewed as religious-based. VERDICT Prolific religious writer Armstrong offers a well-written treatment of the perceived connection between religion and violence that will appeal to the serious layperson seeking to understand the role of religion in the development of society.--Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 1, 2014

        A best-selling author of insightful books on religion and a 2008 TED prize winner, Armstrong here goes beyond jihad or the Crusades to offer (uniquely) a comparative study of violence in religion. She starts by explaining that all faiths arose in agrarian societies, in which keeping or expanding one's land (and keeping those who worked it in their place) was the only way to assure wealth. At the same time, an impulse toward justice arose, challenging this inherently violent setup. These matching strands were wound tightly together as religious practice developed, but what does that mean in the world today?

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 15, 2014

        Believing that it is far too easy to make religion a scapegoat rather than trying to see what is really going on in the world, Armstrong (independent writer; The Case for God) offers a well-written historical summary of what have traditionally been viewed as "religious" wars, showing convincingly that in pretty much all cases it was not so much religion as it was political issues that fueled the conflict. Hers is a scholarly rejoinder to such books as Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great, which blames most of the world's ills on religion. Addressing both Eastern and Western religions, Armstrong argues that fundamentalism is not in itself a violent phenomenon, and that the aims of secular societies have led to more wars than has the promotion of religion. The book is particularly timely, given the number of conflicts in the world today that are viewed as religious-based. VERDICT Prolific religious writer Armstrong offers a well-written treatment of the perceived connection between religion and violence that will appeal to the serious layperson seeking to understand the role of religion in the development of society.--Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence—from the New York Times bestselling author of The History of God • “Elegant and powerful.... Both erudite and accurate, dazzling in its breadth of knowledge and historical detail.” —The Washington Post

In these times of rising geopolitical chaos, the need for mutual understanding between cultures has never been more urgent. Religious differences are seen as fuel for violence and warfare. In these pages, one of our greatest writers on religion, Karen Armstrong, amasses a sweeping history of humankind to explore the perceived connection between war and the world’s great creeds—and to issue a passionate defense of the peaceful nature of faith.  
With unprecedented scope, Armstrong looks at the whole history of each tradition—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and...
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