Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence

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Prometheus Books - Religion
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Is religion inherently violent? If not, what provokes violence in the name of religion? Do we mischaracterize religion by focusing too much on its violent side?In this intriguing, original study of religious violence, Prof. Hector Avalos offers a new theory for the role of religion in violent conflicts. Starting with the premise that most violence is the result of real or perceived scare resources, Avalos persuasively argues that religion creates new scarcities on the basis of unverifiable or illusory criteria. Through a careful analysis of the fundamental texts of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, Dr. Avalos explains how four scarce resources have figured repeatedly in creating religious violence: sacred space (e.g., the perception by three world religions that Jerusalem is sacred); the creation of holy scriptures (believed to be privileged revelations of God's will); group privilege (stemming from such beliefs as a chosen people or predestination, which also creates a group of outsiders); and salvation (by which concept some are accepted and others rejected). Thus, Avalos shows, religious violence is often the most unnecessary violence of all since the scarce resources over which religious conflicts ensue are not actually scare or need not be scarce.Comparing violence in religious and nonreligious contexts, Avalos makes the compelling argument that if we condemn violence caused by scarce resources as morally objectionable, then we must consider even more objectionable violence provoked by alleged scarcities that cannot be proven to exist. He also examines the Nazi Holocaust and the Stalinist Terror, which have been attributed to the pernicious effects of atheism or secular humanism. By contrast, Avalos pinpoints underlying religious factors as the cause of these horrific instances of genocidal violence.This serious philosophical examination of the roots of religious violence adds much to our understanding of a perennial source of widespread human suffering.Hector Avalos (Ames, IA) is associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, the author of five books on biblical studies and religion, the former editor of the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, and executive director of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

The author presents an interesting thesis that the origin of religious violence lies in the competition for scarce resources. He details ways in which he feels there is only so much of what people ... Read full review

Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Former editor of the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion , Avalos (religious studies, Iowa State Univ.) has long been troubled by the violence described in the Bible. He argues that religion is ... Read full review

Contents

Abbreviations
11
PAST EXPLANATIONS OF VIOLENCE
37
Modern Theories of Violence 53 Scientific Method and Religious Violence
53
Previous Theories of Religious Violence
75
A NEW THEORY OF RELIGIOUS
91
How Religion Creates Scarce Resources
103
Judaism and the Hebrew Bible
113
Academic Defenses of Violence in the Hebrew Bible
159
SECULARISM AND VIOLENCE
301
Stalinism
325
The NationState and Secular Humanist Violence
335
SYNTHESIS
347
Solutions
359
Foreign Policy Implications
373
Conclusion
381
Index of Authors and Subjects
425

Christianity and the New Testament
175
Academic Defenses of Christian Violence
215
Islam and the Quran
239
Academic Defenses of Islamic Violence
283

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About the author

Hector Avalos (Ames, IA) is associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, the author of five books on biblical studies and religion, the former editor of the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, and executive director of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion.

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