Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence – Karen Armstrong

Fields of BloodSince 911, the rhetoric has been dialled up to piercing levels when it comes to the relationship between religion and violence. The constant noise has numbed us to the realities of history as many of us accept the judgments of the endless cacophony of popular voices proclaiming that violence is a natural consequence of religion. Karen Armstrong’s meticulous research challenges the popular doctrine of both atheists, theists, and all those who would lay claim to the notion that religion is responsible for violence, terrorism, and war. Armstrong surveys a wide sweep of history, beginning 3000 years before the Common Era with the kind of vigour that has lead readers of her previous epics to trust her conclusions. Adept as Armstrong is when it comes to revealing her encyclopedic knowledge of world religions, Fields of Blood is a must read for all those who work in the field of religion as well as an enlightening read for all those who find themselves on the receiving end of modern pundits of both the religious and political varieties. 

In the video below, Karen Armstrong provides an overview of her work which will no doubt compel you to add Fields of Blood to your reading list. Filmed at Chautauqua in August of 2014.

 

“The First Muslim” – Lesley Hazleton

first muslimLesley Hazleton’s is always worth reading! But her new book, “The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad” is a must read for those of us who live in the West! I have blogged about Lesley Hazleton before (here and here) because I believe that as a Jewish agnostic she is a brilliantly articulate story-teller who is uniquely placed to bring a much needed understanding of Islam to Westerners. If you are looking for a great introduction to the life of Muhammad or if you’ve slogged through other biographies of Muhammad, this book will provide you with a powerful view of the Prophet who continues to speak to millions. In this video, Hazleton discusses her work. 

Listening to the Drums of War and Contemplating the History of God

asherah

They’re at it again, the powers that be, calling for a military strike to punish a dictator for a military strike that went too far. As the drums of war sound, I hear phrases like “We must stand with Israel”, “Christians are being persecuted” and “Muslim Brotherhood”. When will the children of Sarah, Abraham and Hagar stop their squabbling? Surely, it’s time for us to move beyond our tribal ways? Are we doomed to go on repeating the patterns of the past or can we look into our past as a way of moving beyond our history?

“We cannot be religious in the same way as our ancestors. Our perspective has entirely changed. We have looked at the world from outer space for example. Each generation has the task of looking back at its traditions, looking back at its scriptures and looking at its own peculiar and unique circumstances and making a creative jump to apply the past tradition to the problems of the present.” 

Theologian/historian/lecturer Karen Armstrong’s book A HISTORY OF GOD forms the basis for this documentary which explores the way humans have perceived the idea of a supreme being throughout history. During these days, of warmongering we would do well to reflect upon our shared histories. 

The Muslim Jesus

Muslim Jesus2Only in Canada eh? Last week, I enjoyed a quintessential Canadian vacation at a rented cottage in Muskoka. Our neighbours in the cottage next-door were delightful companions around the campfire of an evening. It didn’t talk long for us to learn that our neighbours came to Canada from Afghanistan as refugees during the Soviet invasion. When our conversation moved into the realm of religion, I was dismayed that some of the Christians around our campfire were surprised by one of our new friend’s who explained that, “A person cannot be a Muslim unless they believe in Jesus!” 

In a country like Canada, were we have worked together to achieve a level of multiculturalism that most Canadians take pride in, it is disappointing to be reminded how little Christians seem to know of Islam, particularly when it comes to the role Jesus plays in the Islamic faith. I am grateful to our new Canadian-Afghani friends for their patience as they gently explained to my companions their love for the prophet we revere in common. 

I have blogged before on the subject of Jesus in the Qur’an. I also commend this British documentary: The Muslim Jesus. The more we learn about one another, the better able we are to love our neighbours.