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Sixth & I

Karen Armstrong

Nov 5, 2014 • 7:00 pm ET
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For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in America. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11 perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness. But how accurate is that view?

In Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Armstrong sets out on a journey from prehistoric times to the present to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism—in its totality over time.

As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land. In this world, religion was not a personal matter but rather something that permeated all aspects of society.

In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. 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.

Armstrong shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time. Book signing to follow.