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Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History Hardcover – October 1, 2010

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Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History + Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, 3rd Edition (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society, Vol. 13)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 451 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616142189
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616142186
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,600,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over the centuries, critics of religion have often condemned the world's religions because of the violent acts religions' practitioners have committed against society and against one another. In this unremarkable study of religious violence, anthropologist Eller simply reminds us that religion and violence are not synonymous. After he explores quite perfunctorily six dimensions of violence (instinct, integration into groups, identity, institutions, interests, and ideology), he contends that religion is a social and ideological system that creates a reality in which violence is acceptable, necessary, and even desirable. Drawing on a broad range of examples from the world's religions, Eller examines the violence of many religious practices, ranging from sacrifice and asceticism to war and ethnoreligious conflict. In spite of the persistence of violent acts in and by religions, many religious traditions teach and practice nonviolence, and in his concluding chapter Eller explores the ways in which such traditions present an alternative to religious violence.
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"This is an important contribution to understanding both the attraction and repulsion that religion conjures up among human beings. The author painstakingly and objectively covers the full spectrum of personal and mass violence associated with the whole gamut of the world’s religions, past and present."
–Barry A. Kosmin, director, Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture

"You don't have to agree with every word of the author's argument to appreciate the complex and often troubling questions that Dr. Eller raises about the nature of religion, and the potential of so many faith traditions to produce violence, abuse and exploitation. Passionately written, Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence is a wide-ranging and obviously timely, text."
–Philip Jenkins, author and Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities, Pennsylvania State University

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Anne Johnson on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If given the option, I would have rated this book 4.5 stars. It is not a 5-star masterpiece, but it is quite good. Dr. Eller is an anthropologist but his book draws heavily on sociology and history as well. It is a trans-historical, trans-cultural, non-ideological survey of the relationship between violence and religion by a self-pronounced non-religious person. It is encyclopedic in its range but very readable. You will encounter a discussion of all levels of violence, from self-harm to holy war, from ancient times to the present, in the East and West, across pre-modern and industrialized cultures. In general, Dr. Eller presents detached analysis based on facts, not uncorrobated, self-important opinion. The last chapter is on non-violence, of which Eller is a proponent. This book reads like a series of engaging college lectures. If you are like me, in the end you may just wish you could take his class.

For this fellow non-religious person, it is a welcome antidote to the recent, popular religion-is-the-root-of-all-evil polemics. Thank you, Dr. Eller, for adding your reasoned voice to this (over-) heated debate.

S. Anne Johnson,
author of "The Spiritual Life of An Atheist" blog at wordpress.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By F. Ramos on May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This well balanced book is a reasonable addition to studies in violence. Jack David Eller writes from an anthropological perspective on the issue of violence and religion and pretty much shows, implicitly, how secular, "religious" violence generally is. He correctly acknowledges that both religions of Atheism (nontheism if you like) and Theism neither promote violence inherently by nature nor do they promote non-violence inherently by nature. He fairly details many examples from different cultures including indigenous societies which show the true diversity in atheistic and theistic religiosity and the complex views on violence by many religious cultures (European Christians, Atheists, Buddhists,Middle Eastern Muslims, Pacific Islanders, Australian Aborigines, Native Americans, African Tribes, Asians, etc) and the underlying secular foundations for much of the religious violence that occurs.

For example, in his other writings he mentions that the clashes between "Protestants" and "Catholics" in Northern Ireland are really fueled by the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, not Christianity.

A book that is highly recommended that questions whether religious violence is really different than secular violence, is The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. This will at least broaden the perspective on violence in general and its universality.

When one conducts a primary analysis of primary documents on events that are dubbed as "religious wars" or "religious violence" one can see that secular influences (community cohesion, national security, territory, resources, socioeconomic conditions, foreign invasion, etc.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History by Jack David Eller

"Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence..." is a scholarly, thoroughly researched book that focuses on the many manifestations of religious violence in an even-handed manner. The 451-page book is an ambitious work composed of the following nine chapters: 1. Understanding Violence, 2. Understanding Religion, 3. Sacrifice, 4. Self-Injury, 5. Persecution, 6. Ethnoreligious Conflict, 7. War, 8. Homicide and Abuse, and 9. Religion and Nonviolence.

1. A scholarly effort that provides great case samples of religious violence throughout our planet's history.
2. A well-written, well-researched effort that is treated with the utmost of care and respect.
3. I love the perspective that an accomplished anthropologist provides to this topic.
4. A thorough and objective look at violence of all kinds.
5. Covers all the major religions including Eastern religions and various cults.
6. Fascinating look at sacrificial rituals. It has given me a better understanding of the significance behind them.
7. Some rituals will leave you speechless.
8. Interesting history of religious mass suicides.
9. You will end up with a much better understanding of the basic philosophies of religions across the planet.
10. Great historical accounts of persecution...this is where this book shines brightest.
11. Inquisitions, Crusades, Thirty Years' War...oh my.
12. Great explanations on the kinds of wars and how they are justified.
13. Religion and politics and the implications...
14. Religion can be so cruel. Some notorious cases in detail.
15. Religious terrorism and how it is viewed from the perpetrator's point of view.
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