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Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence Hardcover – April 8, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591022843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591022848
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #986,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hector Avalos (Ames, IA) is associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, the author of four 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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Customer Reviews

Mr. Avalos does not convince me that religiously-induced violence is different from violence attributed to other factors.
Anne Mills
Nazism is not an atheistic political theory, but is based on pseudoscience and biblical concepts of ethnocentrism and genealogical purity.
Andrew Lumpkin
This life is very simple, acquiring wealth while avoiding the threat of violence from others; no wonder the world over loves FICTION.
RAD

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Lumpkin on June 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Hector Avalos, an anthropologist and avowed secular humanist, provides a scathing critique of religion and its relationship with violence. Avalos uses scarce resource theory in order to show that religion is inherently violent. The author, also, believes that religious violence is always immoral, but this is not necessarily the case for secular violence. In order to achieve these goals, Avalos employs an empirico-rationalist strategy and divides his work into four sections.

In Part I of his book, Avalos looks at historical understandings of the relationship between religion and violence. From Late Antiquity to the Enlightenment, the author outlines theories of violence that have been proposed by prominent intellectual and church leaders. Next, Avalos provides theories from several scientific disciplines in order to show the broad range of theories on violence: biological/evolutionary, psychological, sociological, anthropological, and military. He concludes this part by critiquing the current religious theories on the interaction between religion and violence, examining such authors as Girard, Juergensmeyer, Kimball, and Schwartz.

Part II begins by examining the history of scarce resource theory, first proposed by Thomas Malthus and adapted to cover power dynamics on the familial, national, and global scales. Avalos then proposes his theory: four main scarce resources, ultimately unverifiable or non-existent, have repeatedly generated violence from the inception of religion to the present. Access to divine communication, particularly through inscripturation, becomes scarce when not everyone has access to the communications, usually in writing. Sacred space becomes a scarce resource when not everyone has access to, or the ability to live in, a certain religious area.
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Isaksson on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Oh, how I enjoyed reading this book.

I might as well say that right from the start, so I'll get it out of my system. Because I was thinking about it throughout the entire book. Not many books make me think that way, and especially not non-fiction books. But it was truly an honor to read Fighting Words. An honor? Yeah, because I saw it as a privilege to learn what Avalos had to say.

And so much for all that. Now I really should focus on the contents of the book, right? Well, Hector Avalos, anthropologist and associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, has written a book about violence and its importance to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and if that wasn't enough, it's published by Prometheus Books, known to publish books that are - to say the least - quite skeptical towards religions at large.

Avalos uses a very straight-forward methodology. By applying what he calls the "scarce resource theory", he's able to demonstrate how the phenomenon of religion results in conflicts (violence) based on criteria that are unjustifiable and/or false. In other words, the teachings proposed by religious institutions can never be proven or justified, since religions can be defined as teachings using sources from supernatural beings or sources. Religious violence then turns out to be the most unnecessary of all violence, since the conflicts over the scarce resources fist and foremost are based on premises resulting from unjustified sources.

Even though Fighting Words is a brutal critique against religions in general and religious violence in particular, Avalos still is eager to point out that religions have their good sides, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Terrell G. Bennett on September 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The beginning of the transition of a dedicated biblical scholar from blind acceptance to atheist.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bdw000 on April 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Avalos points out how so many academics as well as religious scholars simply refuse to deal with the reality of the three big monotheistic religions: they all support violence to support their own cause, to the detriment of anyone who opposes that cause.

Avalos simply will not surrender logic to support favored views of religion (as so many religious and atheistic acedemics do).

This is the second book I have read by Avalos. His works are a worthy contribution to the critique of religion. Highly recommended.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Microcebus Rufus on August 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Really enjoyed reading it. I'm so happy to live in the age when nontheists/atheists/agnostics are coming out of the closet. I recommend this book to any fans of Hitchens or Harris. Very well written.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By RAD on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As much as we all, American's and the entire world would like to believe that human nature is about viture and moral goodness. This life is very simple, acquiring wealth while avoiding the threat of violence from others; no wonder the world over loves FICTION. This book written by Avalos is not Fiction - far from ! this book places many unpleasant topics in a readable format for the left / right and middle of the road people. This book should be a must read as should be Machaevill's Price, Mostesquieu's, The Spirt of the Laws, Rousseau, Locke, Voltaire, Aristole's Nicomachean Ethics, Bacon's Essays, Nietzsche and Will Durant's the lessons of history and a few more books that place reason as sublime. best to you all in your studies !!!
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