- Hardcover: 444 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books; First Edition, First Printing edition (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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,285,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence Hardcover – April 8, 2005
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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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Top customer reviews
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.
Why then only two stars? First, I was not much impressed by the author's argument that this happens because these religions create "scarce resources". The "scarce resources" he cites seem to me more instances of "us-ness" vs. "them-ness" than specifics in their own rights, and that makes it hard for me to see much difference between "religious" violence on the one hand and nationalistic, or ethnic, or political violence on the other. Has not religion in history acted too often as an excuse for violence -- motivated by greed, or by sheer human aggressiveness -- rather than as a cause? Mr. Avalos does not convince me that religiously-induced violence is different from violence attributed to other factors.
Secondly, the author seems to imply that one bad apple (or more accurately a whole bunch of bad apples) turns the whole barrel bad. Yes, there are a lot of things in the Bible and in the Koran that say that violence is acceptable, for religious reasons, in some instances. But there are also a lot of things in the Bible and in the Koran that urge the faithful to be loving, forgiving and non-violent. Clearly, an absolutist on either end of the spectrum --on the one end an atheist, and on the other a devout and fundamentalist Christian, Jew or Muslim -- won't be able to accept a "half full/half empty" view of sacred texts. But for this secular humanist, Mr. Avalos' view is too extreme.
Future chapters might finally provide examples of his thesis. I know the author is capable of building an inductive argument and drawing a general conclusion.
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. You don't HAVE to equate religion with violence, obviously some violence is perfectly secular, and a religious worldview doesn't necessary lead to violence. However, what he does say (and argue professionally for) on numerous occasions is that religions - especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism - is a whole lot more violent that what most people believe or are even willing to admit, academics included. Furthermore, Avalos makes a tough crack against the latter when he shows how many of them continue their apologetic approach despite the fact that the teachings are based on unbelievably bloody and vicious texts and stories.
Fighting Words is sure to stir quite a buzz, since it more or less says that religions should be done away with. Critics of religion will have a field day, and believers will have to face the fact that what they've believed to be messages of love and goodness get a whole different meaning upon closer analysis.
I'm sure to use this book a lot in the future whenever I find myself in a religious debate.