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.