The Destructive Power of Religion
Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
by J. Harold Ellens
December 2003, 1290pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
4 volumes, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-97958-4
$209, £161, 182€, A287

Senior experts from five nations, including a recent Pulitzer Prize winner, examine the religious roots of violence in the Western world.

Dozens of studies by 30 senior experts from five nations examine the influence of sacred texts shaping human nature, society, and political and military strategies in the Western world over the last 3,000 years. The contributors—including a recent Pulitzer Prize winner—explain how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all incorporate core metaphors of the ancient Israelite notion that history and the human soul are caught in a cosmic conflict between good and evil, or God and devil, which cannot be resolved without violence: a cataclysmic final solution, such as the extermination of nations, the execution of humans, or even the death of God’s own son. This notion is internalized in the Western psyche and collective unconscious, shaping our social ethics, theological assumptions, and national strategies, particularly for fundamentalists in each religion who take a literalist approach to responsibility and ethics.

Whether they fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon; blow up ships, ports, or federal buildings; kill doctors and nurses at abortion clinics; exterminate contemporary Palestinians; or kill Israeli soldiers with suicide bombs, these destructive religionists are all shaped by the same unconscious apocalyptic metaphors, and by the divine example and imperative to violence. The authors of this book warn that until such metaphors are removed from the Western psyche, an end to religious violence in the West will not be possible.

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