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Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong - page after page of warnings about religion

Fields of Blood is billed as a book that defends religion against the accusation that it is the cause of most of the major wars in the world.  The book may deliberately give thin reasons why religion is innocent.  The book however gives the impression that religion is indeed dangerous. For this Karen Armstrong is to be applauded.  At least she is not a Pope Francis who lied that Islam must be good and peaceful which is total rubbish for its own scriptures say different.  How could a man-made religion be perfect?  Violent man will have religion if it helps him manipulate.  She however thinks humanity is not inherently prone to being violent which would mean that if religious people fight we should argue that either they are different from ordinary humans - ie damaged by religion or into religion for they are damaged and it makes them worse - or state that we should blame the faith not the faithful.

She starts her introduction discussing the scapegoat sacrificial ritual laid out in the Bible by God. What a start! Cruelty to animals! And in the name of religion. Most of us know that those who are cruel to animals soon move on to humans and degrade human nature merely by advocating the abuse of non-human beings.

She says the Jim Jones suicide cult is given as a big example of how religions leads to violence. She says Jones was an atheist. But is that really relevant? A religion led by fraudsters is still a religion.  The fraudsters would not be serving a religion unless they seen how it affects people's minds and gives exceptional ways to manipulate.  What about the cult members?  What happened is still a testament to how religion can turn people into a collective self-destructive obscenity.

It is liberal snobbery and political correctness that suggest fundamentalism in religion is a new thing.  Nothing more ridiculous could be imagined.  What was Muhammad?  What was Jesus?  What was Joseph Smith?  Surely she knows that the Jewish Historian Josephus like Jesus took the Bible tale of the creation and the flood as being history!

She cherry-picks a bit to soften how dangerous religion is. What about the Jews and witches murdered by the Catholic Church?  She does not cover how Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet commissioned murders and how his successor, Prophet Brigham Young decreed by divine authority that certain sinners must be violently killed so that their blood can atone for their sins.  Adulterers and murderers and heretics died that way.  The blood flowed in Utah.   There is no mention of how Jesus was clear that he believed the adulterous woman should be stoned but the problem was that it was unwise to do it.  There is no mention of how he reinforced the murderous religious laws given by God that demanded that those who offend their parents must be brutally stoned to death.  There is no outrage at how evil dangerous mad men are honoured by religion in the name of faith.  As the alleged continuation of the evil killing machine set up by Yahweh and Moses, todays Catholicism is taking responsibility for the brutal deaths and terror inflicted on the Hebrew religionists.  A good religion cannot call itself a follow-up of a bad one.

She discusses how the oldest scriptures ever the Vedas were not interested in devotion but in denying enemies their rights.  She mentions how they revel in battles and bloodshed.

She mentions how Krishna in the Gita says that killing others pollutes you but you avert this by killing like a machine not a person. That works in practice like you are killing in a dream or something and you must ensure that you just kill and keep personal feelings and animus out of it. This detachment from what you are doing will only make you a psychopath.  How can it keep you pure?  If killing is bad then doing that so you can kill and feel righteous or pure makes you worse not better.  You are still polluted.  Krishna wants the victims seen as objects.

Krishna tells Arjuna that if he kills the enemies or if he does not kill them it does not matter for God/Krishna will do it anyway.  So "many politicians and generals have similarly argued that they were only instruments of destiny when they committed atrocities" (page 67).  The idea that God lets evil happen only for he will turn it to God suggests that even if you break his commandments you are still his instrument and it is really all him and not you.

In the chapter on Jesus, Jesus not of this world, on page 124 she says that it is absurd to imagine Jesus would have wanted faith and politics to be separate.  That was unthinkable in his day.

She says that the prediction Matthew made to be about the birth of Jesus in fact was demonstrating how Isaiah meant his prophecy to be about Hezekiah.  If so, then Jesus was a fake and Matthew a liar.

She says that when Jesus said give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's that is poetic for as God owned all there was nothing really for Caesar.

She says Jesus' violence in the Temple was not over it being spiritual enough but because the money raised was not being given to the poor.  There is no evidence at all in the Bible for such a thing.  Its nonsense and the texts only mention the spiritual aspect. Money was put before God.

She called Jesus "verbally abusive" (page 114).

She states that the Book of Revelation has Jesus as "a ruthless warrior who would defeat Rome with massive slaughter" (page 130). 

She says on page 129 that Jesus was not considered to be God by the apostle Paul or the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke.  She says the gospel of John advocated love but only for insiders in the Church.  She sees that gospel as bitter and insular and sectarian.

She suggests that Paul advocated obedience and respect towards evil ruthless and cruel Rome in Romans 13 for the end of the world was just around the corner anyway so there was no point in rocking the boat.  But surely if the world was about to end that would be a reason for rocking the boat.  It does not make sense to work with and respect Roman "justice" unless the end is coming in minutes.  Even a month away would justify defiance.  Paul was just a manipulator and a hypocrite.

The doctrine of St Augustine that the Bible should be interpreted in a loving way for God is love is just delusional and a scam to hide the impossibility of the task.  The Bible refutes Augustine who was merely giving an opinion.  An opinion cannot be bigger than the Bible.  You would need to be psychic to know that the vicious authors of vicious texts did not mean what they say. Such a weak response to the violent commands is an insult and a waste of time.

She suggests religion might not inherently be violent but might by its nature be neither violent or peaceful.  If so then it deserves none of the special treatment it seeks and has no right to try and censor people or tell them they cannot say things it finds offensive.  It is nothing special. 

She says a religion does not have an unchanging essence.  But it is clear that each religion tries to.  They present what they call eternal truths.  Catholicism is strongly committed to being unchangeable.  A changing religion is not an argument for that religion being meant to be unchangeable.  It does not change the fact that if a religion wants to claim to be right it has to claim to be unchangeable in terms of doctrinal and moral principles.  Updating doctrines is not overthrowing them but in fact affirming them.

She suggests when religion causes trouble that the political dimension is to blame for war and violence too.  But she forgets that religion says that God creates it and all truth comes from God so politics belongs to it.  Politics is absorbed into religion in principle if not in practice.  You cannot partition politics off as a separate cause for religion absorbs it like you have to absorb indirect costs in management accounting.

Islam commands political violence. She does not even hint at that.  It will not do to say that Christianity does not.  It allows nations to decide for themselves if they should fight a war.  Is that really any better?  It as good as commands them if they think they should.

On page 350 she outlines how 9/11 hijacker Atta used prayers and reflections a lot in order to feel he could carry out the atrocity.  She says the terrorists looked back to the time of Muhammad and their future in paradise but refused to look at the horror of the act they were contemplating.  She says they had a psychosis which she defines as an inability to see relationships.  She explains how they documented that their aim was to feel joy and peace while engaging in their terrorism.  But they did see the horror when they had to do so much work to prevent their horror stopping them.

She says religion did not cause the two world wars.  That is debatable.  Hitler did invoke a form of Christianity to accomplish grave evil and hatred of the Jews is purely sectarian.  The Church enabled the Holocaust.

Even if religion did not cause the last two world wars, it could still be inherently violent.  It does not have to cause all wars for that to be true. 

The interesting thing is that a religion of pacifism will be destroyed by the raucously laughing wicked.  If any religion is here it is here because people fought wars to protect it or it started wars itself.  Religions of peace thrive on how others have done the dirty work.

There is no religion without bending the knee to bloodshed.  The bottom line is religion normalises and glorifies refusals to update your thinking if the evidence comes up against you.  This addictive refusal to bend the knee to the truth whatever it may be as what religion is trying to validate.  It leads to religion dripping poison into society so that even those not acting in the name of religion consider it loyal to be opposed to the facts.

The biggest flaw in the book is that she thinks religion alone is not enough to cause wars.  But this is ignoring theological evidence and religious proof that religion has commanded violence as if it were a revelation from God.  She dwells on non-religious evidence.  That will not do.