01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Prometheus Books. 451 page indexed hardback. Price: $28.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-218-6).
check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com
Before you start giving questions marks for the title, ‘Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence’, the sub-title is ‘Religious Violence Across Culture And History’ should sum up the content of this book better. Author Jack David Eller explores murder in the name of religion and there are very few religions who pass unscathed. He neatly from the start reminds you that animal sacrifice was common in early Christianity with Abraham told by God to sacrifice his son and the latter changes his mind at the last minute and sacrifices a goat instead. Granted the Bible could be pointing out that you don’t have to sacrifice your offspring any more but, reading this, I couldn’t help wonder how often this was done up to that time.
A lot of the aspects of religion depend on manipulating the herd instinct of the masses by priests who act on behalf of a higher deity. An observation I’ve made myself in the past. Where Eller goes further is in how it’s used to promote violence, not just against other religions but even amongst its own followers. If anything, this is a manipulation of how Man behaves in line with other animals, only they don’t call it an ideology or religion, just a means to make it legal. Eller isn’t totally against religion and points out that it also created communities and held them together with shared activities. Considering with the current loss of interest in religion in the UK, there is also a marked difference in social contact and behaviour, especially when there hasn’t been any ready substitute. I don’t include the Internet in this because it’s not personal contact. Community spirit doesn’t necessarily need religion, just something where people can interact together.
The examination of violence carried out of various religions to their own people is often far worse than they inflict on other religions and as Eller points out, with some small creeds, this still goes on today with them killing themselves off, even in the belief that they are going to somewhere greater. That isn’t the Muslims by the way, just some of the more wild religious groups out there. Compared to some of the cases Eller points out, there are other religions that are as bad or occasionally worse. In fact, it’s darn right scary what is done in the name of a deity and keeping separate from other religions.
This doesn’t mean the Muslims are left out. If anything, honour killings are now in the news but they’ve been below the media headlines for decades. It does make me and I hope you wonder to the type of mentality that a religion can promote where it is all right to kill off-spring simply for falling in love with the wrong person or not doing what the family wants. Considering that this is the 21st century, you would have thought people would become more adaptable to current standards but only to discover that old dogmas are hard to break. It’s probably also a demonstration that many religions never had a second saviour who stood up and said this is wrong. I’ve commented in my SF Nomenclature on religion that the church holds the power over its people by any means it can but is like some sort of bully when anyone deviates from its creed with excommunication and loss of family. It looks like it’s something they all do.
The more you read this book the more angry you should become as to how much violence was and is carried out in the name of religion as no aspect of society is left unscathed and this is quite an eye-opener as to what has and is going on, let alone using the Bible or Koran or other holy book as an interpretation of doing any god’s will.
The final chapter explores the few religions that aren’t non-violent, like the Piaroa and the Amish, but they are also very secular, keeping away from mostly modern developments as much as they can.
This is a truly enlightening book that should make any of you willing to read this book ponder on the kind of commitment people who have, there is no better word for it, murdered in the name of their religion their children and fellow man let alone those in other religions without questioning their literal, blind belief. Even more so, are their fellow worshippers who applaud their acts and let’s not even wonder at the priests of such religions as well. It’s enough in here to make you wonder if there is a deity out there then what kind of being is it that applauds such acts, if indeed it does. Then again, I’ve also said myself that religions don’t necessarily need a god to be instigated. I suspect after reading this book that you will agree with me.
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