Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism

Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism

by Neil J. Kressel
     
 

What separates constructive religious impulses from destructive ones? How does someone who begins by contemplating his relationship with God end by committing an act of murder? Some argue that religiously motivated evil always represents a corruption of true religion. Others are quick to suggest that religion itself—all religion—is the root of extremist

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Overview

What separates constructive religious impulses from destructive ones? How does someone who begins by contemplating his relationship with God end by committing an act of murder? Some argue that religiously motivated evil always represents a corruption of true religion. Others are quick to suggest that religion itself—all religion—is the root of extremist violence.

This is the first book to journey to the heart of religious militancy. Dr. Neil J. Kressel, who has spent decades researching genocide, terrorism, and anti-Semitism, brings to bear the insights of psychology and social science on this significant and critical problem. For those tired of simplistic bromides and obfuscating talk about the causes of religious terrorism, Kressel offers a clear and enlightening analysis of when and how religions become capable of inspiring evil. Specifically, he addresses the following key issues:

Are some religions, religious doctrines, and religious practices more apt to inspire hatred and extremism than others?
Are people who commit evil acts in the name of their faith always corrupting the true message of religion and, if so, what is that message?
Do other members of the same faith bear any responsibility for misdeeds carried out in the name of their religion?
Which sorts of people are most prone to extremism?
Which types of societies are most likely to become breeding grounds for extremists?
Can (or should) anything be done to combat the various forms of religious extremism?
What limits, if any, can (or should) be placed on religious practice in America and elsewhere?
Beyond analyzing the nature of religious militancy, Kressel offers sensible recommendations for addressing what is to date the 21st century’s most serious challenge.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Refreshingly unique.... A well-founded observation of how religious extremists build hostile worldviews around sacred concepts enriches the book throughout....Highly recommended." —Choice
Publishers Weekly
Are some religions, doctrines and practices more apt to inspire hatred and extremism than others? Are people who commit evil acts in the name of their faith carrying out or corrupting the "true" message of their religion? What sorts of people are most prone to extremism? Psychologist Kressel, of William Paterson University, attempts to answer these and other questions in a facile study of the perils of religious extremism. Drawing on examples of extremism from the history of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, he defines religious extremists as "persons who-for reasons they themselves deem religious-commit, promote, or support purposely hurtful, violent, or destructive acts toward those who don't practice their faith." Although much of the book centers on Islamic religious extremism, Kressel investigates the cases of Christians responsible for bombing abortion clinics in the name of their religion. He concludes that militant faith may help some believers, among other things, establish a stronger self-esteem, give life meaning and eradicate a sense of their shortcomings, or sin. Kressel urges toleration for the array of destructive religious beliefs, even as he condemns the destructive conduct that sometimes grows out of such beliefs. Regrettably, Kressel offers no startlingly new insights into the nature of religious extremism. (July 31)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Choice

Refreshingly unique, this work probes differences among religious traditions openly and without the restraints of political correctness, proving to be the single best way to understand the authentic nature of religious extremism . . . an enlightening analysis of when and how such religions as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism become capable of yielding to inspirations for evil, destructive, and extremist tendencies. The author's principle achievement is the clear identification of religious extremists as those who cross the rather invisible line from being different from others' beliefs and traditions to being self-chosen weapons of so-called "God's will." Kressel convincingly identifies religious militancy as a mistaken conviction that one must carry out God's verdicts. A well-founded observation of how religious extremists build hostile worldviews around sacred concepts enriches the book throughout . . . Highly recommended.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591025030
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
10/28/2007
Pages:
264
Sales rank:
1,468,591
Product dimensions:
6.29(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.91(d)

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What People are saying about this

Ralph Wilbur Hood
"Kressel has written an excellent book exploring religious extremism. . . Even if one rejects some of his tentative answers one cannot but admire the fact that he asks the right questions."--(Ralph Wilbur Hood, Jr., co-author of The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism. Past President, American Psychological Association Division of Psychology of Religion)
Raymond F. Paloutzian
"This book sparked my interest so much that I read it 3 times. Its topic is timeless and urgent and the dilemma is big. . . It is full of information with sobering accounts of historical and contemporary acts of violence in the name of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. . . Briefly said, this book is excellent."--(Raymond F. Paloutzian, author of Invitation to the Psychology of Religion; co-editor of Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality; editor of The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion)
Harvey Cox
"Kressel's work could not be more timely. It has the advantage of taking religious movements with thoughtful seriousness and making vital distinctions clear. It is also written in a lucid and readable style."--(Harvey Cox, Professor of Divinity, Harvard University; author of The Secular City and When Jesus Came to Harvard)
Amir Taheri
"Bad Faith is a profound book dealing with a complex problem. . . Kressel is never judgmental, and often goes out of his way to try to understand and explain the most obnoxious ideological props used to justify terrorism. This makes his exposure of the 'bad faith' that is at the root of contemporary terror that much more effective."--(Amir Taheri, Iranian author of 10 books on Islam and the Middle East and a syndicated columnist)
Ervin Staub
"This well written, engaging and compelling book addresses the great, current danger of religious extremism, especially in Islam. . ."--(Ervin Staub, author of The Psychology Of Good And Evil and of The Roots Of Evil: The Origins Of Genocide And Other Group Violence)

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