"The four-volume mother volume was published in 2004, when the Iraq war was about to end, and peace hovered low over the Middle East eager to settle her soft wings at last. Desmond Tutu has contributed a testimony to these 16 selected and updated essays on the history and practice of institutionalized violence by the Children of Abraham."
Reference & Research Book News
In 2004, Ellens (research scholar, dept. of Near Eastern studies, Univ. of Michigan; founding editor, Journal of Psychology and Christianity) put together the first edition of this work, which he has here reduced from four volumes of 50 essays to a single volume of 16-half by Ellens himself-with minimal updating. Each essay ranges from ten to 20 pages in length; the contributors, mostly theologians or biblical/psychology scholars, explore the ways violent sacred texts legitimate human aggression and foster psychological pathologies. Disciplines such as sociology and anthropology are largely absent. Ellens's contributions make up the weaker chapters because he often states his assumptions and conclusions (e.g., the notion that fundamentalism tends to attract psychopathological people to its ranks) as givens rather than arguing from empirical and reasoned evidence. Nonetheless, his contributions do effectively move the "plot" of the anthology: that the Western monotheisms need to reject their violent narratives of cosmic battle of good vs. evil and replace them with the gracious conception of life as a quest for growth and fulfillment. The perspective remains that of Christian psychologists and theologians committed to retaining the good in religion while struggling to identify the bad, placing this work somewhere between Sam Harris's The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, which indicts all religion, and Charles Kimball's When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs, which sees religion as generally a positive phenomenon, albeit susceptible to taking on dangerous forms. Recommended for collections missing the earlier set.