Is Religion Killing Us?

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Coverage of recent world events has focused on violence associated with Islam. In this courageous and controversial book, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer claims that this narrow view ignores the broader and unfortunate relationship between human violence and the sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Both the Bible and the Quran, he believes, are riddled with violent images of God and with passages that can be reasonably interpreted to justify violence against enemies in service to God's will.

According to Nelson-Pallmeyer, many wondered how Muslims could in God's name kill innocent civilians by flying airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Few, however, questioned U.S. leaders and citizens invoking God's name, or assuming God's favor, to fight the responsive "war against terrorism." And in the Middle East, the roots of the continuing and seemingly unsolvable conflict and violence are to be found in both the Torah and the Quran.

Nelson-Pallmeyer challenges the understanding of power that lies at the heart of the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He argues that nonviolence is powerful and necessary and that a viable future for human beings and the planet depends on challenging the ways in which sacred texts reinforce visions of power that are largely abusive. A viable future, he says, depends on re-visioning God's power.

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is Assistant Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. For more than twenty years he has studied and written about the relationship of religion, violence, and peace, and his books include Jesus Against Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus (Trinity Press International) and School of Assassins: Guns, Greed, and Globalization.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This hard-hitting, cogent book by Nelson-Pallmeyer, an assistant professor of peace and justice studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., explores the relationship between religion and violence in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. "I accept that there are positive streams within the Bible and the Quran," he writes. "The problem that has been ignored for too long, however, is that these streams flow from and are flooded by an enormous reservoir of God's abusive violence." Nelson-Pallmeyer cites Old Testament/Hebrew Bible passages that point to God as a "determined and powerful land thief" and a "relentless" and bloodthirsty warrior. And while the New Testament is often perceived as a softer, gentler statement about God's goodness, Nelson-Pallmeyer claims that this more mild ethos is shored up by a system in which Jesus' sacrificial death appeases "a violent God who punishes sin." Likewise the Quran, which is informed by the Old and New Testaments, not surprisingly has a strong orientation toward religious violence (though Nelson-Pallmeyer overstates his case when he maintains that "almost every sura presents fear of God's wrath as the foundation for belief and action"). Nelson-Pallmeyer's sometimes harsh rhetoric is balanced by his extensive knowledge of the three religions' sacred texts and by a writing style which, for an academic, is refreshingly free of jargon. Chapters are short, accessible, and persuasive. While this book's perspective may be one-sided, it is a side that needs to be heard. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This volume by justice and peace studies professor Nelson-Pallmeyer (Univ. of St. Thomas; Jesus Against Christianity) is daring, paradigm changing, and/or heretical, depending upon your religious leanings. At the very least, it is a deeply compelling book that discusses the perceptions of power and violence that exist in the "sacred" texts of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Arguing that a viable future for Earth and its inhabitants can only be brought about by nonviolence and peace, Nelson-Pallmeyer insists that the texts of violence in the Bible and the Qur'an do not reflect the real God of peace, love, and compassion but are centuries-old, humanmade interpolations. He uses many examples of these texts and juxtaposes them with the counter-logic of Jesus, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Badshah Khan, and many others. He does not wish to dismantle the very foundations of monotheistic religions-their scriptures-but he believes that doubting the authority of "sacred" texts that legitimate violence is "an essential act of faithfulness." Highly recommended for all readers in all libraries. [For another book on religion and violence, see Robert Jewett and John Lawrence's Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil, LJ 2/15/03.-Ed.]-Gary P. Gillum, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, UT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826417794
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is Assistant Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. For more than twenty years he has studied and written about the relationship of religion, violence, and peace and his books include Jesus Against Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus and School of Assassins: Guns, Greed, and Globalization.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Elephant in the Room
1 Lunatics and Messengers 1
2 Religion and Violence 13
3 Violence-of-God Traditions in the Hebrew Scriptures 27
4 Violent Story Lines in the Hebrew Scriptures 41
5 Violence-of-God Traditions in the New Testament 57
6 Violence-of-God Traditions in the Quran 73
7 Room for Doubt? 95
8 Saved by Enemies 111
9 Saved by Doubt 129
Index 151
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