The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Condensed and Updated Edition

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Whether they fly airplanes into the World Trade Center or Pentagon; blow up ships, ports, and federal buildings, kill doctors and nurses at abortion clinics, exterminate contemporary Palestinians, or kill Israeli soldiers with suicide bombs, destructive religionists are all shaped by the same unconscious apocalyptic metaphors, and by the divine example and imperative to violence. In this condensed edition of a multivolume set covering how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all incorporate core metaphors that can spur violence, experts explain religious notions that fuel terrorism and other horrific actions. The contributors warn that until destructive metaphors are removed from the Western psyche, an end to religious violence will not be possible.

Hailed in reviews as unsettling but thought-provoking, compelling, and critical coverage, the set from which these chapters were drawn has a core theme that demonstrates the three major religions share the ancient notion that history and the human soul are caught in a cosmic conflict between good and evil, or God and devil, which cannot be resolved without violence, a cataclysmic final solution such as the extermination of nations, the execution of humans, or even the death of God's own son. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, This is a groundbreaking work with tremendous insight.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Recommended for collections missing the earlier set."


Library Journal

"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

Library Journal

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275997083
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Series: Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality Series
  • Edition description: Updated
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

J. HAROLD ELLENS is a Research Scholar at the University of Michigan, Department of Near Eastern Studies. He is a retired Presbyterian theologian and ordained minister, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, and a retired Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology. He has authored, co-authored and/or edited 164 books and more than 148 professional journal articles. He served for 15 years as Executive Director of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, and as Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.

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