Religion is inherently violent, the cause of all the major wars in history. This sentiment, says Karen Armstrong in Fields of Blood, is heard constantly nowadays, ‘recited like a mantra by American commentators and psychiatrists, London taxi drivers and Oxford academics’. In the course of a learned, lively and lengthy historical survey, Armstrong, a respected commentator on the comparative history and practice of religion and a well-known proponent of a broad and inclusive theism, aims to set the record straight.
The frequently cartoonish portrayal of the relationship between faith and violence advanced by some of the new atheists invites an equally polemical response: counter-examples of religious pacifism and the tallying of acts of horrific violence perpetrated by secularists and atheists. There is some of that here – it is salutary