Cover image for The destructive power of religion : violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
The destructive power of religion : violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Ellens, J. Harold, 1932-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2004.
Physical Description:
4 volumes : illustrations ; 25 cm.
v. 1. Sacred scriptures, ideology, and violence -- v. 2. Religion, psychology, and violence -- v. 3. Models and cases of violence in religion -- v. 4. Contemporary views on spirituality and violence.




Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL65.V55 D47 2004 V.1 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BL65.V55 D47 2004 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BL65.V55 D47 2004 V.3 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BL65.V55 D47 2004 V.4 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Dozens of studies by 30 senior experts from five nations examine the influence of sacred texts shaping human nature, society, and political and military strategies in the Western world over the last 3,000 years. The contributors--including a recent Pulitzer Prize winner--explain how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all incorporate core metaphors of the ancient Israelite 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. This notion is internalized in the Western psyche and collective unconscious, shaping our social ethics, theological assumptions, and national strategies, particularly for fundamentalists in each religion who take a literalist approach to responsibility and ethics.

Whether they fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon; blow up ships, ports, or federal buildings; kill doctors and nurses at abortion clinics; exterminate contemporary Palestinians; or kill Israeli soldiers with suicide bombs, these destructive religionists are all shaped by the same unconscious apocalyptic metaphors, and by the divine example and imperative to violence. The authors of this book warn that until such metaphors are removed from the Western psyche, an end to religious violence in the West will not be possible.

Author Notes

J. HAROLD ELLENS is a Research Scholar in the Origins of Judaism and Christianity at the University of Michigan Department of Near Eastern Studies. He is also a licensed psychotherapist in clinical practice, a retired Presbyterian theologian and ordained minister, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and a retired Professor of Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

A research scholar in the origins of Judaism and Christianity at the University of Michigan, Ellens (Psychotheology: Key Issues) is also a psychotherapist, ordained minister, and retired military officer. He brings his broad expertise to this wide-ranging four-volume work about religion-based violence. Thirty-three contributors, mostly Christians, discuss how the three Abrahamic religions incorporate the idea of cosmic conflict and its final apocalyptic resolution through violence and how Western culture has absorbed this expectation and used it to shape its social, theological, and political worldviews. The message is that until Western civilization removes apocalyptic metaphors, quarantines toxic texts, and eschews interpretations that push toward destruction, it will be impossible to end religious violence in the West. The contributors review a substantial amount of work by Christian thinkers and psychologists on religious violence. The resulting text doesn't break a lot of new ground-many of the essays are distillations of other work-but it does provide a comprehensive overview of Christian psychological thinking on this topic. The message running through the essays is that the West must come to see God above all as a God of grace and that no violence is permissible. These volumes do have weaknesses. The most obvious is that only two articles out of 50 focus on Islam and both are written by Christians. Furthermore, to the nontheologian and nonpsychologist, some interpretations seem forced, such as the view that Jesus' healing of the blind man in John 9 was an act of secondary violence performed for a specific political purpose. Despite these caveats, this work is a significant achievement and deserves to be in every university and large public library, as well as in collections on theology and psychology.-William P. Collins, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Under the auspices of the Fundamentalism Project (American Academy of Religion), this set brings together some 49 essays in four broadly conceived volumes. Ellens (Univ. of Michigan) contributes an introductory essay to each volume. This series takes a markedly different approach to the study of religion: it positions itself as either a subset of that much broader field, or as a means of looking at religion from the particular standpoint of its malpractice rather than its practice. How appealing such a line of approach will be to scholars is difficult to say. Having such a large and diverse collection of essays under such a general rubric might make accessibility difficult. (It is much more common for essays of this sort to appear in scholarly journals, in published conference proceedings, or in Festschriften). The overall result is not as well integrated as would be the case with a comparable collection of articles brought together in a dictionary or encyclopedia. These methodological concerns aside, any scholar of the pathology of religion will find plenty to work with here. The bibliographies for each essay are detailed and up-to-date, and the indexes are surprisingly thorough. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners. D. R. Stewart Luther Seminary