17 February, 2015

‘Fields of Blood,’ by Karen Armstrong - NYTimes.com

‘Fields of Blood,’ by Karen Armstrong - NYTimes.com: Second, this involvement with politics means that religions have often been tied up with violence: Crusaders, conquistadors, jihadists and many more. But — a point Armstrong cares about so much that she makes it dozens of times — the violence almost always originates with the state and spills over to religion, rather than vice versa. This, she says, is because any governing body, democratic or tyrannical, peace-loving or expansionist, “was obliged to maintain at its heart an institution committed to treachery and violence,” and because “violence and coercion . . . lay at the heart of social existence.” The earliest states required force to maintain systems of agricultural production; mature ones found that the threat of violence — by police within their borders, by armies between them — was, sadly, the best way to keep the peace.