The full title of Karen Armstrong’s most recent book, published in 2014, is Fields of Blood – Religion and the History of Violence.
She is perhaps the best known and deepest thinker about religion in our era – and I do mean religion, not spirituality. A former Anglican nun, she has written about the ancient roots of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, about fundamentalism in all of them, about Jerusalem – One City, Three Faiths. Many, many wonderful books, including The Bible – The Biography. All are very readable, very broad in their scope, enlightening in a very real sense.
My argument with her is that she negates the 100,000 years of the history of when The Goddess ruled the earth (and cities were not walled), and promotes this relatively late coming patriarchy – only about 8,000 years. But I just read her books with that in mind, and do fairly well.
She has written one breathtaking book outside that list of her usual topics. Buddha is the story of the life of Siddhartha, The Buddha, and is incredibly powerful, so beautiful, resonating with Truth. An Aaaahhhhh! book.
I would not normally read a book titled Fields of Blood. But since one of my shock sayings is to mention, when Christianity is the topic, that Christians are the biggest mass murderers in history (which actually can be said for all three of those Abrahamic faiths), I thought I should connect with Karen’s thinking on the topic. Obviously, she has heard something similar from others – good to know I’m not alone in that thinking.
This book is meticulously researched, as is all her work. And she is a wonderful, skilled writer, carrying us along on her thinking journey. But really, in the end, her basic premise seems to be that governments have always been mass murderers and carriers out of violent acts against their peoples, as well. She doesn’t deny the atrocities of Christians and others, acting in the names of their faiths. She just says – they do it, too.
Along the way, we learn so much about the early societies, and their prediliction for preserving the past rather than risking the future. We learn that being a scapegoat is way better than being the goat that is sacrificed. And why taking care of the poor is a pious notion seldom achieved in any society throughout time. We also learn what a gifted politician Mohammed was – which leads me to believe the Middle East would be in much better shape if his words were actually followed by his followers. And, of course, that could also be said about all religions.
She describes the fields of blood in full, fairly graphically. We learn who, what, where, when and why. The Afterword in the book is powerful and compelling. “We are all, religious and secularist alike, responsible for the current predicament of the world.” “Somehow we have to find ways of doing what religion – at its best – has done for centuries: build a sense of global community, cultivate a sense of reverence and ‘equanimity’ for all, and take responsibility for the suffering we see in the world.”
My translation of those heavy words: we need to forgive and forget all that blood, let go of our fear (and I of my anger at the atrocities committed against the Irish), look at the world and love what we see, express our gratitude and joy daily, and choose to truly live in peace as we move toward justice.