Former Roman Catholic nun Karen Armstrong, who has spent her life writing about world religions, insists faith not the main cause of violence.
By: Jennifer Hunter Nov 21 2014 – British author Karen Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who has spent her life researching and writing about the world’s great religions. Her latest book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, looks at religion through time and around the world, from ancient Sumer to modern Pakistan. Our conversation has been edited for length.
Your book implies religion is not the root cause of violence, even though we associate it with the Crusades, the terror of the Bosnian War, the Twin Towers in New York. You argue that violence is embedded in human nature and the nature of the state. You cite University of Chicago international security expert Robert Pape,who argues there is “little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.” This is a hard thing for many of us to swallow, post-9/11.
The suicide attack was invented by the Tamil Tigers, who had no time for religion at all. Until the Iraq War, they easily had the undisputed record for suicide terrorism. Similarly, in Lebanon, what caught the world’s attention was the Shiite Muslim attack on the Americans. But, in fact, surveys show Muslims were responsible for only seven of the 30-plus suicide attacks in Lebanon during the 1980s. Three were committed by Christians and 27 by Baathists (a socialist party) and secularist groups from Syria. As Pape says, it’s a response to the invasion of a peoples’ homeland that is the largest impulse to terrorism.
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