In this powerful and timely book, one of the most admired and authoritative religious leaders of our time tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. Read more...
In this powerful and timely book, one of the most admired and authoritative religious leaders of our time tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of the solution. When religion becomes a zero-sum conceit that is, my religion is the only right path to God, therefore your religion is by definition wrong and individuals are motivated by what Rabbi Sacks calls altruistic evil, violence between peoples of different beliefs appears to be the only natural outcome.
But through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and employing groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. By looking anew at the book of Genesis, with its foundational stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Rabbi Sacks offers a radical rereading of many of the Bible s seminal stories of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah.
Abraham himself, writes Rabbi Sacks, sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith. It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief. It is our task to be a blessing to the world. The use of religion for political ends is not righteousness but idolatry . . . To invoke God to justify violence against the innocent is not an act of sanctity but of sacrilege. Here is an eloquent call for people of goodwill from all faiths and none to stand together, confront the religious extremism that threatens to destroy us, and declare: Not in God s Name."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Chief rabbi emeritus of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks (Covenant & Conversation) turns his prodigious intellect to deconstructing the mechanisms of religious violence. This well-researched tome spans human life, from the birth of human communities and discussions of the mechanics of social cohesion, to contemporary issues of terrorism and the healing work of recent popes. Weaving in the anthropological contributions of monotheism against the fractious lethality of dualism, Sacks dissects our civilization in crisis through the prism of anti-Semitism. If tyrants can convince others that their faith, their values, their God is under attack, Sacks argues, then they have a potent paranoiac cocktail for sustaining repression, and unleashing the dangerous “altruistic evil” that arose in Nazi Germany and that we see in terrorist attacks today. But if Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can overcome their “sibling rivalry”—which Sacks dismantles in a fresh interpretation of Genesis—these monotheistic religions can again offer a generative, life-affirming model of moral cohesion in our postmodern world. Sacks displays his wide learning and empathy in service of an ambitious, ingenious worldview. We’d all be wise to listen. (Oct.)