Characteristically eloquent and instructive . . . Armstrong’s survey of four millennia of organized violence with religious overtones . . . aspires to put historical flesh on the bare bones of [the facts] . . . Modern society “has made a scapegoat of faith”, thereby obscuring and thus partly exonerating the far more massive crimes of modern secular states and armies, while also defaming the majority of religious believers who work for tolerance, justice and peace by nonviolent means . . . We are all awash in “fields of blood”. [This] engaging new book makes that case eloquently.
Scott Appleby, The Tablet (UK)
From Gilgamesh to bin Laden, [Armstrong covers] almost five millennia of human experience . . . Supplying the context of what may look like religiously motivated episodes of violence, in order to show that religion as such was not the prime cause . . . She is no doubt right to say that the aggression of a modern jihadist does not represent some timeless essence of religion, and that other political, economic and cultural factors loom large in the stories of how and why individuals become radicalized.
Noel Malcolm, The Telegraph (UK)
Fluent and elegant, never quite long enough . . . as much about the nature of warfare as it is about faith . . . [Armstrong] is taking issue with a cliché, the routine claim that religion, advertising itself as humanity’s finest expression, has been responsible for most of the woes of the species . . . The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, even modern “jihadi” terrorism: each is investigated . . . The picture is bleak, but certainly accurate . . . Exploitation and oppression continue . . . but these provide a challenge for the godly and the godless alike. The proposition, like the book, is noble.
Ian Bell, The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
A well-written historical summary of what have traditionally been viewed as “religious” wars, showing convincingly that in pretty much all cases it was not so much religion as it was political issues that fueled the conflict.
Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal (starred review)
A valuable, readable rebuttal of a pernicious contemporary myth. The problem is not that religion corrupts human nature, but that human greed too often corrupts religion . . . Armstrong goes through the centuries and assorted cultures to demonstrate again and again how religious principles and religious leaders were co-opted to support warfare.
Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A convincing case that the relationship of religion to violence is complicated and ambivalent.
Molly Farneth, Commonweal
In a lucid and fleet prose . . . Armstrong argues that religion has been made a scapegoat for wars and violence . . . [She is] one of the keenest minds working on understanding the role religion plays in cultures around the globe.
Graydon Royce, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Armstrong comes out swinging . . . [Her] prose is crisp and lucid, her command of fact encyclopedic, and her insights often brilliant.
David Laskin, The Seattle Times
So important . . . [Fields of Blood] has been widely acclaimed for its scholarship, and deservedly so.
Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter
Thought-provoking . . . a tour-de-force of the history of the world’s major religions.
Rebecca Denova, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
[A] bold new book . . . Armstrong makes a powerful case that critics like Dawkins ignore the lessons of the past and present in favor of a ‘dangerous oversimplification’ . . . [Her argument] is strong enough to change minds.
Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor
With exquisite timing, religious historian Karen Armstrong steps forth with Fields of Blood . . . Laden with example . . . [Armstrong’s] overall objective is to call a time-out. Think before you leap to prejudice, she says . . . Among the most interesting stuff in [her] book is her deconstruction of the modern Islamic stereotype . . . In the end, the point Armstrong feels most adamant about is that by blaming religion for violence, we are deliberately and disastrously blinding ourselves to the real, animating issues in the Middle East and Africa.
Patricia Pearson, The Daily Beast
Impressive . . . Particularly valuable is the book’s long historical span, which allows the reader to trace not just the early history of warrior faith in such societies but also its evolution in modern times . . . That long historical reach allows Armstrong to argue very convincingly against some modern clichés about religious violence . . . Fields of Blood has a terrific amount to offer virtually any reader.
Philip Jenkins, The Christian Century
A vast overview of religious and world history, sketching the early evolution of all global faiths . . . Armstrong denounces authoritarian secularism with eloquent passion . . . [and] does a good job of explaining why people who are deeply invested in traditional beliefs and social systems feel threatened and inclined to fight back.
Careful, fair, and true . . . Armstrong demonstrates again and again that the great spasms of cruelty and killing through history have had little or no religious overlay . . . [and that] an overemphasis on religion’s damage can blind people to the nonholy terrors that their states inflict . . . Apart from its larger argument, the book is packed with little insights and discoveries . . . The page-by-page detail of the book is much of the reason to read it . . . I generally end up judging books in two ways: by whether I can remember them and whether they change the way I think about the world. It’s too soon to know about the first test, but on the basis of the second I recommend ‘Fields of Blood.’
James Fallows, New York Times Book Review
Detailed and often riveting . . . a mighty offering . . . Armstrong can be relied on to have done her homework and she has the anthropologist’s respect for the ‘otherness’ of other cultures . . . [Her] oeuvre is extensive, bringing a rare mix of cool-headed scholarship and impassioned concern for humanity to bear on the vexed topic of religion . . . [And she] is nothing if not democratic in her exposition.
Salley Vickers, The Guardian (UK)
Eloquent and empathetic, which is rare, and impartial, which is rarer . . . [Armstrong] ranges across the great empires and leading faiths of the world. Fields of Blood is never less than absorbing and most of the time as convincing as it is lucid and robust . . . [This] wonderful book certainly cleanses the mind. It may even do a little repair work on the heart.
Ferdinand Mount, The Spectator (UK)
“Have we made a scapegoat of religion? Investigating violence and faith from the dawn of man through 9/11, this staggeringly informative read defends belief in a way few dare to do.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
Elegant and powerful . . . Both erudite and accurate, dazzling in its breadth of knowledge and historical detail . . . [Armstrong] seeks to demonstrate that, rather than putting the blame on the bloody images and legends in sacred texts and holy history, we should focus on the political contexts that frame religion.
Mark Juergensmeyer, The Washington Post
A timely work . . . This passionately argued book is certain to provoke heated debate against the background of the Isis atrocities and many other acts of violence perpetrated around the world today in the name of religion.
John Cornwell, Financial Times
Provocative and supremely readable . . . the comparative nature of [Armstrong’s] inquiry is refreshing . . . Bracing as ever, [she] sweeps through religious history around the globe and over 4,000 years to explain the yoking of religion and violence and to elucidate the ways in which religion has also been used to counter violence.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Epic in scale . . . a comprehensive and erudite study of the history of violence in relation to religion . . . Armstrong leads readers patiently through history . . . her writing is clear and descriptive, her approach balanced and scholarly . . . An intriguing read, useful resource and definitive voice in defense of the divine in human culture.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Armstrong again impresses with the breadth of her knowledge and the skill with which she conveys it to us.
Ray Olson, Booklist (starred review)
“A timely work…This passionately argued book is certain to provoke heated
debate against the background of the Isis atrocities and many other acts of
violence perpetrated around the world today in the name of religion.”
Financial Times (UK)
“Careful, fair, and true…Armstrong demonstrates again and again that…an
overemphasis on religion’s damage can blind people to the nonholy terrors that
their states inflict…Apart from its larger argument, the book is packed with
little insights and discoveries…The page-by-page detail of the book is much of
the reason to read it.”
New York Times Book Review
“Detailed and often riveting…Armstrong can be relied on to
have done her homework…bringing a rare mix of cool-headed
scholarship and impassioned concern for humanity to bear on the vexed topic of
religion…[She] is nothing if not democratic in her exposition.”
“This is both an apologia and a
wide-ranging and very readable lesson in the history of religion. It may not
completely change the mind of everyone who reads it; but like everything
Armstrong writes, it will leave them more enriched.”
Amazon.com, editorial review
“Armstrong comes out swinging…[Her]
prose is crisp and lucid, her command of fact encyclopedic, and her insights
“From Gilgamesh to bin Laden, [Armstrong covers] almost five millennia of
human experience…Supplying the context of what may look like religiously
motivated episodes of violence, in order to show that religion as such was not
the prime cause.”
“[A] bold new book…Armstrong makes a
powerful case that critics like Dawkins ignore the lessons of the past and
present in favor of a ‘dangerous oversimplification’…[Her argument] is strong
enough to change minds.”
Christian Science Monitor
“[Fields of Blood] has been widely
acclaimed for its scholarship, and deservedly so.”
National Catholic Reporter
“Bracing as ever, Armstrong sweeps through
religious history around the globe and over four thousand years…She relates—at length—contemporary terrorism to politics and regional
histories: ‘As an inspiration for terrorism… nationalism has been far
more productive than religion.’ The comparative nature of her inquiry is
Publishers Weekly (starred reviews)
“A well-written historical summary…showing convincingly
that in pretty much all cases it was not so much religion as it was political
issues that fueled the conflict.”
Journal (starred review)
“A comprehensive and erudite study
of the history of violence in relation to religion…As always, her writing is clear and
descriptive, her approach balanced and scholarly. An intriguing read, useful
resource, and definitive voice in defense of the divine in human culture.”
Reviews (starred review)
“Karen Armstrong narrates her
sweeping saga on humans’ use of violence in the name of God. Whether she’s
discussing Muslim, Hebrew, or Christian cultures, her premise is delivered with
logic and reason…Her tone and phrasing keep the listener attentive to the complex political and
cultural puzzle pieces that fashion an atmosphere in which violence becomes a
holy grail for the masses. Her blistering commentary is delivered sotto voce,
but the naked truth of her words is loud and clear. Winner of the AudioFile