Thursday, December 17, 2009

When Religion Becomes Evil

When Religion Turns Evil
© 2002 Charles Kimball
256 pages

Published in 2002 before the Iraq War and the rise of the "New Atheism"  Charles Kimball's When Religion Becomes Evil seeks to preserve religion for humanity's sake by elaborating on five ways is corrupted into giving rise to evil: the adoptions of absolute doctrines, blind obedience to authority figures, and the obsession with achieving religious means -- particularly apocalpytic "ideal states" -- by any means necessary, including the declaration of holy war.

Kimball has a balance perspective: raised in a Jewish-Christian home, he attended a Baptist seminary and spent most of his life working in the middle east. Although a believing and practicing Christian, he sees other religions perhaps in the same way as Marcus Borg -- as human responses to interaction with the divine. His emphasis is on the Abrahmic religions, as their size, exclusivism, and missionary efforts make them especially suspectble to committing excesses. I was continually impressed by Kimball's tone, which is balanced without being obviously so. He doesn't need to try, it seems: he approaches the various religions on almost the same level: nontheistic religions make few appearances here. The fairness of his tone makes the book well worth the read for any religious or nonreligious person interested in religion at any level for any reason. I don't believe religion is necessary to achieve the ends he thinks it is, but if religion is here for the long haul as it seems, I am pleased with this book's effort to make it more humane.

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