Johnson, “The Souls of China”

This month, Pantheon Publishing releases “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao,” by Ian Johnson.  The publisher’s description follows:

Teitler, “The Last Pagan Emperor”

In March, the Oxford University Press released “The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity,” by H.C. Teitler.  The publisher’s description follows:

Flavius Claudius Julianus was the last pagan to sit on the Roman imperial throne (361-363). Born in Constantinople in 331 or 332, Julian was raised as a Christian, but 9780190626501.jpgapostatized, and during his short reign tried to revive paganism, which, after the conversion to Christianity of his uncle Constantine the Great early in the fourth century, began losing ground at an accelerating pace. Having become an orphan when he was still very young, Julian was taken care of by his cousin Constantius II, one of Constantine’s sons, who permitted him to study rhetoric and philosophy and even made him co-emperor in 355. But the relations between Julian and Constantius were strained from the beginning, and it was only Constantius’ sudden death in 361 which prevented an impending civil war.

As sole emperor, Julian restored the worship of the traditional gods. He opened pagan temples again, reintroduced animal sacrifices, and propagated paganism through both the spoken and the written word. In his treatise Against the Galilaeans he sharply criticised the religion of the followers of Jesus whom he disparagingly called ‘Galilaeans’. He put his words into action, and issued laws which were displeasing to Christians–the most notorious being his School Edict. This provoked the anger of the Christians, who reacted fiercely, and accused Julian of being a persecutor like his predecessors Nero, Decius, and Diocletian. Violent conflicts between pagans and Christians made themselves felt all over the empire. It is disputed whether or not Julian himself was behind such outbursts. Accusations against the Apostate continued to be uttered even after the emperor’s early death. In this book, the feasibility of such charges is examined.

Tomass, “The Religious Roots of the Syrian Conflict”

Last month, Palgrave Macmillan released “The Religious Roots of the Syrian Conflict: The Remaking of the Fertile Crescent,” by Mark Tomass (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

512etymsrxl-_sx321_bo1204203200_Explores the historical origins of Syria’s religious sects and their dominance of the Syrian social scene. It identifies their distinct beliefs and relates how the actions of the religious authorities and political entrepreneurs acting on behalf of their sects expose them to sectarian violence, culminating in the dissolution of the nation-state.

Rios Oyola, “Religion, Social Memory and Conflict”

In June, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Religion, Social Memory and Conflict: The Massacre of Bojayá in Colombia” by Sandra Milena Rios Oyola (Utrecht University, Netherlands). The publisher’s description follows:

The field of transitional justice and reconciliation considers social memory 9781137461834
to be an important mechanism for acknowledging the violation of victims’ rights and a step toward building peace. Societies in conflict, such as Colombia, challenge our current understanding of using memory in the construction of social peace processes, which in turn question the impossibility of forgiving violence that is still to come. Drawing on original ethnographical research, Rios analyses strategies of memorialization after the massacre of Bojayá, Colombia, as an arena of political contention but also of grassroots resistance to persistent and diverse forms of violence. The book focuses on the work of the local grassroots Catholic Church and of the victims’ association ten years after the massacre of Bojayá. It explores the role of religion in the management of victims’ emotions and in supporting claims of transitional justice from a grassroots perspective in a context of thin political transition.

Sacks, “Not In God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence”

In June, Mulholland Books will release “Not In God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth). The publisher’s description follows:

Despite predictions of continuing secularization, the twenty-first century has witnessed a surge of religious extremism and violence in the name of God. In this powerful and timely book, Jonathan Sacks explores the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, focusing on the historic tensions between the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Drawing on arguments from evolutionary psychology, game theory, history, philosophy, ethics and theology, Sacks shows how a tendency to violence can subvert even the most compassionate of religions.

Whilst dismissing the claim that religion is intrinsically a cause of violence, Sacks argues that theology must become part of the solution if it is not to remain at the heart of the problem. Through a close reading of key Biblical texts at the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, Sacks challenges those who kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love, and practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.

“Violence in Islamic Thought from the Qur’an to the Mongols” (Gleave & Kristó-Nagy, eds.)

This month, Edinburgh University Press will release “Violence in Islamic Thought from the Qur’an to the Mongols” edited by Robert Gleave (University of Exeter) and István Kristó-Nagy (University of Exeter). The publisher’s description follows:

How was violence justified in early Islam? What role did violent actions play in the formation and maintenance of the Muslim political order? How did Muslim thinkers view the origins and acceptability of violence? These questions are addressed by an international range of eminent authors through both general accounts of types of violence and detailed case studies of violent acts drawn from the early Islamic sources. Violence is understood widely, to include jihad, state repressions and rebellions, and also more personally directed violence against victims (women, animals, children, slaves) and criminals. By understanding the early development of Muslim thinking around violence, our understanding of subsequent trends in Islamic thought, during the medieval period and up to the modern day, become clearer.

Fine, “Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: From Holy War to Modern Terror”

In April, Rowman & Littlefield will release “Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: From Holy War to Modern Terror” by Jonathan Fine (Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzlyia). The publisher’s description follows:

Religious political violence is by no means a new phenomenon, yet there are critical differences between the various historical instances of such violence and its more current permutations. Since the mid-1970s, religious fundamentalist movements have been seeking to influence world order by participating in local political systems. For example, Islamic fundamentalism is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Christian fundamental right wing has seen a resurgence in Europe, and Jewish fundamentalism is behind the actions of Meir Kahane’s Kach movement and the settler movement. The shift in recent years from secular to religious political violence necessitates a reevaluation of contemporary political violence and of the concept of religious violence.

This text analyzes the evolution of religious political violence, in both historical and contemporary perspectives. Since religious political violent events are usually associated with the term “terrorism,” the book first analyzes the origins of this controversial term and its religious manifestations. It then outlines and highlights the differences between secular and religious political violence, on ideological, strategic, and tactical levels before comparing the concept of Holy War in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Lastly, it shows how modern radical monotheistic religious groups interpret and manipulate their religious sources and ideas to advocate their political agendas, including the practice of violence. A unique comparative study of religious political violence across Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, this text features many international case studies from the Crusades to the Arab Spring.

Buc, “Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West”

In March, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West” by Philippe Buc (University of Vienna).  The publisher’s description follows:

Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror examines the ways that Christian theology has shaped centuries of conflict from the Jewish-Roman War of late antiquity through the First Crusade, the French Revolution, and up to the Iraq War. By isolating one factor among the many forces that converge in war—the essential tenets of Christian theology—Philippe Buc locates continuities in major episodes of violence perpetrated over the course of two millennia. Even in secularized societies or explicitly non-Christian societies, such as the Soviet Union of the Stalinist purges, social and political projects are tied to religious violence, and religious conceptual structures have influenced the ways violence is imagined, inhibited, perceived, and perpetrated.

The patterns that emerge from this sweeping history upend commonplace assumptions about historical violence, while contextualizing and explaining some of its peculiarities. Buc addresses the culturally sanctioned logic that might lead a sane person to kill or die on principle, traces the circuitous reasoning that permits contradictory political actions such as coercing freedom or pardoning war atrocities, and locates religious faith at the backbone of nationalist conflict. He reflects on the contemporary American ideology of war—one that wages violence in the name of abstract notions such as liberty and world peace and that he reveals to be deeply rooted in biblical notions. A work of extraordinary breadth, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror connects the ancient past to the troubled present, showing how religious ideals of sacrifice and purification made violence meaningful throughout history.

Smith, “Weird John Brown”

This November, Stanford University Press will release “Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics” by Ted A. Smith (Emory University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Weird John BrownConventional wisdom holds that attempts to combine religion and politics will produce unlimited violence. Concepts such as jihad, crusade, and sacrifice need to be rooted out, the story goes, for the sake of more bounded and secular understandings of violence. Ted Smith upends this dominant view, drawing on Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, and others to trace the ways that seemingly secular politics produce their own forms of violence without limit. He brings this argument to life—and digs deep into the American political imagination—through a string of surprising reflections on John Brown, the nineteenth-century abolitionist who took up arms against the state in the name of a higher law. Smith argues that the key to limiting violence is not its separation from religion, but its connection to richer and more critical modes of religious reflection. Weird John Brown develops a negative political theology that challenges both the ways we remember American history and the ways we think about the nature, meaning, and exercise of violence.

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