tv After Words CSPAN November 16, 2014 9:00pm-10:01pm EST
i'm glad you could join us this morning. i have to say that i am stunned that you managed to put out one of these books. it seems like every two years. this is the one of the most stored in the defeats that i've ever seen. i don't know how you keep all of this information in your head and how you do this. but that's another story. i want to talk about your book because it is first of all so definitive about violence and religion but your thesis is interesting that religion may not necessarily be the cause of all violence and i wondered what prompted you to do this book in the first place? >> guest: just co. just because i am a writer about religion, i keep getting told by taxi drivers, teachers that
religion is the cause of all of the major war in history and it really does because it is clearly not true the first war in the world war were not for the religion that secular nationalism. and i think that if we can just keep casting religion in and the role of the absolute avail -- billina we are not looking at what the military historians are involved in the violence and terrorism. we never go to the war for a single reason or single ideology. there are always other factors involved. one of them being competition for the resources, the economic role has always been major. and these things blended together with ideology.
>> host: one of the things you talk about, you lay out a number of reasons why people go to war. obviously politics is one of the major economic resources, but what fascinated me is when you talk about the search for meaning that people were looking at the search for the meaning and purpose that is the excitement, the ecstasy of going into the war, youthful exuberance and the necessity. you talk about how there would probably be no civilization. and so -- but they dot me by the search. >> guest: we are -- dogs don't spend a great deal of time agonizing about the plight of dogs in other parts of the world come about we do.
and we fall very easily into despair in some kind of an ultimate significance in our lives. and warfare has been a one of the triggers for a certain ecstasy that chris hedges "the new york times" correspondent has written a very good book called war is a force that gives us meaning. everything becomes crystal clear for men on the battlefield. there's us and them and black-and-white and also he says when you're in the midst of conflict you see how very trivial most of the civilian life is. i was talking to the military historian in britain and he was telling me one of the chief causes that drives people to go to the battlefield is utter boredom and futility of their
lives and they get it in the way and warfare. >> host: you brought up the subject that you didn't really touch very much on in your book which is what about women. there's so much about the alpha male. there is rape and pillage and taking away the women and bringing them back into women were slaves and the man's search for meaning and the ecstasy, youthful exuberance but there's nothing about women. where do that when and if it into all of this violence? >> guest: not so much because it's been a masculine game. we don't have the strength for it and also we are not programmed for it for the vast part of our evolution, the
longest period in human history was the period of the hunter gatherers when the man in order to survive before the mentioning of agriculture had to kill animals. and they became professional killers. using their big brains to invent a technology that enabled them to kill creatures far bigger than themselves and of the women stayed at home. now the women are beginning to come onto the scene now politically more than they ever did before. and as people have often said to me when i don't have an urge for violence in the same way perhaps they can bring something new to the scene. the shade of mrs. thatcher rises up before me and she fought a pointless war and i think that if the women had a contribution to make, it is what we should
do, however privileged we are coming and i've had a very privileged life as a woman. we've all had the experience of being ostracized and patronized and pushed out of the way and i think if we want to bring something new we should bring that experience onto the table. and stand up and give a voice to the plight of people all around the world who are also marginalized and depressed in some way because so many of the problems we are having today comes from the vast disparity of wealth and power in the world that is causing huge alienation, distress and rage explodes in a way that we see everyday on the news. >> host: what fascinates me and you start out early even pre- religion in your book that the women are sort of on the sidelines and get they are the ones that suffer the most. if the men are going out because
they are looking for a heroic deeds in the battle or because they are young or because they are bored or because they get a sense of ecstasy, women don't get anything except make it killed and their children get killed and their lives disrupted. why haven't women put a stop to it over the years and why have you sat on the sidelines? one thing about margaret thatcher, she wasn't active out there on the battlefield. >> guest: it's not only the women that have been the casualties in the war. we have to remember until the modern period the class was only an aristocratic class. the vast mass of the population who were cousins were continually as the aristocrats fought one another killed the
livestock destroyed, buildings burned, starved to death died of disease. the women and the poor. and i think that it's the powerless people of the world which the vast majority of the population who had been to sufferers and that is still true today. >> host: when you start in your book and you write about the beginning of the violence, you are talking about the fact that there wasn't anything called religion and that would take the place of what we now call religionist community and community rituals and when people were battling they were not battling for the religious reasons at all because there was no religion. >> guest: our religion is a
new development in the west. before the modern period before the 18th century, nobody thought of religion in a separate category because it predated everything in life. because that is what the rituals, the prayers, the gods, goddesses were all to give us that kind of meaning and significance to everything we did. but blended with all other activities. so within the early period that we in europe and you hear in what would become the united states separated the religion into politics. and so, they saw it as a essentially private search for something that was personal to the individual that has nothing to do with public life. this was an entirely new development. no other culture had anything like this conflict of religion.
the oxford classic dictionary tells us there is no word in greek or latin that corresponds to the word religious or religion in english. it is translated as religion and other languages like arabic and it is referred to as something much larger and encompassing sympathy for the 18th so that before the 18th century it was impossible to say where religion ended and politics began. there were no conceptual means of separating the two. it was like taking the village and out of politics or warfare or state building would be like trying to take gin out of the cocktail. it's so predated in the two. and certainly you were absolutely right people didn't experience that much by themselves from the very beginning of human society. they experienced it together and
that is crucial in the religion living with one another in the timely compassionate way that he go to the back burner. we get the information transcendence and the religion institutionalizing the best and buddha in his order and of the community life was antisocial way. now the important thing about these communities is that they were always pretty political. they were always an alternative to the violence of aristocratic concern about warfare and gaining wealth and plundering
the fields taking up the way. all of that was aggression and the civilized life before. whereas in the earlier christian communities into jewish and muslim it was set up by the prophet and was meant to be both an alternative to the way that the aristocratic court that was conducting itself. >> one of the things that fascinates me is that you talk about how the warfare and violence was necessary for civilization and that without that there would not be any. can you talk about that? >> i came across this fact that
in every single civilization before the modern period every single civilization depended on hacker culture and that meant whether it is china, india, europe, the middle east developed a system whereby the small comprising 5% of the population took away the surplus of the produce grown by the peasants and kept them at a subsistence level in the poverty and degradation and used the wealth that they have taken to fund their civilization project. this could only have been done by force. they somehow had to be subdued as did 90% of the population.
for 5,000 years they were kept in distress and anger. now historians tell us that without this terrible system we probably wouldn't have developed beyond the primitive level as a species because the system supported the class with the people that had a measure to explore the arts and sciences on which the civilization depended. plus, when you are economy is based on a culture, the only way that you can increase your gross national product is by acquiring more land and presence. consequentially it became essential to the economy and it was the only way for the economy to grow and plunder and it was essential to supporting the aristocratic lifestyle. the economic aspect is always there. but of course because we are
meaning c. king creatures, this effort is a struggle to achieve civilization was mythologized in various religious systems to give meaning, to give significance. but at the same time, there were always profits thinking of the prophets of israel for example, jesus, mohammed, confucius who spoke out against the system of the depression and castigated people, rulers oppressing the poor in this way and had harsh words for those people who said their prayers were they worshiped in the temple and neglected the place of the poor and the oppressed. >> host: are you saying the violence is or can be a good
thing? it's kind of a conundrum. >> guest: it is a dilemma for us all. of course i don't think violence and warfare is a good thing. it is appalling just as the aggression was utterly appalling, but it is a dilemma. and of all of those of us that benefit from a system of oppression in some way implicated in the suffering that it causes and all of us alive today zero our civilization achievements and privileged life cycles to all of those millions of men and women who were oppressed for her 5,000 years in this way, the mass society. and i wanted to call my book originally a chauffeur's dilemma but i knew that the publishers wouldn't allow me to have that.
but it was a third century emperor in india, the first to rule the whole of india and he was a cruel man that had come to the throne which was quite common in india at the time but eight years he had accompanied the honor in the campaign to put down a rebellion in the city and he was horrified at the bloodshed, horrified to see the 140,000 prisoners of the war torn from their families and taken up in other parts. he put up these extraordinary inscriptions written on the fast rocks of the pillars. they were uncovered and
translated in which he says how distressed he was at the violence and how he is going to give up violence and no more warfare, no more hunting. he's going to go on pilgrimages. he is he's saying that we must listen call him lead to all. if we have to go to the war we must keep the punishments to the lowest level possible. but for all of this he is calling for the more compassionate society. and finally he would become a buddhist, but for all of this he could never disband his army because he knew that had he done so, all of the emperors would fight one another to succeed him and the people that suffered the most would be that who he was so distressed nor could he
compatriot it goes that would be carted off as forced labor in other parts. without the forced labor the economy goes down the chute so this is the dilemma of civilization itself. it depends on the great and equity and you can say much the same is true today because you and i live lives of incredible privilege, but there is a huge inequity of resources and power in the world and it's time i think we have to make ourselves aware of this because if we don't now learn to implement the golden rule which is being
articulated in every single major tradition unless we do this globally now and make sure all people who ever they are treated with the kind of respect we wish for ourselves they will not have a viable well. if the british have a -- had applied i don't think that we would be having so many political problems today. >> host: you mentioned a confucius who was the one that first wrote about the golden rule. where did their sense of morality if that's what it is, where did that come from because if it was in fact convenient and economically prosperous to continue on with the war, then how do they how did they happen
to come upon this view that hurting other people is not a good thing? >> guest: we have this sense that people should live in a quality with one another from the time before civilization the longest part of our history 20,000 years or more and because the hunter gathering societies if they were essentially egalitarian and they have to be because there is not a surplus of 12. it has to be shared or the tribe doesn't survive. everybody has the same as fighting skills, so it is almost impossible for one leader to emerge and suppress the others
and there are small communities. but it is ingrained in all of us one of the earliest things they say is that it isn't fair that sense of outrage. i think people like confucius and jesus and the prophets of israel and the rabbis and the profit mohammed ever are taking a leading awaiting the sense that even though none of us have ever had an experience with an entirely just society that things ought to be like that and they have kept that voice alive even at the time when there was no hope articulating it in the dilemma of the civilization. >> host: you write about the crusades and the inclination. when people talk about religion being the cause of the violence
would bring up the crusades and the inclination to totally religious inspired actions yet you say that isn't true. can you explain that? >> guest: sure because as i say we go to war for many reasons. we never do anything purely for god. belief become i know because i tried for seven years to do every action and it's impossible because the motivation is always so entirely mixed. they were certainly like all human activities were with religious passion that the pope was also politically motivated. he wanted to use the likes of europe to extend his power to the east especially as he was
responding to the greek orthodox world who did not accept the supremacy. he was also engaged in a long struggle fought in europe between the pope, the church and the kings of europe as to who was going to be top dog and who would be the real leader and he was asserting his rights right to mobilize europe for the warfare. it is a very astute political motion. by the end it was more important how the fighting was going on there than the impact of the crusade had politically a tom and how it had enhanced the
ambition. so the religion and politics were infused in a sort of cocktail. and with the inquisition it was appalling to the problem the catholic monarchs of spain had when they came to the throne with the hope that had been torn apart in the bitter civil war. they were on the front line against the islamic world. and often when people are threatened from an outside enemy we see this again and again they
turn on an enemy within. they have the fantasies of a sort of fifth column of people and the people they pick on where the jews converted to christianity a lot of them converted and they were called the converse is. they became extremely successful and were presented for it. they ran against practicing jews at this time but they started the inquisition against them. but it was a tragedy because for centuries the muslim rule they had lived together in harmony and the peninsula. but, the bonnet that introduced
the href and the suspicion of the enemy into spain for the first time. fewer people died in the inquisition than it was commonly thought and the inquisition was quite rightly hated but it was also presented in the rest of europe because spain was the most powerful at the time so the stories of the inquisition got overblown especially in the protestant world. but again it was a fusion of both politics and religious passions in this type of a cocktail. >> host: you mentioned a lot of these young men had no idea what they were doing or where they were going and that they would stop at the jewish communities and to say but wait a minute by everything off to the middle east to kill muslims
when the jews killed christ by don't we just do it here and not have to travel all that distance, so i thought that was -- it never occurred to me that wasn't a part of the crusade. >> guest: you can imagine now when a ruler goes on tv and everybody knows what is happening they were signing up because it was an adventure the way that we talked about because we are going to liberate but a lot of them were really confused. they had this idea that they had killed jesus in fact it was the romans who put jesus to death rather than the jewish people and he himself was jewish. but they were puzzled about the
german crusaders and the french. what we've got the it all backwards. at this point they knew next to nothing about islam. why were they going 3,000 miles to the middle east a credible danger than they were alive and well on their doorsteps? here again there were two economic reasons for those that have been integrated into the european society because europe was beginning its slow progress towards creating a commercial empire that would replace the agrarian empire. but in any period and the massive social change, this puts a put a great strain on the
social relations. we've seen it in the countries modernizing today going through the painful rite of passage from the premodern to the modern state of affairs how this creates social tension and they were very much associated with money and with that which was presented so much by the people benefiting from it. as of again, it is a tragic event because every time in the future a crusade was called to kill muslims in the east, those who defend would kill jews at home and it made anti-semitism across disease in europe. they became linked. >> host: you talked about religion earlier and the meaning of religion and how the word
didn't really exist him tell martin luther is the first person who was a proponent of the separation of church and state but also that religion became something that was internal instead of external and until that time, religion had been about community, about the state, and now it suddenly became something that was in us. how did that happen and what did that mean in terms of religion and violence? >> guest: martin luther is an interesting figure. he is the first european to advocate the separation of church and state. he also showed a that this wouldn't necessarily be a peaceful alternative because his idea is that the worldwide so
corrupt that religion should have nothing to do with it. it should really basically literally left the world and its problems go to hell while the religions -- religious retreated to the kingdom of god within them. but also during the present war, they revolted in germany at this time another symptom of the modernization process that was going on he told them to go in and kill them, kill peasants, spite of them, bury them, put them down as you would put he would put down a mad dog he said because they had committed fixing up religion and politics. they were pointing the gospel to say this inequity was against the teachings of christ taught all people were = should love one another.
it was going back to the scripture and this is the only form of religion that suits the modern conception as he essentially private but the aggression shows that there is also an aggression and secularism, too. and we see that particularly in the revolutionary front for example, when the french separate getting rid of the catholic church which was so intimately intertwined in the order that they were pulling down. one of the first acts of the assembly was to confiscate all of the church property and put
it over the state and abolish the religious orders. they followed it up a year later and the september when the mobs were let loose on the prisons were a lot of priests were incarcerated and slaughtered them all into a couple of nights thousands of people were killed in the then they later that year the revolutionary army scout probably about a quarter of a thousand people in western france protesting against the anti-catholic measures currents cause of the secularism has often been imposed violently and that's been particularly true in the middle east. many of the problems that we are having today spring from the country that has been done with
blood and slaughter and has pushed islam into a more aggressive mode. >> i would like to talk about terrorism. you quoted richard dawkins as saying only that religious faith could motivate such, but i would like to hear your definition because i think it is different from what most people think. >> the scholars that specialize in the study of terrorism say that but it's hopelessly lost in the confusion. you could say that it involves
the killing of innocent people by a group but so does ordinary warfare and that is true the state has been by far the biggest killer of civilians far more than any individual group of terrorists. that has been exponentially increasing in the last century. in world war i only 5% of the people who died. the casualties in world war ii were deliberately targeted by the allied scientists who created special bonds and would have in disasters affect and what draw upon german and
japanese cities precisely to tear to raise the population and a drop on the residential areas of civilians. now 90% of the people are dying in the current war and have been civilians. so you can't say that it's just about the killing of civilians therefore and the also incest that whatever reasons people give for the terrorist actions that it is always inescapably political. that is the one thing that you could say about terrorism is that it always has a political focus and it is about power and about grabbing power or getting rid of a certain power structure were tearing down a certain element of the society. it's about power and that is certainly true if you look at al
qaeda. but there's also in the speeches >> so everyone who is anti-islam or anti-muslim says that islam is a violent religion and yet most muslims will say that it's not a violent religion and in fact terrorism is against the koran and everything that islam stands for tony what you think about islam and the muslim religion and whether you be
needed is a peaceful religion and why is it that they are always associated in people's minds with terrorism? >> guest: first, islam has been until the modern period a more tolerant religion. but it's now entered the english lexicon. it's central to the koran infected isn't a. it is a struggle sometimes you
have to fight when the community was threatened with extermination by the establishment but also it is a struggle to share your food with somebody worse off than your self when you've hardly got any resources for yourself but is also a struggle. that is a very famous saying that attributed to the prophet mohammed when he's returning from a battle he says to his companions we are returning from the lesser jihad, that is the battle come and going back to the greater jihad. that is a far more difficult and yet much more important struggle reforming around the society.
and that has been the muslim policy throughout the ages. at the time they ran the biggest empire the world had ever seen. and it is about the defensive warfare by this time that expansion has stopped and they knew that they could expand the empire any further and that it had reached its limits but they have to defend the frontier. so it is very much a defensive warfare and not an aggressive warfare that is being advocated. and yes there are some passages that speak of warfare. they are fighting the battles
and i discussed them all in the book in detail in the strategies they say that it's better to sit down and discuss this peacefully and the reconciliation is better and god is always forgiving. that balance is always there. until recently, nobody read it on its own. just as jews don't read the hebrew scriptures without. you see the scriptures through the lens.
it was developed over centuries and concerned to mitigate the violent passages in the hebrew bible. you've all got the violent passages because we are a violent people. the scriptures reflect us. but in the muslim world, too, nobody just picked it up and picked out a few passages from the jihad and ignored the rest. there is a caution of reading the scripture in the light of all of this traditional and actually held extremists opinions. why is there so much terrorism now because i said earlier they had a much more difficult passage to modernity than we have. number one, they were a great world power and when the british
and the french came in and subdued than in the empire's day where reduced overnight to a dependent block and that's really a shame goes very deep and humiliation is a large cause but in other parts of the world. that is a very dangerous thing to have in that society. second, as i said earlier, secularism has been imposed so violently that it's acquired the members of evil in every fundamentalist and every fundamentalist movement that i've studied is rooted in the fear of annihilation. and in the muslim about you can see above you can see why the fear of annihilation is a cute. and when they use to make their soldiers about to the bayonets ripping off the women's bagels
and tearing them to pieces in front of them, in 1935, they gave the soldiers orders to shoot hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in one of the holiest tribes and they were told that they. the fundamentalism was in the concentration camps into which the members of the brotherhood were incarcerated for 15 years without trial and often doing nothing more incriminating than handing out a few leaflets. so in this battle the sense if you have a more extreme form of islam developing and that's tragically has erupted as we see in the terrorist actions but it's not just purely islam lets look at the suicide bombing
which seems to be the quintessential terrorist activity it wasn't invented by muslims that was invented by those that had no time and they were utterly aggressive and who until the iraq war they had the undisputed record of suicide bombing. the university of chicago and has done every single suicide bombing that has occurred between 1980 to 2004 when it concludes that it has nothing to do with islamic fundamentalism or any kind of religion for that matter. in lebanon there for something
like 30 suicide bombing attacks and they were committed by muslims and three by christians and the rest by secularists and socialists coming in from syria. the main part said it's when your homeland under the country that you precede us your homeland has been invaded or occupied by a superior military power or empire for the united states and israel and that also inspired a suicide bombing for hamas. but if you look at the videos, the martyrs to be was a segue into cocktail that we have seen throughout to say that they are going into the world to the pure
liberation of palestine and then into the third world ideologies claiming that they are going to be a beacon of hope for all of the people suffering under the western backed to palestine. >> what do you think motivates them? they talk about this being a religious jihad and the methods they use seemed to go back to 2,000 or 3,000 years ago in terms of the violence. what are they about? >> guest: you have some diehard jihad into their roots
are a violent form. the brothers in the tribes who were sort of civilized and were made to lead a pneumatic life were taught a narrow form and they took it to an extreme and they had to be suppressed but that's that kind of feeling and love of warfare was the parent and that is the call of isis. but they are not entirely composed of the diehard jihadis. they've also joined in and they
britain in may triggered serious and ordered two books from amazon. one was islam for dummies and the other was the koran for dummies that shows the level that they had. we have seen that the terrorists commit the forensic psychiatrists have done extensive studies who took part in the 9/11 atrocity and also those who were picked up like the shoe bomber richard reid or the boston marathon bombers and we find that in every case 20% of the people had a muslim upbringing. a vast majority of them are either converts like the canadian gun or a week or two ago where they were nonobservant
like the boston marathon bombers were they had a view of islam d. )-right-paren such a. where do they come from? in some ways i know exactly how they get the impressions of going back as you said two or 3,000 years with those hideous beheadings but this is essentially also a the modern movement. it expresses the dark side of modernity in which they have been a features and french revolution and in one year, 17,000 men, women and children were indeed and publicly by the regime. the turks in turkey during world
war i the defiantly secularist movement massacred a million armenians and to create a turkey society. and i needed to detail the killings that preceded to follow this throughout the century in many ways. furthermore, -- they are also expressing in a very ex- centric way the uneasiness in the state that is in the industrialization period mobilizing the country for warfare but also isn't so good now that our society is becoming more global whether we like it or not we are inextricably combined with one another.
economically when one market goes down, the other markets throughout the world plummets. what happens in the middle east will have a blue back in canada or the west. we can't live without one another yet or ideologies encourage us to focus on the nation and that is particularly true in the middle east where the nationstate setup by the british and french about 100 years ago where the arbitrary and bizarre put together a lot of incompatible people and told them to create a nation that is very difficult to do and almost set up to fail. and also in the very unsuccessful handling that they
have been acquiring on that. they are a very successful corporation in the modern sense. so going back to the dark ages is unfortunately not quite true. but they express a darker side of that we don't often consider. >> we only have a few minutes left but i wanted to ask you because i was talking about going back to the darker side where does all of this lead us. we are in this violent world and to talk about the fact it's in our human nature. are we going back to the pre- religious days where it is about the community or are we going forward with more of a religious involvement? where does this and?
>> guest: i got into this study not because i'm filled with peace and love and joy but i'm filled with dread. there is even in our so-called tolerant western world is a lot of bigotry that reminds me of that which existed in the 1930s and the 1940s that ended in the concentration camps. and in the last decade of the last century we saw more concentration camps on the boundaries of europe. and i fear terribly that we are not going back to the community. we are locked into our cell phones and computers and personal facebook we are almost
reach rating into a sort of virtual age. what we need if we don't want to do the legend anymore, what we need is to cultivate and secular ways with the religions dated as well as promote warfare and violence. that is tossed to love our enemies and the stranger. if a stranger is within your land you must treat him as one of your own people and love him as yourself for you were strangers in egypt. we have to learn to reach out to the foreigner. in britain we are not dealing with that at all yesterday we are serving to demonize the european union and of the whole political converse that was about immigration, keeping them out. we don't want strangers living in orlando but we are living side by side with strangers, and
somehow unless we manage to create a more inclusive ideology that we reach out as the religions taught us to include all creatures and not just to have concern that everybody not just our own congenial group i feel we will have a viable world to handle the next generation. >> host: karen armstrong thank you so much. your book "fields of blood" is an absolutely riveting book. i honestly couldn't put it down. it's got so much history and it's a great story. thank you for coming on. >> guest: thank you very much. >> that was "after words," booktv signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers and policy makers and others familiar with their material.