By Thomas Block
(Algora Publisher, New York)
This controversial book explores what the author calls a “violence of God” tradition which he claims exists in the world’s major religions, even Buddhism. It then examines how this dynamic is turned on its head by political leaders in the United States and other countries, who use spiritual and religious language to sell war to their populations.
The study argues that war is fundamental not only to religious worship but also to human civilization itself. As Thomas Block claims in A Fatal Addiction:
The stability of war as a central facet of society is undeniable. During the 5600 years of recorded history, 14,600 wars have been fought. At the same time, the vast majority of people and societies throughout human time have considered themselves deeply religious. An article in The Washington Post noted that “92 percent [of Americans] believe in God or a universal spirit — including one in five of those who call themselves atheists.” At the same time, however, America has been involved in an unbroken line of military engagements since my birth in 1963, whose dead might count out the minutes that I have lived in the course of nearly 50 years. It was this pairing in contemporary America of war and religion, spirituality and destruction that inspired me to write this book. After all, shouldn’t the one (religion) mitigate the other (institutional violence)?
This book explores the fusion of war and religion throughout history, and then applies the historical knowledge to the contemporary United States. Block reviews specific instances of “holy war” as proposed in the holy books of the major faiths, and illustrates how bellicose, war-like language is used repeatedly to explain and sanction violence as a spiritual quest. He proposes that this intermingling of war and spirituality is employed to prepare the population for the coming of war. In his view, war as spiritual practice appears inevitable, due to this religio-violent education which is woven through all of the principal faith traditions.
In the end, Block asks if God and war define the American spirit as much as apple pie and baseball.
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Thomas Block’s nonfiction book, “Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity,” was published in the United States (Fons Vitae, Louisville, KY) and Turkey (Bilim + Gonul, Istanbul) in 2010. His first novel, The Fool Returns, will be published in Turkey in 2012 (Bilim + Gonul, Istanbul). His first play, White Noise, was produced in Washington D.C. by Wanderlust Theater Company in June 2012.