THE ability of religion to unite and divide is explored in a new book edited jointly by the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and the Dean of King’s College, London, the Revd Professor Richard Burridge.
The book, Confronting Religious Violence: A counternarrative, grew out of a symposium at King’s, assembled after Lord Sacks won the Templeton Prize in 2016. The group looked at the causes of violence from the aspects of theology, law, evolutionary theory, social science, and anthropology, and direct research with members of terrorist and anti-terrorist organisations.
At the book launch at King’s on Monday, Lord Sacks acknowledged that religion was just one of many causes of conflict. “Some of the most important questions extend beyond religion to the future of liberal democracies.” He was concerned about the rise of populism, which, to gain traction, “has to identify an enemy”. The internet — “the most effective purveyor of paranoia that has ever existed” — was implicated.
The nature of identity and belief were key factors. “From tolerance to intolerance is just one step, and it’s a religious step,” Lord Sacks said.
The opposite was also true, however, he said, and the book looks at different models from both the biblical and classical period, and contemporary society, as positive contributions that religion can make.
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence is published jointly by Baylor University Press and SCM Press at £25 (Church Times Bookshop £20).