Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books on religion,
including The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle
for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha, and The Great
Transformation, as well as a memoir, The Spiral
Staircase. Her work has been translated into forty-five
languages. In 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working
with TED on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the
general public, crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism,
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It was
launched globally in the fall of 2009. Also in 2008, she was
awarded the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal. In 2013, she
received the British Academy's inaugural Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for
"Impressive . . . Particularly valuable is the book's long
historical span, which allows the reader to trace not just the
early history of warrior faith in such societies but also its
evolution in modern times . . . That long historical reach allows
Armstrong to argue very convincingly against some modern clich s
about religious violence . . . Fields of Blood has a
terrific amount to offer virtually any reader."
--Philip Jenkins, The Christian Century
"A vast overview of religious and world history, sketching the
early evolution of all global faiths . . . Armstrong denounces
authoritarian secularism with eloquent passion . . . [and] does a
good job of explaining why people who are deeply invested in
traditional beliefs and social systems feel threatened and inclined
to fight back."
"Careful, fair, and true . . . Armstrong demonstrates again and
again that the great spasms of cruelty and killing through history
have had little or no religious overlay . . . [and that] an
overemphasis on religion's damage can blind people to the nonholy
terrors that their states inflict . . . Apart from its larger
argument, the book is packed with little insights and discoveries .
. . The page-by-page detail of the book is much of the reason to
read it . . . I generally end up judging books in two ways: by
whether I can remember them and whether they change the way I think
about the world. It's too soon to know about the first test, but on
the basis of the second I recommend 'Fields of Blood.'"
--James Fallows, New York Times Book Review
"A valuable, readable rebuttal of a pernicious contemporary
myth. The problem is not that religion corrupts human nature, but
that human greed too often corrupts religion . . . Armstrong goes
through the centuries and assorted cultures to demonstrate again
and again how religious principles and religious leaders were
co-opted to support warfare."
--Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A convincing case that the relationship of religion to violence
is complicated and ambivalent."
--Molly Farneth, Commonweal
"In a lucid and fleet prose . . . Armstrong argues that religion
has been made a scapegoat for wars and violence . . . [She is] one
of the keenest minds working on understanding the role religion
plays in cultures around the globe."
-Graydon Royce, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Armstrong comes out swinging . . . [Her] prose is crisp and
lucid, her command of fact encyclopedic, and her insights often
-David Laskin, The Seattle Times
"So important . . . [Fields of Blood] has been widely
acclaimed for its scholarship, and deservedly so."
-Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter
"Thought-provoking . . . a tour-de-force of the history of the
world's major religions."
-Rebecca Denova, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"[A] bold new book . . . Armstrong makes a powerful case that
critics like Dawkins ignore the lessons of the past and present in
favor of a 'dangerous oversimplification' . . . [Her argument] is
strong enough to change minds."
-Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor
"With exquisite timing, religious historian Karen Armstrong
steps forth with Fields of Blood . . . Laden with example .
. . [Armstrong's] overall objective is to call a time-out. Think
before you leap to prejudice, she says . . . Among the most
interesting stuff in [her] book is her deconstruction of the modern
Islamic stereotype . . . In the end, the point Armstrong feels most
adamant about is that by blaming religion for violence, we are
deliberately and disastrously blinding ourselves to the real,
animating issues in the Middle East and Africa."
-Patricia Pearson, The Daily Beast
"Elegant and powerful . . . Both erudite and accurate, dazzling
in its breadth of knowledge and historical detail . . . [Armstrong]
seeks to demonstrate that, rather than putting the blame on the
bloody images and legends in sacred texts and holy history, we
should focus on the political contexts that frame religion."
-Mark Juergensmeyer, The Washington Post
"A timely work . . . This passionately argued book is certain to
provoke heated debate against the background of the Isis atrocities
and many other acts of violence perpetrated around the world today
in the name of religion."
-John Cornwell, Financial Times
"Detailed and often riveting . . . a mighty offering . . .
Armstrong can be relied on to have done her homework and she has
the anthropologist's respect for the 'otherness' of other cultures
. . . [Her] oeuvre is extensive, bringing a rare mix of cool-headed
scholarship and impassioned concern for humanity to bear on the
vexed topic of religion . . . [And she] is nothing if not
democratic in her exposition."
-Salley Vickers, The Guardian (UK)
"Eloquent and empathetic, which is rare, and impartial, which is
rarer . . . [Armstrong] ranges across the great empires and leading
faiths of the world. Fields of Blood is never less than absorbing
and most of the time as convincing as it is lucid and robust . . .
[This] wonderful book certainly cleanses the mind. It may even do a
little repair work on the heart."
-Ferdinand Mount, The Spectator (UK)
"Characteristically eloquent and instructive . . . Armstrong's
survey of four millennia of organized violence with religious
overtones . . . aspires to put historical flesh on the bare bones
of [the facts] . . . Modern society "has made a scapegoat of
faith," thereby obscuring and thus partly exonerating the far more
massive crimes of modern secular states and armies, while also
defaming the majority of religious believers who work for
tolerance, justice and peace by nonviolent means . . . We are all
awash in "fields of blood." [This] engaging new book makes that
-Scott Appleby, The Tablet (UK)
"From Gilgamesh to bin Laden, [Armstrong covers] almost five
millennia of human experience . . . Supplying the context of what
may look like religiously motivated episodes of violence, in order
to show that religion as such was not the prime cause . . . She is
no doubt right to say that the aggression of a modern jihadist does
not represent some timeless essence of religion, and that other
political, economic and cultural factors loom large in the stories
of how and why individuals become radicalized."
-Noel Malcolm, The Telegraph (UK)
"Fluent and elegant, never quite long enough . . . as much about
the nature of warfare as it is about faith . . . [Armstrong] is
taking issue with a clich , the routine claim that religion,
advertising itself as humanity's finest expression, has been
responsible for most of the woes of the species . . . The Crusades,
the Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, even modern "jihadi"
terrorism: each is investigated . . . The picture is bleak, but
certainly accurate . . . Exploitation and oppression continue . . .
but these provide a challenge for the godly and the godless alike.
The proposition, like the book, is noble."
-Ian Bell, The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
"A well-written historical summary of what have traditionally
been viewed as "religious" wars, showing convincingly that in
pretty much all cases it was not so much religion as it was
political issues that fueled the conflict."
-Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal (starred review)
"Provocative and supremely readable . . . the comparative nature
of [Armstrong's] inquiry is refreshing . . . Bracing as ever, [she]
sweeps through religious history around the globe and over 4,000
years to explain the yoking of religion and violence and to
elucidate the ways in which religion has also been used to counter
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Epic in scale . . . a comprehensive and erudite study of the
history of violence in relation to religion . . . Armstrong leads
readers patiently through history . . . her writing is clear and
descriptive, her approach balanced and scholarly . . . An
intriguing read, useful resource and definitive voice in defense of
the divine in human culture."
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Armstrong again impresses with the breadth of her knowledge and
the skill with which she conveys it to us."
-Ray Olson, Booklist (starred review)