In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings. Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.
In a controversial conclusion, Avalos argues that our world is best served by leaving the Bible as a relic of an ancient civilization instead of the "living" document most religionist scholars believe it should be. He urges his colleagues to concentrate on educating the broader society to recognize the irrelevance and even violent effects of the Bible in modern life.
Is religion inherently violent? If not, what provokes violence in the name of religion? Do we mischaracterize religion by focusing too much on its violent side?
In this intriguing, original study of religious violence, Prof. Hector Avalos offers a new theory for the role of religion in violent conflicts. Starting with the premise that most violence is the result of real or perceived scarce resources, Avalos persuasively argues that religion creates new scarcities on the basis of unverifiable or illusory criteria. Through a careful analysis of the fundamental texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Dr. Avalos explains how four "scarce" resources have figured repeatedly in creating religious violence: sacred space (churches, temples, holy cities); the creation of holy scriptures (exclusive revelations); group privilege (chosen people, the predestined select few); and salvation (only some are saved). Thus, Avalos shows, religious violence is often the most unnecessary violence of all since the scarce resources over which religious conflicts ensue are not actually scarce or need not be scarce.
Comparing violence in religious and nonreligious contexts, Avalos makes the compelling argument that if we condemn violence caused by scarce resources as morally objectionable, then we must consider even more objectionable violence provoked by alleged scarcities that cannot be proven to exist. Moreover, he shows how many modern academic biblical scholars and scholars of religion maintain the value of sacred texts despite their violence.
This serious philosophical examination of the roots of religious violence adds much to our understanding of a perennial source of widespread human suffering.
This primer on biblical criticism and key problems in religion and philosophy is intended as an introduction to these complex subjects for Spanish-speaking laypersons with little or no prior scientific training in the area. Professor Avalos critically reviews the classic arguments for the existence of God, alleged miracles and faith-healing, the belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, problems of good and evil in the Bible, creation stories, biblical prophecy, the resurrection of Jesus, and many other topics. In the last part of the book, Avalos discusses the scientific worldview, especially as it impinges upon the question of the existence of God. A notes section allows readers to explore more deeply the areas touched on in the text; appendices provide information on the sources of many biblical stories and beliefs in Mesopotamian and other ancient Near Eastern cultures; and a final personal note briefly recounts the author’s experiences from his upbringing in fundamentalist Christianity to his current skeptical view.
This informative volume is an excellent starting point for those who wish to explore with a minimum of resources basic questions in religion, philosophy, and biblical studies.
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