Charles Kimball, a Baptist minister and author with a doctorate in religious history (specializing in Islamic studies) from Harvard, has been a professor at Wake Forest University since 1990 where he has made a career out of speaking about the ways in which religion becomes evil. His background in negotiations with militant students in Iran, as well, as his teaching position, explains why he is more than qualified to deal with the controversial subject of this book. Dr. Kimball is also the author of three books about Middle Eastern religions and has become a frequent lecturer and expert analyst on the Middle East, having been interviewed by more than one hundred television and radio stations as well as newspapers and magazines throughout the world.

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 it has become commonplace to believe that more violence than good has been committed in the name of religion. To confirm these feelings one only has to remember our history lessons on the Holy Wars and the Catholic Inquisition or the continuing Israeli-Palestinian strife.

In his seminars Kimball emphasizes that every religion has the capacity to work either for good or evil, arguing that there are five recognizable warning signs that we can use as a road map to tell us when religion moves dangerously toward evil.

The first warning sign is when a group represents themselves as having been entrusted with the absolute truth to the exclusion of the truth claims of all other religions and cultures. This is seen in some mainstream churches such as Catholicism, as well as, in Islam and some dangerous cults.

Other warning signs include the expectation that the believer will willingly display blind obedience to religious leaders; an apocalyptic belief that God has revealed the end time place and/or date to their particular religion’s leaders; the acceptable use of malevolent ends to achieve religious goals (e.g., the Crusades); and the declaration of holy war or Jihad.

In his book, Kimball focuses primarily on Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, because they are the largest churches that condone proselyte techniques to convert followers. (The author then makes a case that these three are really the same religion.)On the other side he strives to answer the question, “Is religion part of the problem of evil?” To which he answers yes and no, pointing out that it is urgent for us all to be aware of the signs that a religion is in danger of becoming corrupted.

Overall, while his personal view does surface he tries to maintain an objective stance by trying to show how other views seem valid to others. For example, he listed two Quran verses that command a tolerance of Christians and Jews but if you keep on reading there were conditions put on it that basically said that these faiths were to be tolerated as long as they lived in submission to Islamic law. Having believed that the Quran taught tolerance and peace I was surprised when looking up these verses and others on my own that there were many other verses that promoted violence against unbelievers and those who did not live by the Quran.

Additional crimes in the name of religion (which must be led by Satan in sheep’s clothing) are brought into focus in this writing including the Rwandan genocide where Christian Hutus killed almost a million fellow Christian Tutsis and the unfolding genocide in the Darfur region of western
Sudan where government backed Muslims are killing fellow Muslims. Further atrocities such as widow burning, caste systems, female genital mutilation, witch hunts, ritual abuse, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers, apartheid, murdering abortion doctors are explored as examples of the evils enlisted by religion.
At the end of his missive Kimball wrote an editorial type chapter on how to avoid becoming evil through religion which was based on what people SHOULD do but he failed to acknowledge that if people did what they SHOULD do, then the problem wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Since I finished reading When Religion Becomes Evil, I have recommended it to any reader interested in politics or concerned about the state of the world today as it shows the world’s religions at their best, as well as, how at their worst they reach a depth of depravity seldom seen in simple non-religious disputes. Further, in discussing the five recognizable symptoms of immanent or established corruption of religion, Dr. Kimball discusses how recognizing these symptoms, people of good will may be able to take corrective action in time to prevent their religious institutions from turning bad, or, failing that, to turn them back around.

[tags]Satan, Religion, When Religion Becomes Evil, Charles Kimball, Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Quran, genocide, Wake Forest University, Middle Eastern Religion, corruption, Catholicism, God, blind obedience, crusades, Holy War, Jihad[/tags]