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  • Published: 3 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9780807051870
  • Imprint: Beacon Press
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $49.99

Dangerous Religious Ideas

The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam



Reveals how faith traditions have long passed down tools for self-examination and debate, because all religious ideas--not just extremist ones--can cause harm as well as embody important moral teachings

Often, in public life, we critique extremist or fundamentalist versions of faith. These versions of a faith tradition, we think, make a mockery of the important moral teachings at their heart. But in a provocative book grounded in close readings of scripture and tradition in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, religious scholar Rachel Mikva corrects this easy assumption: all religious ideas are dangerous, she says, and thus self-critical faith is essential.

Mikva then takes her argument one step further, showing us that the Abrahamic religions contain within themselves the seeds of the work necessary to take on dangerous religious ideas and foster self-critical faith.Aware of their tremendous power both to harm and to heal, most religions of the world have transmitted their sacred stories alongside tools for penetrating self-examination. This book demonstrates the self-critical capacities of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by exploring three themes--Scripture, Election, and Reward & Punishment--identifying their perilous power and positive potential, and investigating how the traditions have historically grappled with them.

For instance, while Scripture's abiding relevance can inspire great goodness, its authority has also been wielded to defend slavery, marginalize LGBTQ-identified individuals, ignore science, and justify violence. Many readers presume their understanding of its meaning is absolute, forgetting how these sacred texts and the history of interpretation have valued multiple perspectives and recognized ongoing rhythms of change. It is not a modern phenomenon to debate the nature of truth, hold space open for doubt, value humility, and question the capacity of human beings to know things--especially about God and God's will--with certainty.

Self-critical faith is the litmus that properly distinguishes contemporary camps--not religious identity or degree of orthodoxy, but the willingness to grapple substantively with the potential harm their ideas may inflict. Traditionally rooted and radically engaged, this book's collection of religious voices certainly substantiates the dangers of religious ideas. Yet it also initiates a complementary discourse that brings religious wisdom and insight to enhance public discussion in pursuit of the common good.

  • Published: 3 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9780807051870
  • Imprint: Beacon Press
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $49.99

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