From Publishers Weekly:

By now it’s commonplace to remark that more violence than good has been committed in the name of religion. The terrorist attacks of September 11 and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian strife confirm this age-old aphorism. Wake Forest religion professor (Charles) Kimball has made something of a career out of speaking about the ways in which religion becomes evil.

Every religion has the capacity to work either for good or evil, and he contends that there are five warning signs that we can recognize when religion moves toward the latter. Whenever a religion emphasizes that it holds the absolute truth-the one path to God or the only correct way of reading a sacred text-to the exclusion of the truth claims of all other religions and cultures, that religion is becoming evil.

Other warning signs include blind obedience to religious leaders, apocalyptic belief that the end time will occur through a particular religion, the use of malevolent ends to achieve religious goals (e.g., the Crusades) and the declaration of holy war.

Kimball focuses primarily on the three major Western monotheistic religions, although his examples also include new religious movements such as the People’s Temple, Aum Shinrikyo and the Branch Davidians.

Religion can resist becoming evil by practicing an inclusiveness that allows each tradition to retain its distinctiveness while it works for the common good. Kimball’s clear and steady voice provides a helpful guide for those trying to understand why evil is perpetrated in the name of religion.

This interview was originally aired on May 20, 2007

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an African American astrophysicist and, since 1996, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History worldview. Tyson has written a number of popular books on astronomy. In 1995, he began to write the “Universe” column for Natural History magazine. In a column for the magazine he authored in 2002, Tyson coined the term “Manhattanhenge” to describe the two days annually on which the evening sun aligns with the cross streets of the street grid in Manhattan, making sunset visible along unobstructed side streets. In 2004, he hosted the four-part “Origins” miniseries of PBS’s Nova, and co-authored, with Donald Goldsmith (renowned California astronomer and science writer/professor) the companion volume for this series, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years Of Cosmic Evolution.

As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson bucked traditional thinking to keep Pluto from being referred to as the ninth planet in exhibits at the center. He has stated on “The Colbert Report” that this decision has resulted in large amounts of hate mail, much of it from children. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union confirmed this assessment by downgrading Pluto to “dwarf planet” classification. Tyson is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Planetary Society, where he was formerly the vice president. He is the new host of the PBS program NOVA scienceNOW.

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