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3.2 out of 5 stars6
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 25 December 2006
Keith Ward is a relatively accessible writer, knowledgable and well worth reading. His style of writing leaves something to be desired, but that's only a minor point. In this book Ward explores the defence of religion before the criticism it has endured in recent years by the anti-theists who seek to prove it as dangerous.

This is a short book written to set some relatively straight forward but forgotten or misinterpreted facts in their right place. In light of the fashionable debate between atheists and religous figures about the danger of religious belief (refer to Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins for the atheist perspective), this is a very welcome sober contribution. Religion is not so easy to reduce to the status of a dangerous superstition, it turns out.

Framed simply, how is religion dangerous? If your first answer harks back to the Crusades, there's something in this book for you for sure. Though the value of Ward's work here shines through beyond that.

Having recently heard Ward speak on his promotional tour, I found out that he is an open and smart man. He speaks and writes clearly for the masses, which is valuable in itself, regardless of his conclusions, which incidentally aren't too far off the mark.

If you've been seduced by Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennet, give this a go. It won't cost you much, and it will certainly give you an alternative perspective. This is a defence of religion without asking you to convert. It is therefore a smart, ballsy and much needed addition to the ongoing theist - anti-theist debate.
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on 7 October 2006
This excellently-written and very readable book has 200 pages dealing with this most modern of issues - is religion dangerous? Keith Ward explores how we define religion and the ways in which religions and groups can be seen to be `dangerous' where their intent might be quite the opposite.

I liked the way that he drew examples from all aspects of life and history - Christianity, Islam, Nazi Germany, the Crusades, Iraq, Quakers, Buddhism and more. This wide-ranging look at the world and the religions that are part of it, their history and form today and ways in which their followers can be dangerous was excellently portrayed.

His conclusion - that it's the human within the religion that is dangerous, not the religion itself - is perhaps not a surprise but his masterly arguments are well worth reading. A useful book to encourage thought and dialogue within Christianity and other religions.
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on 22 April 2007
Is Religion Dangerous? Whatever your response to the question this book supplies points which will validate your answer and points which will challenge it. This would suggest that it is a fairly balanced book. Having said this, it does sit firmly on the monotheistic side of the fence. Ironically, it may be atheists who find this book most useful - particularly as a reminder that there are reasonable, religious people. Don't expect to like the whole book. Equally ironically, this book may cause greatest offence to any who see the bible as the literal truth. I'm sure there will be copies with bible verses scribbled into the margins. Quakers come out of it pretty well. I assume they will be happy.

I soon warmed to the author with his frank admission that Christianity has perpetrated some horrors in the past. This openness strikes me as an important basis for dialogue. It is refreshing not to encounter a defensive attitude.

This was balanced by times when I felt I was being subjected to a sales pitch for the author's version of a moderate, loving and reasonable Christianity. Some sections did have the feel of a personal credo.

He draws out an interesting contrast between Nazism and religions in that religions contain something which is potentially self-correcting where Nazism did not. Whereas Nazism was never likely to change its spots, religious atrocities might, potentially, be stopped from within.

At other points in the book I was reminded of the oft repeated phrase, `Communism is fine in theory but it doesn't work in practice.' I think it was Karl Popper who pointed out that this isn't really possible. If a theory doesn't work in practice then it was a poor theory to start with! In a similar way, Keith Ward does have a tendency to see religion as basically good but spoilt by those pesky people. He suggests (on page 197) that religion should be judged on its transformative power. To the extent that it is failing to transform real people in the real world then it is failing by these standards.

I feel that more space could have been devoted to non-theistic religions. Two pages are devoted to a discussion of Buddhism. However, a more general discussion of religion for those who find theistic belief unpalatable would have been both interesting and useful.

For an equally balanced account but from the atheistic perspective, I would recommend `Breaking the Spell' by Daniel Dennett.
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on 16 May 2009
It is unlikely that this or any other book on this subject will sway anyone at either ends of the belief spectrum. I read this when it first came out, to me the arguments made sense and the book was far more readable than some of Ward's more recent work.
Ward outlines the difficulty in defining the term religion, arguing that at least a third of the population are nominally religous. The argument will seem weak for some, but it makes sense to me that with such a portion of the population prfessing to be religous, they will be implicated in just about anything.Ward argues that the central message in all religion is love and if this has been distorted to encourage violence, murder and alite, we have to question if it is any kind of faith at all. Ward also points out that wars do indeed occur apart from religion and posits other factors are catalysts for conflict. The book also outlines the problems with all systems of government and with different world views. Above all, Ward is respectful to friend and foe alike. The book is well researched and backed by an extensive bibliography.
Ward sits in an uncomfortable place, shunned by conservatist Chritianity for his universalist position, but as professed born again Christian.
If you are open minded this is worth a look. I would have given this 4 stars but due to some of the ridiclulos ratings, he merits my generosity.
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on 4 March 2016
Truly dreadful. Couldn't even finish it.
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on 24 February 2008
I found this a very lazy book. It was clearly not written to be read by a critical audience, but only by Christians who felt their position under fire and wanted to find a few simple counter-arguments. Simple, yes; persuasive no. Reading it with pencil in hand, I ended up with the margins littered with 'Meaning?', 'Evidence?', 'What??' A Christian friend I lent it to came to the same conclusion.

Typically for this kind of apologia - cf. Alister McGrath - he presents Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot as representative of all post-enlightenment rationalist thought, while insisting that what he offers as his own kind of generous, inclusive, rational theology, which he modestly describes as 'the fully developed view', is the standard item. A retired Anglican vicar friend who has just discussed with his Sea of Faith group A.C. Grayling's 'Against All Gods' reports that they decided that it was attacking straw men, and that modern thought has moved on. But just let them try declaring from the pulpit that nobody believes any more in the virgin birth, the resurrection, life after death, heaven and hell etc., and see how that plays as a career move. The most eminent Anglican theologians will lament that they spend years in theological college learning that it's all just poetic metaphor, and then they're never allowed to say so.

I even found the title decidedly odd. Try persuading millions with Aids in Africa, victims of judical mutilation or execution in Riyadh or Tehran, rail passengers in London or Madrid, or just about anybody in Baghdad or Kabul, that religion isn't dangerous. The only question is whether it does more harm than good. I'm not sure Keith Ward's little book helps.
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