Monday, 14 June 2010


'I am aware that certain writers have made the argument, or at least the assertion, that conflict arises out of religion and more especially out of religious difference. They would do well to consult Herodotus, or to read up on the career of Napoleon. Extrapolations from contemporary events proceed from far too narrow a base to support a global statement of this kind. And this thesis about the origins of conflict is novel in the long history of the debate over human origins, which has typically argued that conflict is natural to us, as it is to animals, and is, if not good in any ordinary sense, at least necessary to our biological enhancement. However, if attributing conflict to religion, thereby removing hostility and violence from a Darwinist or even a Freudian frame of interpretation, is a departure from tradition, it is at least familiar as a strategy that preserves a favored conclusion by recruiting whatever rationalization that might seem to support it. Religion has always been the foil for this tradition, sometimes deplored as the sponsor of dysgenic compassion, sometimes as formenter of oppression and violence.'
Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind, p.xi.