WHEN RELIGION BECOMES EVIL, by Charles Kimball. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002. 240 pages, bibliography, notes. Hardback; $21.95. ISBN 0-06-050653-9.


Charles Kimball, chair of the department of religion at Wake Forest University, an ordained Baptist minister, and author of three books on Middle East religion, examines the nature of religiously based evil and offers corrective measures as it takes place in each of the major religious traditions. Arguing that no tradition is exempt, Kimball defines and explains five basic religious corruptions, both as they have existed in history and as they are seen today.


Kimball does not see religion itself as the problem, but religion gone bad. The five corruptions discussed are (1) Absolute truth claims which are seen to be imposed on others, (2) Blind obedience to authority figures, (3) The establishment of the “ideal” time, (4) The belief that ends justify means and (5) the practice of declaring holy war. Each of these corruptions is addressed in a separate chapter.


Kimball argues that one’s own religious views can be reconciled with respect for those of other faith traditions, and that the process of conversation with those of other traditions can result in significant personal growth. He resists the syncretic blending of religious ideas, however, and grounds his views of tolerance theologically.


This is an excellent book. I recommend it highly.


Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Denver, Colorado

Submitted to PERSPECTIVES 11/18/2002.

Published in Vol 55, #1 (Mar 2003)