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Not in God's Name

On sale

11th June 2015

Price: £20

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781473616516

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Despite predictions of continuing secularisation, the twenty-first century has witnessed a surge of religious extremism and violence in the name of God.

In this powerful and timely book, Jonathan Sacks explores the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, focusing on the historic tensions between the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Drawing on arguments from evolutionary psychology, game theory, history, philosophy, ethics and theology, Sacks shows how a tendency to violence can subvert even the most compassionate of religions. Through a close reading of key biblical texts at the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, Sacks then challenges those who claim that religion is intrinsically a cause of violence, and argues that theology must become part of the solution if it is not to remain at the heart of the problem.

This book is a rebuke to all those who kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love, and practise cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.

For the sake of humanity and the free world, the time has come for people of all faiths and none to stand together and declare: Not In God’s Name.


Sameer Rahim, The Telegraph
His broad vision has much to recommend it, and the book is argued with erudition and passion.
Third Way Magazine
For Sacks, religion is essential to give us a sense of national identity and share 'common good', to prevent the pursuit of 'altruistic evil' that's offered by ISIL propaganda.
Deeply insightful and thought provoking.
LIfe and Work Magazine
Anything written by the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is well worth reading, but his latest hardback is particularly timely.
The Jewish News
The book tackles the thorny issue of religious violence, at a time when it is prevalent across the Middle East in particular. Sacks tackles conflicts which claim to be committed in the name of God, delving into their theological underpinning, whilst searching for solutions. He drills into human nature, using a range of social, scientific and theological theories to identify what drives a tendency to violence, and how this can be broken down.
Douglas Murray, The Spectator
The former Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, is one of the most interesting thinkers, writers and speakers about today. His interventions into the public debate rarely fail to encourage thought, knowledge and indeed wisdom. I suspect that this latest book will contribute a significant amount to the ferocious debates around religion and violence in our world today. There is a huge amount in the new book, including much to find agreement with as well as some things I am sure some readers will want to push back on.
Peter Stanford, The Telegraph
To that end, next week he is publishing Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, his first book since standing down in 2013 as Chief Rabbi after 22 years in office. It is no use, he says, hoping the problem will go away, or relying on our political leaders in the West to sort it out. Lord Sacks, is unmistakably a man on a mission, and he is sure that there is plenty we can do, if we find the will. "I'm optimistic, in the sense that when I speak to young Muslims, they are hungry for rising to the challenge of religion bringing reconciliation not violence among people. They have incredible idealism." And, he adds, as a final thought, befitting of one whose voice is so familiar on Radio 4's Thought for the Day, "I happen to believe in divine providence. God sends problems and God sends solutions
Andrew Mueller, The Guardian
Jonathan Sacks can't be accused of shirking the big issues. In his latest book, Not in God's Name, the former chief rabbi considers a subject that believers of all faiths have a huge difficulty explaining: why do so many insist on advancing their belief in God as a justification for violence? It is, as the briefest survey of the headlines will confirm, a timely inquiry. Sacks, unsurprisingly, rejects the suggestion that religion itself is what causes the problem (though he does believe that if it is to be solved, theology must play a part).
Andrew Marr - The Andrew Marr Show
Probably Britain's deepest and most interesting thinker on faith and extremism.
The Andrew Marr Show
"Once you get rid of a politics of fear you can build a politics of hope" Rabbi Sacks speaking to Andrew Marr
BBC World Service
A highly respected British scholar
The Bookseller
Speaking about Not in God's Name, he said: "The greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world is radical, politicised religion. It is the face of what I call in the book 'altruistic evil' in our time. This poses a theological challenge to all three Abrahamic monotheistic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - that forces all of us, Jews, Christians and Muslims, to ask the most uncomfortable questions.
The Jewish Chronicle
Lord Sacks calls on moderates of all faiths to defend religious freedom
The Tablet
"Altruistic evil" is a striking term coined by Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief a challenging new book 'Not in God's Name'...Before their radicalisation, Sacks notes, many of those now on the battlefields were regarded by family, friends and fellow students as friendly, tolerant, moderate people. So how can they have become so devoid of conscience as to participate in the so-called Islamic State's chilling acts of barbarity... His answer is 'altruistic evil'...evil committed in a sacred cause, in the name of high ideals.'
The Times
Only one national leader in the Islamic world has said what needs to be said. Egypt's President Sisi called in January for a "religious revolution" led by his country's senior clergy, only to be labelled a heretic on Twitter. It does not help his case that Mr Sisi's ruthless jailing of thousands of suspected Islamists may only be radicalising thousands more. The responsibility of senior non-political Muslims is all the more serious as a result. As the former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in his new volume, Not In God's Name: "We have little choice but to re-examine the theology that leads to violent conflict in the first place."
The Irish Catholic
Although Not in God's Name makes references to Christian and Muslim theology and exegesis, Rabbi Sacks clarifies that he was careful in writing the book not to step outside his own faith tradition. "It would just be wrong to tell Christians how to do Christian theology, and to tell Muslims how to do Muslim theology," he says, explaining that he hoped, instead, to invite others to attempt similar projects in their own faiths.
The Telegraph
In his new book, Not In God's Name, Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi, argues that what is needed to resolve the war of religion is better religion. False ideas about Islamic beliefs should be confronted and corrected; its essential teachings about love and peace should be embraced. Likewise, we might infer that the Prime Minister is not criticising Islam but urging Muslims to play a stronger role in promoting Islam as it truly is. This is a courageous statement to make. But undeniably necessary.
The Jewish Chronicle
'It shows the former British Chief Rabbi as a serious and important socio-religious thinker.' 'Jonathan Sacks's splendid new book moves on three levels...offering a moral vision of what religion should be like in order to accommodate the Other and to reject violence. '
The Jewish Telegraph
Lord Sacks' erudite analysis, and his suggested way forward in confronting religious violence, certainly reinforced the view that the man who held office as Chief Rabbi for 22 years, is still one of the big hitters, both in the UK and on the world stage
The Jewish Telegraph
Despite the fact the book took 12 years to complete, it is bang up to date with references to the 2015 attack on the Paris kosher supermarket after the Charlie Hebdo attack. Long before ISIS was ever heard of, Lord Sacks said he had been worried about the phenomenon of radicalisation of political Islam.
Ed West, The Spectator
Sacks is especially interesting on the psychological reasons for why anti-Semitism is continually popular. I just hope the book is read in the Middle East
Entertainment Focus
A wholly absorbing book. In Not in God's Name, Sacks ... spells out his hope for a future when human societies may resolve differences and respect a plurality of views. He does so with his usual measured and articulate voice in what is a thought-provoking and highly readable book
Standpoint Magazine
Victory...will only be final when the West wins the battle of ideas. Jonathan Sacks gives us the intellectual tools to finish the job.
Marcus Tanner, The Independent
This book makes interesting and valuable points...It is a case well put, and worth hearing
Ed Stourton, BBC NEWS
And very often radical Islam offers, as Lord Sacks told us on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme, "the sharpest, clearest voices they are hearing". He has coined the term "altruistic evil" to describe the phenomenon of profoundly evil acts committed for idealistic motives. It is persuasive analysis.
The Bookseller
Not in God's Name was named as the 'Current Hit' in The Bookseller.
The Jewish Chronicle
Should be a must-read for any Jewish educator.
World Watch Monitor
Cogent and wise, it must rank as a vital text for anyone aspiring to "win the peace."
Matthew D'ancona, The Evening Standard
In his brilliant new book on religious violence, Not In God's Name, Jonathan Sacks identifies the challenge as "altruistic evil", evil committed in a sacred cause, and concludes that "no truth was ever proved by violence".
Rowan Williams, New Statesman
Brilliantly subtle and original readings of biblical narratives This reading is an ingenious and often moving turning upside down of a rhetoric of "chosenness".
TP O'Mahony, The Irish Examiner
The theology that leads to violence in the three main monotheistic faiths must be addressed if the continuation of the terror afflicting the world is to be tackled.
Michael Freedland, The Times
Jonathan Sacks returns as a defender of all religions. The former chief rabbi has written a new book arguing that belief in God is the solution, nor the cause of global conflict.
Rev Marie Dove, The Methodist Recorder-
His book is to be recommended for the way he addresses the issue of religious violence and aggression in the name of God and its many insights into the Scriptures.
Noel Malcolm, The Tablet
All good-hearted readers will be attracted to his argument.
Lawrence Moore, Reform
Sacks' analysis makes for compelling reading and his writing style is extraordinarily engaging and accessible. I found myself returning again and again to his exegesis of key Genesis narratives.
Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic
Rabbi Sacks is a spiritual and moral leader who has never shied away from taking the intellectual battle to some of religion's harshest critics... I was hugely impressed by the interdisciplinary nature of Rabbis Sacks' approach.
Rabbi Sacks speaking about the refugee crisis on Newsnight "Britain needs a very clear and conspicuous humanitarian gesture like Kindertransport...The British tradition of being a place of refuge for those who are at risk of losing their liberty and their lives should guide us now to being more generous rather than less so."
Michael Jinkins, The Huffington Post
'Jonathan Sacks is an enlightening presence for the whole world, and his message resonates today more powerfully than ever... Throughout this book, Sacks' analysis reflects an erudite mind fully engaged with philosophy, politics and social studies of the most rigorous kind. It is when he turns his attention and all of these resources to a theological engagement with the connection between religious faith and violence that he makes, what I believe is, his greatest contribution in this book... I cannot think of a more important new book for people of faith to read and study together than this book... Rabbi Sacks calls upon us to have hope; not mere optimism, but hope grounded in the deepest sources of our faith.
Together Magazine (The Big Review)
The book is beautifully structured from the start and the reader never need feel lost as Sacks carefully leads them through his arguments... He does a sublime job of questioning the rather binary approach to the world that can be adopted by the Church.
The Church Times
NOT IN GOD'S NAME featured in the Church Times' top ten religious books chart.
Reflections Magazine
A book, like all that Jonathan Sacks writes, that is full of knowledge, experience and deep thought. Well worth reading
Catholic Herald
Such a analysis opens up the cheering possibility that there is nothing inevitable about the antagonism between these three great faiths and the haunting tragedies it has produced.
Dublin Review of Books
Sacks is a proper theologian, and he deserves praise for daring to seek out a common ethic within the three Abrahamic faiths...reaching out across the religious divide is important work that needs to be done.
The Spectator
The need to challenge and defeat ideas which are used to justify jihadist violence is brilliantly set out in Jonathan Sacks's book Not in God's Name.
The Baptist Times
It takes a strong religious mind to tackle this head on. Lord Jonathan Sacks, the recently retired Chief Rabbi is the type of man to think deeply, to reason well and construct a liberating case...This is not a 'nice' book to read. It certainly does not provide any political wand. It does courageously face the real live issues of the day. We cannot ignore the author's perspective, but should, like Sacks, consider a world where faith can and must override religion.
Reform Magazine
ONE OF THE MAGAZINE'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR 'Compelling reading... extraordinarily engaging and accessible.'
The Financial Times – BEST BOOKS OF 2015
This is a powerful, compelling, timely book that does not deny the dark side of faith. Sacks underlines that extremists create more extremists but insists that it is not too late to stop this vicious cycle.
Hortatory and prophetic...The centrepiece of Sacks's book is an extended meditation on the theme of sibling rivalry...this is exemplary.
The murders in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino raise many questions...many explanations have been offered. Few I've come across, however, are as trenchant and eloquent as that offered by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his recent book, Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence.
The Washington Post
Not in God's Name is referred to as a 'remarkable book'. 'He believes that to persuade religious people of the Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - arguments against religious violence must be rooted in theology, not in secular ideas alone.
The Jewish Chronicle
The book was featured in The Jewish Chronicles's PICKS OF 2015
The Church Times
The book was featured in The Church Times's BOOKS OF THE YEAR.
The Irish Catholic
'A knowledgeable examination.' The book was featured in The Irish Catholic's BOOKS OF THE YEAR feature.
Leamington Spa Courier
A penetrating analysis...This is essential reading.
The Door
A thoughtful and timely contribution... very well argued.