Religion—the source of inspiration, hope, and basic values for most of humanity throughout history—has also been the motive for atrocious persecutions from antiquity to the present. In the Name of Heaven is a wide-ranging historical survey of religious persecution encompassing three millennia and a great diversity of cultures worldwide.
Defining religious persecution as "repressive actions initiated or condoned by authorities against their own people on religious grounds," author Mary Jane Engh begins with ancient Egypt, followed by the biblical history of Israel with its accounts of divinely ordered genocides and capital punishment for worshipers of other deities.
Chapters are devoted to ancient Greece (Socrates, Alcibiades, and Aristotle, among others, clashed with the religious establishment); the Roman Empire (persecutions of Jews, Christians, and Manichaeans, and the later persecution of pagans and heretics by a Christianized Rome); the Islamic Empire (persecutions of polytheists and dissident Muslims); and medieval and Reformation Europe (where Protestants and Catholics persecuted each other and both persecuted heretics).
The twenty-two chapters also cover Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific area. In an epilogue Engh reviews the new forms of religious persecution from the 20th century to the present—from major genocides and militant forms of polytheism to persecution of all religion by atheistic governments.
Complete with references to further reading, this sobering but factually indisputable survey of religion’s dark side enlightens while serving as a warning for the future.
"Novelist Engh puts her narrative skills to good use by launching these 22 articles on episodes of religious persecution throughout the world in an attention-grabbing, dramatic manner…unlike the historical figures she sketches, Engh herself manifests neither bigotry nor religious partisanship."
"Engh's unique book fills an important gap in the literature on the history of religion. It presents complex and sophisticated issues in a clear and interesting manner."
--Roger Schlesinger, Professor of History, Emeritus, Washington State University
"This timely work considers the reality of religious persecution over the span of 3000 years of human history. Although this is a monumental task, poet and novelist Engh is adept at naming, describing, and summarizing significant moments of persecution dating from ancient Egypt to the 21st century. In the 22 concisely written and researched chapters, she shows the darker side of religion with balance and factual accuracy…Recommended." --Library Journal