Feiler (Walking the Bible, 2001, etc.) travels to Israel, Iran and Iraq to learn if religion inevitably gives rise to violence, or if it is a seedbed of peace.
If you’ve read Feiler’s earlier books, you know the formula: he heads to the Middle East, teams up with great archeologists who show him the sites, conducts a bunch of interviews and ruminates about the Bible. Here he travels to Israel, where he chats with a novelist who’s written about King David; to Iraq, where, by the rivers of Babylon, he reflects on vengeance and redemption; and to Iran, where he interviews a leader of the Zoroastrian community about what wisdom Zoroastrianism has to offer the modern world. (“Be calm. Be beautiful. And above all, be good,” sums up the leader’s advice.) The author’s account of war-torn Iraq will likely rivet readers. “By far the most dangerous thing we did on any given day was drive,” he writes. “One doesn’t quite realize how fragile law and order is until one tries to get from one place to another in a vigilante nation.” Feiler mixes a little autobiography into the story, even touches on his own changing relationship with organized religion. Unsurprisingly, he comes away from his peregrinations optimistic about the possibility that peace will come from religion yet, and he denounces religious extremists who contort Scripture to serve their own ends. Most of his grand conclusions are anodyne: Gods needs us to be his co-creators, religious journeys have no real end. If such musings don’t seem adequate to the task of unsnarling the knot of religion and violence, they will nonetheless leave readers with a warm fuzzy feeling.
Feiler’s take on all things biblical is beginning to get tedious.