51 pages 1 hour read

Jon Krakauer

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2003

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Important Quotes

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“How could an apparently sane, avowedly pious man kill a blameless woman and her baby so viciously, without the barest flicker of emotion? Whence did he derive the moral justification? What filled him with such certitude? Any attempt to answer such questions must plumb those murky sectors of the heart and head that prompt most of us to believe in God—and compel an impassioned few, predictably to carry that irrational belief to its logical end.”

(Prologue, Page xxi)

Krakauer suggests that religious extremism and mainstream religion are both born out of the same irrational commitment to faith. He asserts that there is little difference between the two and that religion itself is inherently irrational. This irrationality makes even mainstream religions dangerous because they provide the material for extremism.

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“There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane—as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion.”

(Prologue, Page xxi)

Krakauer suggests that religious devotion should be approached with caution rather than associated with virtues of righteousness and goodness. Religion has been used throughout history to justify acts of violence, and Krakauer recommends that religion may be the driving force of inhumanity rather than mental illness or other outside forces.

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“And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth to set in order the house of God.”

(Part 1, Chapter 1, Page 3)

This passage comes from The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85. These sentences, believed to be revealed to Smith on November 27, 1832, became a catalyst for many Mormon fundamentalists to believe they were chosen by God to restore order to the church. Dan and Ron Lafferty both, at different times, believe that they were the fulfillment of this prophecy.