Regina Schwartz examines the story of Cain and Abel, as she sees it - emblematic of a tenacious, tragic biblical influence over Western secular notions of identity - notions that are often violently exclusionary, negatively defining "us" against "them" in ethnic, religious, racial, gender and nationalistic terms. Shwartz contends that the very concept of monotheism and its paradigms of One-ness - the demand for exclusive allegiance to one God, one People, one Land or one Nation - infuse the model of collective identity founded in violence, against the other or outsider. Aiming to recover the Bible's role as a handbook for politics and social thought, this text seeks to demonstrate how dangerous this can be.
Regina M. Schwartz is professor of English and religion at Northwestern University and director of the Chicago Institute of Religion, Ethics, and Violence. She is the author of "Remembering and Repeating: On Milton's Theology and Poetics"; editor of "The Book and the Text: The Bible and Literary Theory"; and co-author of "The Postmodern Bible."