Religious Ideology and its Propensity Towards Violence

Academic, Religious Studies

Introduction

In the contemporary age, which is characterized by the phenomenon of globalization and an interconnected global-political economy, communication and interaction among previously disparate cultures and civilizations is becoming increasingly more common. The results of encounters between various modern cultures have the potential to create a world of bonded nations—fostered by positive trade relations and open borders—or a world divided by ideology. According to Samuel Huntington, his theory regarding “The Clash of Civilizations[1]” argues that the fundamental source of conflict in this new age of globalization will primarily consist of ideological divisions of humankind, whereby cultural or religious distinctions between civilizations will encourage the greatest levels of violence and alienation, more so than any other distinction of humanity. Since the publication of Huntington’s theory, catastrophic events have been understood through this lens: the case of Charlie Hebdo, the events of September 11th, and the invasion of Iraq are seen as clashes between the civilizations of the West and Islam; wars in Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the crises in Ukraine constitute clashes between Orthodoxy civilizations and the West; and Boko Haram is seen as a clash between the civilizations of Islam and Africa[2]. Despite the potential for ideological conflict, the intersection of religion and international politics in an increasingly interconnected world also possesses great potential for understanding the various groupings of people around the world. Walter Ong, a Jesuit Priest and media theorist[3], argues that the phenomenon of globalization positively impacts religious progress, “by bringing us closer together as a world community, making it easier to understand our many different cultures and advancing peace through open channels of communication.[4]” Additionally, Alasdair MacIntyre argues a cultural relativist approach, whereby “we inhabit a social universe composed entirely of rival traditions,[5]” which implies no single tradition is qualitatively better than any other. With this understanding, ideological conflicts are inevitable as they butt heads within the contemporary global culture. Understood to be one type of the various conflicting ideologies, religion—and its supposed propensity towards violence—is a crucial element of contemporary international politics that must be addressed in terms of its potential for worldwide chaos. Ultimately, this paper argues that religion, as an ideology, is no more inherently violent than any other ideology—secular, economic, political, etc.—but tends to produce more catastrophic results when it is used as an ideological justification for violence or mass killing, due to the nature of its various claims—depending on religion—and their psychological hold over people, with its social and philosophical implications.

Before a sufficient analysis of religions’ inherit propensity towards violence or the existence of religious violence can be addressed, various explanations and definitions are vital to the discussion. First, the elusive term, “globalization” must be defined due to the modern implications of this phenomenon’s effect on world religions and in regards to its confusing simultaneous conceptualization as a theory of modernity and as a process of homogenizing effects[6]. Thus, “globalization” will refer to “the rapid developments in communications technology, transport and information which bring the remotest parts of the world within easy reach[7],” as well as “an ever more interconnected global economy, with vast social and political implications.[8]” A solid understanding of what precisely constitutes a “religion” is also necessary for this discussion.

Though many scholars and scholars of religion have attempted to create a definition that includes theistic and non-theistic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, theistic and non-theistic Hinduism), while excluding political, economic, secular, or humanistic ideologies (Marxism, Stalinism, humanism, liberalism, nationalism, patriotism, capitalism, etc.), the act of pinning down a precise definition of “religion” has proved so problematic that many scholars do not attempt a definition at all, asserting that others must know what they mean[9]. Though the definition provided by John Hicks and his discussion of “religion,” which appears in William Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence[10], contains imperfections, it is most useful to this paper to distinguish what is meant when “religion” is discussed. He proposes that “religion” is “an understanding of the universe, together with an appropriate way of living within it, which involves reference beyond the natural world to God or gods or to the Absolute or to a transcendent order or process.[11]” Thus, his definition includes theistic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and theistic Hinduism) and non-theistic faiths (Theravada Buddhism and non-theistic Hinduism), while it excludes “’naturalistic’ systems of belief such as communism and humanism.[12]

Additionally, Hector Avalos in Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence[13], defines “religion” as “a mode of life and thought that presupposes the existence of, and relationship with, unverifiable forces and/or beings.[14]” This. paper emphasizes the importance of religion as one kind of ideology within a world of conflicting ideologies. Like other ideological institutions, religion is attractive due to the human nature desire to belong; since religion discusses and deals with philosophical and psychological questions of humanity’s and individual people’s purpose in life, the bond of those within a particular religious grouping is strong. Essentially, the more a person identifies with an ideology, the greater the sense of connection between individuals identifying with the same ideology. The nature of religion as a particular ideology has a propensity to bond individuals—not unlike any other form of ideology—which, when combined with its politicization or psychological and sociological hold over people, has the ability to produce something called “religious violence.”

Before it can be understood what “religious violence” is, a definition for “violence” must be provided. According to Hector Avalos, “violence” is “the act of modifying and/or inflicting pain upon the human body in order to express or impose power differentials.[15]” Avalos utilizes this definition of violence in relation to religion as he argues that violence is driven by scarce resources—whether real or perceived—and that “religious violence” is violence caused by the scarce resource of salvation that religion necessarily creates[16]. Cavanaugh discusses Charles Selengut’s definition of “violence,” borrowed from John Hall: he argues “violence” is understood to be “’actions that inflict, threaten or cause injury’ and such action[s] may be ‘corporal, written or verbal.[17]’” While this paper agrees most with Selengut’s/Hall’s definition of “violence,” this definition does not discuss the element of intentionality in regards to violence, which is a crucial facet of harmful actions imposed on someone or something else.

Mark Juergensmeyer, in Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, discusses the interrelation of religion and violence: both are methods employed to challenge or replace authority and have “emerged at times when authority is in question.[18]” While “violence,” Juergensmeyer argues, gains its power from force, “religion” gains its power “from its claims to ultimate order.[19]” He goes on to state that, as an ideology of public order, religion plays a significant role in various parts of the world and in combination with various other ideologies. Though his book states that religion is not innocent, it also states that religion “does not ordinarily lead to violence.[20]” He argues that “religious violence” occurs “only with the coalescence of a peculiar set of circumstances—political, social, and ideological—when religion becomes fused with violent expressions of social aspirations, personal pride, and movements for political change.[21]

Cavanaugh, on the other hand, argues that “religion” is an artificial construct and, therefore, “religious violence” does not exist. Since, at any given time, what counts as “religion” and “secular” is “a function of different configurations of power,[22]” a definitive distinction between the two cannot be made. Thus, understanding violence through a religious-secular dichotomy is unhelpful insofar as it presumes “secular violence” to be ignored or praised, while “’religious violence’ creates the villains against which a liberal social order defines itself.[23]” While this paper does not argue for a religious-secular dichotomy when understanding the violence perpetrated throughout the world, it also claims that Cavanaugh’s argument regarding the lack of anything called “religious violence” at all is ultimately unhelpful when attempting to understand contemporary international conflicts, since it is undeniable that people commit violence in the name of religion. This paper serves to make a similar point to Juergensmeyer: while it does not deny that there is something called “religious violence”—just as there is “secular violence,” “political violence,” or “economic violence”—it claims that religion is no more inherently violent than any other ideology, and that religious violence occurs in combination with particular psychological, political, or social aspects, whereby religion is the ideological method used to express the inherently violent nature of people.

Theories Regarding Religion’s Inherit Propensity Towards Violence

Within the contemporary age of globalization, numerous religion writers and theorists call for a reform of religion, arguing for secularization and rational thought as global universals to combat religions’ “inherit propensity towards violence” and the ramifications of this belief. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, New Atheists—such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Barker, and Daniel Dennett[24]—and Hector Avalos all discuss the problems of religion, specifically monotheism, believing it to cause unnecessary violence in the world. While there is truth in these theorists’ proposal of religious violence—and even in the necessitation for reform, or adaptation to modernity—the claim that religion is inherently more prone to violence than other ideologies is false. All ideologies have a propensity for violence in the sense that humanity is inherently violent, all people have the potential for violence, and all have the potential to commit violence in the name of human-constructed ideological categories, some of which are considered to be religious. While Avalos expresses religions’ propensity towards violence in regards to its creation of scarce resources, Hirsi Ali focuses specifically on Islam—claiming it to have a greater propensity towards violence than other contemporary religions, which have all assimilated into the modern world—and Barker claims, in his chapter titled “Genocidal,” of his book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, that the greatest atrocities in all of history are religious, thus speaking to religions’ greater propensity for violence than other ideologies. Though compelling, the claims of these three authors possess inaccuracies and mistakenly assume that religion has an inherit propensity towards violence, more so than other ideologies.

With significant capacities to instill in people the desire to belong, monotheism has a great ability “to unite and mobilize humans on behalf of great undertakings, and to also plunge them into bitter and often bloody conflict.[25]” As an ideology that speaks to the existence of unverifiable beings and places, and that addresses deep psychological and philosophical fears regarding the nature of human existence, religion simultaneously bonds people together in “a group toward which they feel a strong sense of solidarity—mutual feelings of common identity, purpose, and concerns,[26]” and divides them, pitting religious groupings against each other “as strangers and enemies.[27]” Essentially, religion as an ideology creates a common culture comprised of a common language, traditions, and history that serve to establish clear borders between the various religious ideologies, as well as between other types of ideologies. In regards to monotheism, the claim of the existence of only one God necessarily implies that all other gods of other religious ideologies must be false, leading to Avalos’s claim that monotheistic religions have a great propensity towards violence since it creates insiders and outsiders of those who have faith in any particular religion.

Arguing that religions are prone to violence and that religious violence is “more tragic than nonreligious violence,[28]” Avalos outlines a theory of religious violence in regards to its ability for conflict due to its creation of resources that are always in demand[29]. First, Avalos argues that most violence and conflict is due to scarce resources, which “can range from love in a family to oil on a global scale.[30]” Second, religious violence occurs due to its creation of scarce resources: scriptural access to God’s will; sacred space, which is declared more valuable and therefore in higher demand; group privileging within a religion; and salvation as a set of valued beliefs with high costs that some might not be able to accept[31]. The re-appropriation of the term “resource” to mean “anything that is believed to be necessary or advantageous to a certain mode of living,[32]” is problematic in and of itself, as it creates the potential for anything to become a resource, and thus the term becomes somewhat meaningless. Additionally, his ultimate claim that scarcities within religion “render religion a more tragic source of violence,[33]” has no basis. Conflicts comprising issues of scarce resources entail political or economic ideological involvement; religious violence could take part surrounding the issue of a scarce resource, but the nature of the conflict would arise from nonreligious ideologies.

While Avalos argued that the nature of all religions are inherently prone to violence and that religious violence is more tragic than nonreligious violence, Hirsi Ali focuses specially on Islam’s inherent violence and need for reform. Hirsi Ali, in Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, believes Islam to have a particular propensity to violence and argues that while “other religions have undergone a process of reform, modifying core beliefs and adopting more tolerant and flexible attitudes compatible with modern, pluralistic societies,[34]” Islam has resisted change and the modernity imposed by the West for 1,400 years. As an absolutist regarding ideological creeds, Hirsi Ali argues vehemently for liberalism, secularism, and the freedoms of the West, positing that Islam creates a culture of oppression due to its aversion to adaptation. Specifically, she argues that five precepts central to the faith need to be reformed for its propensity towards violence to be quelled: Muhammad’s infallible status and the literalist reading of the Qur’an; the investment in life after death rather than life before death; Shari’a and Islamic jurisprudence; the practice of encouraging people to enforce Islamic Law; and the imperative to wage jihad, or holy war[35]. She argues that “violence committed in the name of Islam is so often justified by the Qur’an,[36]” and Muslims must be encouraged to engage in critical reflection of their holy text. This claim, however, is not unique to Islam; religious violence committed in the name of any religion—though it can take various forms and have a variety of justifications—has the potential to be instigated by the sacred text of the religion, and propelled by the psychological and social desire to belong.

New Atheist thinker, Dan Barker, discusses genocidal atrocities and argues that since the greatest “human annihilation[37]” was religious, religion is inherently more prone to violence and religious violence “causes more practical harm.[38]” Barker discusses various genocides throughout history—the European Holocaust, the American Indian Holocaust, and the Rwandan genocide—but claims that Noah’s flood described in Genesis was “by far the largest single act of genocide,[39]” whereby God is understood to be “the most horrific genocidal monster of history,[40]” and religious violence is deemed the most horrendous form of violence. Barker continues citing examples from the Bible of religious violence throughout the chapter, attempting to prove that religion is more violent than other ideologies. His focus on Biblical stories to prove religions’ inherently violent nature seems odd, since these stories cannot be proven; thus, his argument is illogical and irrelevant. While it is undeniable that violence is present within the Bible, it does not prove that history panned out the way the Bible claims, nor does it prove that religion is any more prone to violence than other ideologies.

Paul Copan, in Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of The Old Testament God, and William Cavanaugh, argue opposite that of Avalos, Hirsi Ali, and Barker, claiming that religion is not necessarily prone to violence. Copan and Cavanaugh take distinct approaches, wherein Copan argues against the claims of the New Atheists, working his way through various parts of the Bible and pointing out the inaccuracies of common arguments regarding religions’ inherent violent nature, and concluding with the argument that “we actually need more religion, not less.[41]”Cavanaugh instead argues that there is violence in the world, but “religious violence” does not exist since the distinction between what is religious and what is secular is impossible to make. Further, there is a critical inability in religious scholarship “to identify a transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion, separate from politics, with a peculiar tendency to promote violence that is absent from secular realities;[42]” thus, there exists a myth surrounding the idea of religious violence. This myth, Cavanaugh argues, serves to reinforce adherence to a secular order, presents non-Western and non-secular social orders as “inherently irrational and prone to violence,[43]” and is useful in justifying “secular violence against religious actors; their irrational violence must be met with rational violence.[44]” While I disagree with Cavanaugh’s claim that there is no such thing as religious violence, or religion, I believe there is truth in the argument that secular violence is viewed as rational, whereas religion itself is viewed as irrational, and thus more prone to violence. This belief—heavily emphasized by the New Atheists—condones secular violence in the name of stopping religious violence, which is contradictory, immature, and serves to prove the point of this paper: people are inherently violent and their violence is expressed through ideological conflicts.

Copan discusses the New Atheists and the Neo-atheists further, pointing out discrepancies in their arguments and ultimately claiming that religion is not the problem when it comes to violence in the world. First, Copan states that “for all [the neo-atheists’] emphasis on cool-headed, scientific rationality, they express themselves not just passionately but angrily.[45]” While I understand the argument of the apparent hypocritical behavior, the neo-atheists are no different from any other grouping of people in that they are equally prone to passionate emotionality. Though I would like to agree with Copan’s arguments against the New Atheists—in that the New Atheists insist on the inherently harmful and violent nature of religion, such that it should modernize into Western secularism—the first critique he presents says nothing about their ideological claims. Second, Copan states that “the Neo-atheists’ arguments against God’s existence are surprisingly flimsy, often resembling the simplistic village atheist far more than the credentialed academician.[46]” Utilizing a combination of emotion, verbal rhetoric, and “fallacious argumentation,[47]” the Neo-atheists mispresent the faith they are critiquing; therefore, their assertion of religions’ inherent violent nature is moot. Lastly, and most importantly, Copan argues that the New Atheists “aren’t willing to own up to atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong, yet they expect Christians to own up to all barbarous acts performed in Jesus’ name.[48]” Copan states that Dennett argued Stalin was something of a religious figure—though he was a hard-core[49] atheist—and thus, killed in the name of religion, not atheism. Further, New Atheists do not acknowledge immorality in the name of atheism, such as the Inquisition, the Holocaust, or horrific serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer[50]. While the New Atheists make valid points regarding violence in the name of religion, they do not address that the potential for violence exists within all ideologies, and the fault is not entirely that of religion. Copan concludes by arguing that religion is not the problem, “but we need the right kind of religious values, not simply anything that calls itself religious (think Jim Jones, David Koresh, and jihadists).[51]” This claim, nothing more than a personal ideological assertion of Copan’s, almost serves to undermine the valid points he makes in regards to the New Atheists—what exactly are the “right kind of religious values,” since any ideology has the potential for violence or immortality depending on the ways in which an individual or group of people choose to utilize it? Though their approaches are drastically different, Copan and Cavanaugh both disagree with the claim that religion is inherently violent and provide rationales that discredit arguments (Avalos, Hirsi Ali, and Barker/New Atheists/Neo-Atheists) regarding religions’ inherent propensity towards violence.

Theories of Religious Violence

While religious ideology is no more prone to violence than other ideologies, it cannot be denied that acts of violence have been committed in the name of religion. Though there are many facets of and explanations for religious violence, this paper argues that the politicization of religious ideology—in combination with psychological factors and social implications—is what ultimately leads to religious violence. Though violence in the name of religion is not contested in regards to its existence, religious violence—like most forms of violence—is elicited from the interaction of various ideologies—e.g. political and religious or psychological and religious. Depending on the conflicts between or the combination of specific ideologies, different types of religious violence will occur. The intermixing of political and religious ideologies (in the case of Shari’a Law, for instance) create the potential for religious violence in the combination’s insistence on infiltrating a particular group’s entire way of life. In regards to facets of religious violence, two examples—suicide bombing and martyrdom, and apocalyptic cults—present two ways in which different kinds of religious ideology are used to justify violence.

In Robert Jay Lifton’s Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinkrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, he applies a psychological perspective to historical problems to understand the religious violence of apocalyptic cults. In the chapter titled, “Megalomania,” Lifton provides a psychological assessment of Shoko Asahara, the cult leader of the Aum Shinrikyo, to address the intersection of psychological trauma, religious ideation, and the desire for apocalyptic violence. Though many religious theorists would argue for a distinction between cults that adopt religious ideology and a religion, there is no doubt that the Aum Shinrikyo and Asahara utilized religious ideology as justifications for the apocalyptic violence they desired for the world. Within the functional “megalomanic” personality, Lifton states that “self becomes world. The megalomanic self lacks limits and boundaries; it resists or denies restraints of any sort.[52]” Within the arrangement of a cult, the “disciples become more and more immersed in the guru’s megalomania, both endorsing it and realizing their own megalomanic potential.[53]” Like any ideology’s ability to create an inclusive group comprised of a common history, language, and traditions, the psychological function of the megalomanic cult serves to create a unified group system, whereby all members thrive off of the “mutual ecstasy and shared sense of absolute truth.[54]” Unlike other religious ideologies, cult mentality has a shorter lifespan, whereby the leader’s self-destructive tendencies cause a fracturing and fragmenting of the collective megalomanic group identity. Both before and after the eventual psychological breakdown of the cult leader, violence is justified and understood within the broader religious ideology.

Before the psychological breakdown of the leader, violence is normalized through the collective group identity, whereby it is rationalized as it being necessary for the greater good. For instance, on his chapter titled, “Killing to Heal,” Lifton discusses the doctors recruited to Aum Shinrikyo whose behavior resembled that of the Nazi doctors in their replacement of healing with killing for the cause. The Aum doctors were so engrossed within the cult’s ideology and theology, that their previous noble beliefs were molded until it fit Asahara’s desire for torture and murder. Essentially, Lifton argues that that “Aum put forth a medical ideology that claimed radical ethical advances.[55]” In the interconnection of various ideologies—medical, religious, political, psychological—Asahara concocted a cult mentality primed for violence.

As Asahara became increasingly fragmented, the disciples remained loyal to the collective dynamic of the cult. In his chapter titled, “Crossing the Threshold,” Lifton outlines the central characteristics of apocalyptic cult ideology that serves to turn religious ideology into violence. First, he argues that the cult was “totalized guruism…paranoid guruism and megalomanic guruism,[56]” whereby he was the cult’s only source of “energy.[57]” Second, the vision of an apocalyptic world event infiltrated their cult ideology; this myth became inseparable from the megalomanic guru as well as the cult’s function. Third, the ideology of “killing to heal, of altruistic murder and altruistic world destruction[58]” infiltrated their cult ideology and provided “noble” justifications for violence in the name of the religiously-altruistic cult ideology. Fourth, the altruistic mass-murder depended on “the relentless impulse toward world-rejecting purification” such that Aum’s ideological imperative was to cleanse the world of its negatives, failures, and filth. Fifth, the combination of ultimate weapons was bound up with the action prophecy that ultimately led to the idealized conceptualization of Armageddon. Sixth, there was a collectively shared state violence, whereby all the disciples hoped to become the guru’s clone and have the potential to partake in the destruction that the guru desired for the world. And seventh, the cult ideology argued for the inaccuracies of the claim of ultimate scientific truth, wherein Aum’s collective mentality replaces the inaccuracies of culture. Thus, through these seven characteristics, cult ideology became synonymous with every individual member of the cult so that the ideology created true believers who justified killing in the name of preserving their ideology and group dynamics. The apocalyptics of cult ideology utilizes psychological manipulation of individual people’s previous religious or political ideologies so that there is a loss of individualization; violence is therefore justified through the lens of manipulated religious and political ideology.

Another example of religious violence is that of suicide bombing and martyrdom. Similar to how cult ideology infiltrates every individual so that collective unity and loyalty bond the group together and creates justifications for mass murder and violence, suicide bombing creates an ideological worldview whereby committing suicide—and taking as many others with them as possible—is the only solution. There are essentially three theories of suicide bombing that attempt to explain the ideological justification for suicide-murder as the only means for establishing a meaningful life. The first theory articulates that there are certain religions that are more prone to violence and suicide bombing than others, due to the priming of the religion. Thus, theory one posits violence to be the fault of religious ideology. For instance, Muslims are more likely to commit suicide bombing due to the greater prevalence of this idea within their religious worldview[59]. The second theory argues that religion is a cover for political discontent, such that violence enacted in the name of religion is really due to political ideology[60]. Further, the individuals who commit suicide bombing are viewed by the politicized lens of Islam to be unsuccessful in the “advancement of human history,[61]” and are thus expendable due to the political ideology that infiltrates politicized Islam. Lastly, the third theory regarding suicide bombing argues that it has nothing to do with religious ideology or political ideology, but is instead due to the psychological issues of each individual suicide bomber[62]. Essentially, this theory argues that suicide bombers, in general, are more psychologically disturbed, which makes them susceptible to be used in the name of a religious or political ideology for violence. Similar to the group mentality of a cult, whereby individualization is destroyed and group-think destroys individual understandings of right and wrong, the psychological mentality of a suicide bomber is primed to view themselves as unimportant unless they commit violent acts in the name of a politicized religious ideology. Thus, this paper argues that the last theory is most accurate when understanding suicide bombers, since religious violence utilizes a combination of ideologies to justify violence.

To illuminate the third theory of suicide bombers, Adam Lankford in The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, argues “all suicide terrorists are suicidal.[63]” He explicates this by demonstrating that all suicide bombers experience depressed and suicidal behaviors, which serves his ultimate point that the psychological nature of these individuals was manipulated by religious or political ideology in the justification of violence. Thus, Lankford argues that suicide bombing is not the fault of the religion or of the politics that underlie religions, but is the fault of the manipulation of psychological distress within all suicide bombers. Lankford outlines a few behaviors that all suicide bombers experience: suicide ideation; suicide-like gestures; diffuse, risky lifestyle; suicide plan; non-serious suicide attempts; serious suicide attempt; and completed suicide[64].

Though there is a misconception regarding suicide bombers—and suicidal people in general—claiming them to be “crazy and irrational[65]”—Lankford outlines how this misconception is unhelpful and a distortion of reality. Lankford states that “suicidal people often appear to be rational actors who behave in calculated and premeditated ways,[66]” who are not “born with some inherent mental flaw.[67]” Instead, these individuals have been marginalized from society in some way, disconnected from their original family or any kind of social support system. The politicized religious ideology of Islam, in particular, is attractive to their own psychological understanding of themselves, as it allows the individuals to serve a higher purpose. For instance, Lankford outlines the misconception surrounding the claim from other theorists that all suicide bombers are inherently motivated by the political ideology of the religion. Instead, Lankford argues that “suicide terrorists appear to carry out suicide attacks to kill themselves first, and to serve the organization second (if at all).[68]” Though he does not deny the suicide bombers’ alignment with the religious or political ideology, he argues that they commit this specific act of religious violence due to their psychologically-disturbed nature, whereby their desire to die is utilized and targeted by terrorist organizations for their own religious-political ideology. Therefore, Lankford presents a specific example of religious violence—suicide bombing—and describes its justification for violence to be a composite of religious and political ideology—on the part of the terrorist organizations—and psychological trauma—on the part of the individual suicide bomber.

The desire to die is not the only motivator for a suicide bomber, however. Lankford argues that suicide bombers—due to their suicidal nature—have a desire to become famous, to have fame and glory, and to have a sense of purpose; the only foolproof avenue to achieve both death and fame/purpose, is to die in a fashion that is destructive enough to take large numbers of innocent people with them[69]. Martyrdom, as a religious ideology, is attractive to these individuals as it allows them to achieve a sense of purpose by partaking in the larger religious and political cause. Also, the concept of suicide—without any sense of purpose—is forbidden in most religions (specifically Islam), so, suicidal people are recruited to the religious and political cause of killing in the name of Allah in order to complete their ultimate desire to die in a shameless and glorifying manner[70]. Ayann Hirsi Ali discusses this phenomenon and argues that the idea that it is a sin to kill oneself must be done away with; if this facet of religious ideology is destroyed, then there would be less martyrs to take innocent victims along with them when they die. Ultimately, these two examples of religious violence—apocalyptic cults and suicide bombing—present the argument that violence is not necessarily inherent to religion, since the particular causes of these acts of violence are a composite of ideological features—political, psychological, and religious.

Conclusion

Religious ideology, like other ideologies, has the potential for violence when combined with other ideological justifications for violence. Religion, itself, is no more inherently violent than any other ideology. Violence within the world is caused humanity’s inherently violent nature, by which they utilize various human-constructed ideologies to justify their propensity towards violence. By looking at theories from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Hector Avalos and Dan Barker, it is clear that religious ideology has the potential for violence, just as any ideology does. Paul Copan and William Cavanaugh and their theories serve to highlight the inability for there to be such a thing as “religious violence.” While this paper disagrees with the claim that there is no such thing as religious violence, it argues that religion is not any more prone to violence than any other ideology. The specific examples of religious violence—suicide bombing and apocalyptic cults—provide a greater analysis of precisely how religious ideology is used to justify violence. For instance, religious ideology is utilized with a combination of other manipulated ideologies to serve the human desire to commit violence. Thus, religious ideology that is politicized—cult ideology or the ideology of martyrdom—combines with the psychological factors of individual people, as well as their collective group mentality, to prime people for violence and claim that it is committed in the name of religion.

Within the contemporary global culture, whereby individual civilizations across the world are coming into contact with each other more frequently, it is necessary to understand where the potential for violence of conflict exists. Within an international political framework, religious ideology can be used to justify violence, just as economic or political ideology can be used to justify violence. Thus, there are a variety of ways in which the increasingly interconnected global economy can contribute to a clashing of ideologies, or to the creation of a bond global culture. Understanding the ways in which various ideologies can be used to justify violence will greatly benefit international politics within the contemporary global culture. Therefore, there is a great need to continuously pursue the ways in which the phenomenon of globalization encourages the intermixing of, and sometimes the clashing nature of, different ideologies.

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[1] Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” (Foreign Affairs, 93, 72:3 (1993): 1-19).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Doug Underwood, From Yahweh to Yahoo! The Religious Roots of the Secular Press, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002).

[4] Doug Underwood, From Yahweh to Yahoo! The Religious Roots of the Secular Press, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 16.

[5] Alan Haworth, “The Value of Truth,” Free Speech, (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 90.

[6] Christof Demont-Heinrich, “Globalization” (MFJS 4650: Global Communication and Media Class Lecture, Denver, CO, January 5, 2017).

[7] Akbar S. Ahmed and Hastings Donnan, “Islam in the Age of Postmodernity,” in Islam, Globalization and Postmodernity, edited by Akbar S. Ahmed and Hastings Donnan, (London and New York: Routledge, 1994).

[8] Peter L. Berger, “Four Faces of Global Culture,” The National Interest, (no. 49 (1997): 419-427. berger-four-faces-global-culture.pdf), 419.

[9] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

[10] Ibid.

[11] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 19.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2005).

[14] Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2005), 19.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Arthur Gilbert, “Apocalyptics and Religious Violence,” (INTS 4563: Religion and International Politics: The Apocalyptic Tradition Class Lectures, Denver, CO, January 3-March 13, 2017).

[17] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 231.

[18]  Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, 3rd ed, (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2001), 231.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, 3rd ed, (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2001), 10.

[21] Ibid.

[22] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 4.

[23] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 14.

[24] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 15.

[25] Rodney Stark, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism, (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001), 33.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Rodney Stark, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism, (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001), 33.

[28] Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2005), 18.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2005), 110.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2005), 100.

[34] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 25.

[35] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 24.

[36] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 94.

[37] Dan Barker, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, (New York: Sterling, 2016), 136.

[38] Dan Barker, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, (New York: Sterling, 2016), 135.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Dan Barker, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, (New York: Sterling, 2016), 136.

[41] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 199.

[42] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 225.

[43] William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 226.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 16.

[46] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 17.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 18.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 18.

[51]  Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2011), 199.

[52] Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 165.

[53] Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 166.

[54] Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 166.

[55] Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 138.

[56] Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 203.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and The New Global Terrorism, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 1999), 204.

[59] Arthur Gilbert, “Apocalyptics and Religious Violence,” (INTS 4563: Religion and International Politics: The Apocalyptic Tradition Class Lectures, Denver, CO, January 3-March 13, 2017).

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Adam Lankford, The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 10.

[64] Adam Lankford, The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 10.

[65] Adam Lankford, The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 31.

[66]  Adam Lankford, The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 32.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Adam Lankford, The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 37.

[69] Adam Lankford, The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 109.

[70] Arthur Gilbert, “Apocalyptics and Religious Violence,” (INTS 4563: Religion and International Politics: The Apocalyptic Tradition Class Lectures, Denver, CO, January 3-March 13, 2017).

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