In June, Mulholland Books will release “Not In God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth). The publisher’s description follows:
Despite predictions of continuing secularization, the twenty-first century has witnessed a surge of religious extremism and violence in the name of God. In this powerful and timely book, Jonathan Sacks explores the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, focusing on the historic tensions between the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Drawing on arguments from evolutionary psychology, game theory, history, philosophy, ethics and theology, Sacks shows how a tendency to violence can subvert even the most compassionate of religions.
Whilst dismissing the claim that religion is intrinsically a cause of violence, Sacks argues that theology must become part of the solution if it is not to remain at the heart of the problem. Through a close reading of key Biblical texts at the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, Sacks challenges those who kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love, and practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.
This month, Edinburgh University Press will release “Violence in Islamic Thought from the Qur’an to the Mongols” edited by Robert Gleave (University of Exeter) and István Kristó-Nagy (University of Exeter). The publisher’s description follows:
How was violence justified in early Islam? What role did violent actions play in the formation and maintenance of the Muslim political order? How did Muslim thinkers view the origins and acceptability of violence? These questions are addressed by an international range of eminent authors through both general accounts of types of violence and detailed case studies of violent acts drawn from the early Islamic sources. Violence is understood widely, to include jihad, state repressions and rebellions, and also more personally directed violence against victims (women, animals, children, slaves) and criminals. By understanding the early development of Muslim thinking around violence, our understanding of subsequent trends in Islamic thought, during the medieval period and up to the modern day, become clearer.
In April, the University of Chicago Press will release “War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe’s Socioeconomic Evolution” by Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado Boulder). The publisher’s description follows:
Differences among religious communities have motivated—and continue to motivate—many of the deadliest conflicts in human history. But how did political power and organized religion become so thoroughly intertwined? And how have religion and religiously motivated conflicts affected the evolution of societies throughout history, from demographic and sociopolitical change to economic growth?
War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God turns the focus on the “big three monotheisms”—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—to consider these questions. Chronicling the relatively rapid spread of the Abrahamic religions among the Old World, Murat Iyigun shows that societies that adhered to a monotheistic belief in that era lasted longer, suggesting that monotheism brought some sociopolitical advantages. While the inherent belief in one true god meant that these religious communities had sooner or later to contend with one another, Iyigun shows that differences among them were typically strong enough to trump disagreements within. The book concludes by documenting the long-term repercussions of these dynamics for the organization of societies and their politics in Europe and the Middle East.
In April, Rowman & Littlefield will release “Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: From Holy War to Modern Terror” by Jonathan Fine (Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzlyia). The publisher’s description follows:
Religious political violence is by no means a new phenomenon, yet there are critical differences between the various historical instances of such violence and its more current permutations. Since the mid-1970s, religious fundamentalist movements have been seeking to influence world order by participating in local political systems. For example, Islamic fundamentalism is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Christian fundamental right wing has seen a resurgence in Europe, and Jewish fundamentalism is behind the actions of Meir Kahane’s Kach movement and the settler movement. The shift in recent years from secular to religious political violence necessitates a reevaluation of contemporary political violence and of the concept of religious violence.
This text analyzes the evolution of religious political violence, in both historical and contemporary perspectives. Since religious political violent events are usually associated with the term “terrorism,” the book first analyzes the origins of this controversial term and its religious manifestations. It then outlines and highlights the differences between secular and religious political violence, on ideological, strategic, and tactical levels before comparing the concept of Holy War in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Lastly, it shows how modern radical monotheistic religious groups interpret and manipulate their religious sources and ideas to advocate their political agendas, including the practice of violence. A unique comparative study of religious political violence across Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, this text features many international case studies from the Crusades to the Arab Spring.
Posted in Scholarship Roundup, Stephanie Cipolla
Tagged Books, Christianity, History of Religion, Islam, Judaism, Religion and Politics, Religion and War, Religious Violence, Terrorism, Violence and Religion
In March, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West” by Philippe Buc (University of Vienna). The publisher’s description follows:
Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror examines the ways that Christian theology has shaped centuries of conflict from the Jewish-Roman War of late antiquity through the First Crusade, the French Revolution, and up to the Iraq War. By isolating one factor among the many forces that converge in war—the essential tenets of Christian theology—Philippe Buc locates continuities in major episodes of violence perpetrated over the course of two millennia. Even in secularized societies or explicitly non-Christian societies, such as the Soviet Union of the Stalinist purges, social and political projects are tied to religious violence, and religious conceptual structures have influenced the ways violence is imagined, inhibited, perceived, and perpetrated.
The patterns that emerge from this sweeping history upend commonplace assumptions about historical violence, while contextualizing and explaining some of its peculiarities. Buc addresses the culturally sanctioned logic that might lead a sane person to kill or die on principle, traces the circuitous reasoning that permits contradictory political actions such as coercing freedom or pardoning war atrocities, and locates religious faith at the backbone of nationalist conflict. He reflects on the contemporary American ideology of war—one that wages violence in the name of abstract notions such as liberty and world peace and that he reveals to be deeply rooted in biblical notions. A work of extraordinary breadth, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror connects the ancient past to the troubled present, showing how religious ideals of sacrifice and purification made violence meaningful throughout history.
This October, Cornell University Press will publish Violence and Vengeance: Religious Conflict and Its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia by Christopher R. Duncan (Arizona State University). The publisher’s description follows.
Between 1999 and 2000, sectarian fighting fanned across the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. What began as local conflicts between migrants and indigenous people over administrative boundaries spiraled into a religious war pitting Muslims against Christians and continues to influence communal relationships more than a decade after the fighting stopped. Christopher R. Duncan spent several years conducting fieldwork in North Maluku, and in Violence and Vengeance, he examines how the individuals actually taking part in the fighting understood and experienced the conflict.
Rather than dismiss religion as a facade for the political and economic motivations of the regional elite, Duncan explores how and why participants came to perceive the conflict as one of religious difference. He examines how these perceptions of religious violence altered the conflict, leading to large-scale massacres in houses of worship, forced conversions of entire communities, and other acts of violence that stressed religious identities. Duncan’s analysis extends beyond the period of violent conflict and explores how local understandings of the violence have complicated the return of forced migrants, efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation.
The University of California Press has announced a collection of essays, edited by theologian John Renard (St. Louis), on religious justifications for violence, Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts (2012). The publisher’s description follows:
One of the critical issues in interreligious relations today is the connection, both actual and perceived, between sacred sources and the justification of violent acts as divinely mandated. Fighting Words makes solid text-based scholarship accessible to the general public, beginning with the premise that a balanced approach to religious pluralism in our world must build on a measured, well-informed response to the increasingly publicized and sensationalized association of terrorism and large-scale violence with religion.
In his introduction, Renard provides background on the major scriptures of seven religious traditions—Jewish, Christian (including both the Old and New Testaments), Islamic, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Sikh. Eight chapters then explore the interpretation of select facets of these scriptures, focusing on those texts so often claimed, both historically and more recently, as inspiration and justification for every kind of violence, from individual assassination to mass murder. With its nuanced consideration of a complex topic, this book is not merely about the religious sanctioning of violence but also about diverse ways of reading sacred textual sources.
This November, Georgetown University Press will publish Between Terror and Tolerance: Religious Leaders, Conflict, and Peacemaking edited by Timothy D. Sisk (University of Denver). The publisher’s description follows.
Civil war and conflict within countries is the most prevalent threat to peace and security in the opening decades of the twenty-first century. A pivotal factor in the escalation of tensions to open conflict is the role of elites in exacerbating tensions along identity lines by giving the ideological justification, moral reasoning, and call to violence. Between Terror and Tolerance examines the varied roles of religious leaders in societies deeply divided by ethnic, racial, or religious conflict. The chapters in this book explore cases when religious leaders have justified or catalyzed violence along identity lines, and other instances when religious elites have played a critical role in easing tensions or even laying the foundation for peace and reconciliation.
Posted in Jordan Hummel, Scholarship Roundup
Tagged Books, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Politics in the Middle East, Religion and Politics, Religious Conflict, Religious Violence, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan
On September 3, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion published Violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyana : Just War Criteria in an Ancient Indian Epic by Raj Balkaran (University of Calgary) and A. Walter Dorn (Royal Military College of Canada and Canadian Forces College). The abstract follows.
When is armed force considered justified in Hinduism? How do Hindu legitimizations of warfare compare with those of other religions? The Just War framework, which evolved from Roman and early Christian thought, stipulates distinct criteria for sanctioning the use of force. Are those themes comparable to the discourse on violence of ancient India? This article examines the influential Sanskrit epic Vālmıki Rāmāyana in order to broach these questions. This analysis demonstrates the presence in the ancient work of all seven modern Just War criteria—namely (1) Just Cause, (2) Right Intent, (3) Net Benefit, (4) Legitimate Authority, (5) Last Resort, (6) Proportionality of Means, and (7) Right Conduct. This study also shows the extent to which the criteria and the larger discourse in the Vālmıki Rāmāyana are distinctly couched within Indic ethical parameters, drawing particularly upon the moral precept of ahimsā (nonviolence). This article identifies both similarities and differences between the epic’s criteria for warfare and those of the Just War framework. By comparing representations of violence in the Vālmıki Rāmāyana to modern Western legitimizations of force, this study advances the inclusion of Hindu thought into the global discourse on the ethics of war and peace.
This December, the University of California Press will publish Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts edited by John Renard (Saint Louis University). The publisher’s description follows.
One of the critical issues in inter-religious relations today is the connection, both actual and perceived, between sacred sources and the justification of violent acts as divinely mandated. Fighting Words makes solid text-based scholarship accessible to the general public, beginning with the premise that a balanced approach to religious pluralism in our world must build on a measured, well-informed response to the increasingly publicized and sensationalized association of terrorism and large-scale violence with religion. An Introduction provides background on the major scriptures of seven religious traditions. Eight main chapters then explore aspects of the interpretation of selected facets of scripture in seven traditions: Jewish, Christian (including chapters on Old as well as New Testaments), Islamic, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Hindu and Sikh. Focus is on sacred texts so often claimed, both historically and more recently, as inspiration for and justification of every kind of violence from individual assassination to mass murder. A balanced approach to this complex topic also means that this is not merely a book about the religious sanctioning of violence, but about diverse ways of reading sacred textual sources.