Posted 6 декабря 2021,, 16:54

Published 6 декабря 2021,, 16:54

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Terror in the Mind of God - The Global Rise of Religious Violence: Professor Jurgensmeyer Describes Religious Terror On A Global Scale

Terror in the Mind of God - The Global Rise of Religious Violence: Professor Jurgensmeyer Describes Religious Terror On A Global Scale

6 декабря 2021, 16:54
The book of the American sociology professor Mark Jurgensmeyer "Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence"* (M.: New literary review. Series "Studia religiosa". Translation from English made by A. Zygmont. 2022) represents the most serious modern study of religious terror.


To do this, the University of California Professor Emeritus examined all the public acts of violence of the late 20th and early decades of the 21st century, whose ideological rationale and organization was determined by religion, while visiting many disturbing places in the world. His interlocutors were the leaders of the Palestinian intifada and Zealot Jews, Sikh activists in India and Buddhist ones in Myanmar and Japan, jihadists in the Middle East and radical Christians in the United States and Europe.

“As someone raised in a devout midwestern Protestant environment”, - writes Jurgensmeyer, “I knew how powerfully religion was to transform human potential. For me, this transformative capacity of her has always been something good (and mostly non-violent) - as related to motives of personal integrity and social redemption. Therefore, I feel a certain affinity with today's religious activists, for whom religion is serious. I wanted to understand: what else motivates those who do not just fight for this worthy cause, but go to religious acts of terrorism? I wondered why their views on religion and participation in public life have taken such a lethal turn and why they have no doubt that they have the right to sow devastation and death - and sow them so brutally and for show".

It must be emphasized: guided by unconditional scientific conscientiousness, the author does not proceed from any preliminary personal guidelines, but only draws conclusions from the information received.

And the first disappointing conclusion is that religious violence is not only manifested in public life everywhere, but is inherent in absolutely all religions. None of them can be considered completely free of what Jürgensmeyer calls bloody activism.

And that is why he does not consider his conversations with representatives of such as self-sufficient, but seeks to understand why all their monstrous performances so often have religious motivation and why there are so many of them in the current historical time - suffice it to say that in 1980 in the register of the US Department of State there were practically no religious groups among international terrorist groups, and by the end of the 20th century more than half of them were associated with religion.

The undoubted reason for this is the erosion of former public authorities that has occurred as a result of globalization:

“As state regimes weaken from constant attacks on national identity and social control, their legitimacy is today challenged by movements based on the authority of religion. For religion with all its images and ideas, the current historical moment of global transformation turned out to be favorable for its return as a public force. In the shadow of religious discord and the possibilities for the revival of religion in the political sphere, lurk, I believe, an almost widespread devaluation of secular sources of authority and the need for alternative ideologies of social order. This, perhaps, is the historical paradox vividly presented in the current terrorist attacks: the answers to the questions about why the modern world still needs religion and why it shudders from public acts of violence is one and the same answer.

However, Jurgensmeyer does not confine himself to explaining religious terrorism by postmodern disillusionment with the values of a secular society, in which "scientific thinking and moral premises of a secular social contract have become the criteria of truth and social identity instead of theology and the church".

At the center of his reflections is the question of whether religious terrorism is only a consequence of a certain interweaving of socio-political premises and human ambitions, or is there something in religion itself, both historical and modern, that "stems from its very heart" and either inevitably leads to violence, or, at least, "makes it such an attractive curtain for the selfish aspirations of power-hungry".

Jurgeinsmeier marks his position on this issue as the middle one. Religion, according to his findings, is not the cause of violence, but there is a kind of sinister magnetism and a strange mutual attraction between them. It is no coincidence, in his opinion, that religion plays such an important role in terrorist attacks like the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. It "gives killing a moral foundation and clothe it in images of cosmic war, which allow activists to think of themselves as vehicles of a" higher purpose. " This does not mean that religion breeds violence - social and political problems are usually to blame for this - but it does have symbols and traditions associated with the shedding of blood and even catastrophic acts of terrorism. <…>

From the biblical wars to the adventures of the Crusades and the great sacrifices of martyrs, violence has accompanied religion as its shadow, highlighting the darkest and most mysterious religious symbols. The power over imagination that religion has has always been shaded by images of death.

The familiar religious images of confrontation and transformation — that is, the concept of cosmic war — are applied to this worldly social conflict. The consequence of the fact that these space battles are transferred to the human world are real acts of violence. I am puzzled not why bad people do evil, but why those who in other circumstances we would call “good” do evil — in the case of religious terrorism, these are pious believers who are sincerely devoted to a moral vision of the world”.

And here in the study of Jurgensmeier an important turn appears: it is fundamentally different from the study of the nature of evil in man, which was dealt with by the great authors of world literature. (Dostoevsky's name comes to mind in the first place, and probably not only to the Russian reader). Jürgensmeyer focuses only on the cultural contexts generated by acts of religious violence, on associated ideas and on the communities that support terrorists. Moreover, he does this on principle - so as not to allow himself to submit to the logic according to which "terrorism exists because there are terrorists, and as soon as we get rid of them, the world will immediately breathe a sigh of endowment". However, there is a flaw in complete liberation from this logic - at least from its first component, concerning the nature of evil in man. Without focusing on this, any research looks not only incomplete, but also insubstantial.

Naturally, considering at the end of his book several possible scenarios for getting rid of terrorism, Jurgensmeyer is extremely skeptical about the possibility of its military containment. The attempts of such, undertaken by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, in fact, can hardly be considered completely successful. However, the possibility of overcoming terrorism through its desacralization - when the religious component is withdrawn from politics and returns only to the sphere of morality and metaphysics - the researcher considers unlikely:

“It is unlikely that many religious activists would want to return to a time when the public arena was dominated by secular authorities, and religions were locked in four walls of churches, mosques, temples and synagogues. For most activists, the social manifestations of cosmic confrontation are found in the very heart of the faith, so they dream of returning religion to its “rightful place” in the center of public consciousness".

But what, then, is to be done? Jürgensmeyer believes that an effective way to combat religious terrorism is as follows:

“Religion inspires the life of society and serves as a moral guideline for it. At the same time, it needs a bit of rationality and "fair play", instilled by the values of the Enlightenment into civil society. Proceeding from this, an end to religious violence can be put only by reconciling two things - a certain moderation in terms of religious fervor and the recognition of religion as a force that elevates spiritual and moral values in the life of society. Another paradox is that religious violence can ultimately be healed only by restoring the respect it deserves”.

Jurgensmeyer, who has done a fundamental - not to mention the fact that it is fraught with a huge risk to his life - work, has the right to his own conclusions. However, who will weigh the coveted "fraction" and where is the balance between society's respect for religion and its strengthening, suppressing all social institutions so hard acquired in the course of centuries of social development, and therefore unacceptable for modern society? Countries in which such a balance is observed are few in number and, as a rule, are not sources of terrorism. The same communities from which religious terrorism usually emanates are completely unprepared for the moderation of religious fervor and are unlikely to be satisfied with the fact that, instead of being dominant and all-embracing, the role of religion is reduced to “only” spiritually and morally uplifting.

Probably the only thing that can be considered indisputable in relation to the book of Mark Jurgensmeyer: it is valuable not for recipes, but for the honesty and impeccability of research.

* The Russian variant of the translation of the book's title "Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence" is "I'll let my Terror come before You: The religious violence on a global scale"