Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

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University of California Press, 2003 - Political Science - 319 pages
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Since September 11, 2001, we all need tools to help us understand what motivates religious terrorism. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Mark Juergensmeyer asks one of the most important and perplexing questions of our age: Why do religious people commit violent acts in the name of their god, taking the lives of innocent victims and terrorizing entire populations? This, the first comparative study of religious terrorism, explores incidents such as the World Trade Center explosion, Hamas suicide bombings, the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack, and the killing of abortion clinic doctors in the United States. Updated with a new preface addressing the events of September 11, the book incorporates personal interviews with World Trade Center bomber Mahmud Abouhalima, Christian Right activist Mike Bray, Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin and Abdul Azis Rantisi, and Sikh political leader Simranjit Singh Mann, among others, Juergensmeyer takes us into the mindset of those who perpetrate and support violent acts. In the process, he helps us understand why these acts are often associated with religious causes and why they occur with such frequency at this moment in history. Terror in the Mind of God places these acts of violence in the context of global political and social changes, and posits them as attempts to empower the cultures of violence that support them. Juergensmeyer analyzes the economic, ideological, and gender-related dimensions of cultures that embrace a central sacred concept--cosmic war--and that employ religion to demonize their enemies. Juergensmeyer's narrative is engaging, incisive, and sweeping in scope. He convincingly shows that while, in many cases, religion supplies not only the ideology but also the motivation and organizational structure for the perpetrators of violent acts, it also carries with it the possibilities for peace. Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Book of 2000
 

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Terror in the Mind of God is a comparative study of religion and society. Mark Juergensmeyer focused this study comparing the justifications used by religious extremists to commit acts of violence. Dr. Juergensmeyer primarily compares terrorist’s acts committed by followers of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam. Throughout the comparison, he reveals some of the results of interviews he personally conducted with perpetrators or advocates who committed or were responsible for bombings, assassinations, or poisonous gas and suicide attacks. Two of the most common themes that appear in each of the religious motivated attacks were the belief in a cosmic war between good and evil and the hatred of secular governments. Dr. Juergensmeyer informs readers that in general, all religions provide their followers with the basic rules of life. These rules of life, in general, are good. They provide their followers with basic human rights and morality. He further demonstrates that secular governments provide their citizens with laws and rules governing deviancy. These governmental laws, Dr. Juergensmeyer informs us, are sometimes not the same laws that the religious extremists regard as religion-based. Dr. Juergensmeyer’s study reveals a correlation between the religion that guides the perpetrators and supporters of religious motivated violence, and the moral justification to commit violence to engage in combat in the cosmic war between good and evil. He describes the cosmic war between good and evil as the war between the religion that God created and the secular government that is trying to marginalize God. Many of the interviewees described the acts of violence as acts of war by soldiers. Because of this cosmic war, perpetrators received the moral justification directly from God to kill those who opposed the word of God. The religious extremists described collateral damage as a necessary act during war. The other enduring theme shared by the religious perpetrators of violence is their hatred of secular governments. Dr. Juergensmeyer describes these secular governments as the people who either engage in or promote the type of activities that they – the perpetrators and supporters of violence – regard as immoral. Although these activities or actions may have the legal sanction of the government, the extremists believe that those persons or governments who engage or compromise with those who engage in the immoral activities to be enemies. Overall, Dr. Juergensmeyer’s Terror in the Mind of God provides readers with some personal insight into the mindset of perpetrators and supporters of religious motivated acts of violence. He provides demonstrations of religious extremists’ belief that they are involved in cosmic warfare against secular governments that are evil. The only way these soldiers can protect their rightful way of life is to engage in combat to destroy those who oppose their religious beliefs.  

Contents

Terror and God
3
The Meaning of Religious Terrorism
4
Seeing Inside Cultures of Violence
10
Cultures of Violence
17
Soldiers for Christ
19
Mike Bray and Abortion Clinic Bombings
20
Theological Justifications
24
Eric Robert Rudolph and Timothy McVeigh
30
Reaching the Audience
141
Cosmic War
148
Grand Scenarios
152
Symbolic War
158
When Symbols Become Deadly
163
Martyrs and Demons
167
Sacrificial Victims
168
The Invention of Enemies
174

Catholics and Protestants in Belfast
36
Zion Betrayed
45
Yoel Lerner and the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
46
Baruch Goldsteins Attack at the Tomb of the Patriarchs
50
Meir Kahane and Jewish Justifications for Violence
53
Islams Neglected Duty
61
Mahmud Abouhalima and the World Trade Center Bombing
62
Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Hamas Suicide Missions
70
Modern Islamic Justifications for Violence
80
The Sword of Sikhism
85
Simranjit Singh Mann and Indias Assassinations
87
Sikh and Hindu Justifications for Violence
94
Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway
103
Takeshi Nakamura and the Aum Shinrikyo Assault
106
Can Buddhist Violence Be Justified?
113
The Logic of Religious Violence
119
Theater of Terror
121
Performance Violence
124
Setting the Stage
128
A Time to Kill
135
America as Enemy
181
Satanization and the Stages of Empowerment
185
Warriors Power
190
Empowering Marginal Men
191
Why Guys Throw Bombs
198
Fighting for the Rule of God
210
The Mind of God
219
Empowering Religion
221
Postmodern Terror
228
Curing Violence
233
Terrifying Terrorists
236
Violence Wins
238
Separating Religion from Politics
240
Healing Politics with Religion
243
Notes
251
Interviews and Correspondence
281
Bibliography
285
Index
305
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About the author (2003)

Mark Juergensmeyer is Professor of Sociology and Director of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the winner of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for 2003 in the religion category and the author of The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (California, 1993), and Gandhi's Way: A Handbook of Conflict Resolution (California, 2002), and editor of Global Religions: An Introduction (2003).

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