Untangling the relationship between religion and violence – Inroads
Untangling the relationship between religion and violence. Bob Chodos looks at a creative approach to the problem of religious violence. By Bob Chodos. relationship between religious orientation and aggression, and through .. explanations for a link between religion and political violence. The relation between religion and politics continues to be an important theme in . For example, violent fundamentalists feel justified in killing and persecuting.
The climax of the story comes when Isaac is old and blind and wishes to bless his eldest son, Esau, before he dies. Rebecca has been waiting for this moment and sets up Jacob to disguise himself as Esau and obtain the blessing for himself. As soon as Isaac has blessed Jacob, the real Esau comes in, and when he and Isaac find out what has happened, they are both deeply shaken.
Isaac has a blessing for Esau as well, but an apparently lesser one. Jacob remains in Mesopotamia for 20 years. When he returns with four wives, 12 children and much sheep and cattle, he hears that Esau is coming to meet him with men. Fearing the worst, he goes off by himself and camps overnight, and there he wrestles with a mysterious being, later termed an angel, who gives him a new name, Israel.
Then he goes to meet with Esau, who instead of trying to kill him, embraces him. The brothers then go their separate ways. Jacob and Esau are pitted against each other. Jacob is chosen, Esau rejected.
Religion and Politics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
But Sacks sees more in the story. However, it is rarely noticed that Isaac gives Jacob a second blessing, knowing that he is Jacob, just as he is about to set out for Mesopotamia. But Jacob still needs to renounce the first blessing, the one intended for Esau. When the brothers meet 20 years later, Jacob offers Esau lavish gifts. Because, Sacks suggests, he is returning the blessing he had stolen from Esau 20 years earlier.
Jacob and Esau each have their own blessing. Jacob was struggling with himself. Would he continue to long to be Esau, or would he accept his own destiny? All this may be clever and creative, but does it matter? Even if the core text of sibling rivalry in the Abrahamic family can be interpreted so that it does not lead to conflict, who is listening? The world, he observes, is becoming more religious rather than less.
Thus, politically mandated education that is aimed at developing autonomy runs up against the right of some parents to practice their religion and the right to raise their children as they choose. Many, though not all, liberals argue that autonomy is such an important good that its promotion justifies using techniques that make it harder for such parents to pass on their faith—such a result is an unfortunate side-effect of a desirable or necessary policy.
Yet a different source of political conflict for religious students in recent years concerns the teaching of evolution in science classes. Some religious parents of children in public schools see the teaching of evolution as a direct threat to their faith, insofar as it implies the falsity of their biblical-literalist understanding of the origins of life. They argue that it is unfair to expect them to expose their children to teaching that directly challenges their religion and to fund it with their taxes.
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Among these parents, some want schools to include discussions of intelligent design and creationism some who write on this issue see intelligent design and creationism as conceptually distinct positions; others see no significant difference between themwhile others would be content if schools skirted the issue altogether, refusing to teach anything at all about the origin of life or the evolution of species.
Their opponents see the former proposal as an attempt to introduce an explicitly religious worldview into the classroom, hence one that runs afoul of the separation of church and state. Nor would they be satisfied with ignoring the issue altogether, for evolution is an integral part of the framework of modern biology and a well-established scientific theory.
Conflicts concerning religion and politics arise outside of curricular contexts, as well. For example, in France, a law was recently passed that made it illegal for students to wear clothing and adornments that are explicitly associated with a religion.
This law was especially opposed by students whose religion explicitly requires them to wear particular clothing, such as a hijab or a turban. The justification given by the French government was that such a measure was necessary to honor the separation of church and state, and useful for ensuring that the French citizenry is united into a whole, rather than divided by religion.
However, it is also possible to see this law as an unwarranted interference of the state in religious practice. If liberty of conscience includes not simply a right to believe what one chooses, but also to give public expression to that belief, then it seems that people should be free to wear clothing consistent with their religious beliefs.
Crucial to this discussion of the effect of public policy on religious groups is an important distinction regarding neutrality. The liberal state is supposed to remain neutral with regard to religion as well as race, sexual orientation, physical status, age, etc. In one sense, neutrality can be understood in terms of a procedure that is justified without appeal to any conception of the human good. In this sense, it is wrong for the state to intend to disadvantage one group of citizens, at least for its own sake and with respect to practices that are not otherwise unjust or politically undesirable.
Untangling the relationship between religion and violence
Thus it would be a violation of neutrality in this sense and therefore wrong for the state simply to outlaw the worship of Allah. Alternatively, neutrality can be understood in terms of effect.
The state abides by this sense of neutrality by not taking actions whose consequences are such that some individuals or groups in society are disadvantaged in their pursuit of the good. For a state committed to neutrality thus understood, even if it were not explicitly intending to disadvantage a particular group, any such disadvantage that may result is a prima facie reason to revoke the policy that causes it.
The attendance requirement may nevertheless be unavoidable, but as it stands, it is less than optimal. Obviously, this is a more demanding standard, for it requires the state to consider possible consequences—both short term and long term—on a wide range of social groups and then choose from those policies that do not have bad consequences or the one that has the fewest and least bad.
For most, and arguably all, societies, it is a standard that cannot feasibly be met. Consequently, most liberals argue that the state should be neutral in the first sense, but it need not be neutral in the second sense. Thus, if the institutions and practices of a basically just society make it more challenging for some religious people to preserve their ways of life, it is perhaps regrettable, but not unjust, so long as these institutions and practices are justified impartially.
Liberalism and Its Demands on Private Self-Understanding In addition to examining issues of toleration and accommodation on the level of praxis, there has also been much recent work about the extent to which particular political theories themselves are acceptable or unacceptable from religious perspectives. Rather than requiring citizens to accept any particular comprehensive doctrine of liberalism, a theory of justice should aim at deriving principles that each citizen may reasonably accept from his or her own comprehensive doctrine.
The aim, then, for a political conception of justice is for all reasonable citizens to be able to affirm principles of justice without having to weaken their hold on their own private comprehensive views.
One such argument comes from Eomann Callan, in his book Creating Citizens. If Rawlsian liberalism requires acceptance of the burdens of judgment, then the overlapping consensus will not include some kinds of religious citizens. Thus, a religious citizen could feel an acute conflict between her identity qua citizen and qua religious adherent.
One way of resolving the conflict is to argue that one aspect of her identity should take priority over the other. For many religious citizens, political authority is subservient to—and perhaps even derived from—divine authority, and therefore they see their religious commitments as taking precedence over their civic ones. But this tendency makes it more challenging for liberals to adjudicate conflicts between religion and politics.
One possibility is for the liberal to argue that the demands of justice are prior to the pursuit of the good which would include religious practice. If so, and if the demands of justice require one to honor duties of citizenship, then one might argue that people should not allow their religious beliefs and practices to restrict or interfere with their roles as citizens. Religious Reasons in Public Deliberation One recent trend in democratic theory is an emphasis on the need for democratic decisions to emerge from processes that are informed by deliberation on the part of the citizenry, rather than from a mere aggregation of preferences.
As a result, there has been much attention devoted to the kinds of reasons that may or may not be appropriate for public deliberation in a pluralistic society. While responses to this issue have made reference to all kinds of beliefs, much of the discussion has centered on religious beliefs.
One reason for this emphasis is that, both historically and in contemporary societies, religion has played a central role in political life, and often it has done so for the worse witness the wars of religion in Europe that came in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, for example. As such, it is a powerful political force, and it strikes many who write about this issue as a source of social instability and repression.
Another reason is that, due to the nature of religious belief itself, if any kind of belief is inappropriate for public deliberation, then religious beliefs will be the prime candidate, either because they are irrational, or immune to critique, or unverifiable, etc.
In other words, religion provides a useful test case in evaluating theories of public deliberation. Since citizens have sharp disagreements on comprehensive doctrines, any law or policy that necessarily depends on such a doctrine could not be reasonably accepted by those who reject the doctrine.
A prime example of a justification for a law that is publicly inaccessible in this way is one that is explicitly religious. For example, if the rationale for a law that outlawed working on Sunday was simply that it displeases the Christian God, non-Christians could not reasonably accept it. Since only secular reasons are publicly accessible in this way, civic virtue requires offering secular reasons and being sufficiently motivated by them to support or oppose the law or policy under debate.
Religious reasons are not suitable for public deliberation since they are not shared by the non-religious or people of differing religions and people who reject these reasons would justifiably resent being coerced on the basis of them. Others try to show that religious justifications can contribute positively to democratic polities; the two most common examples in support of this position are the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the twentieth-century civil rights movement, both of which achieved desirable political change in large part by appealing directly to the Christian beliefs prevalent in Great Britain and the United States.
A third inclusivist argument is that it is unfair to hamstring certain groups in their attempts to effect change that they believe is required by justice.
Many—though not all—who defend the pro-life position do so by appealing to the actual or potential personhood of fetuses. Consequently, on some versions of exclusivism, citizens who wish to argue against abortion should do so without claiming that fetuses are persons. To ask them to refrain from focusing on this aspect of the issue looks like an attempt to settle the issue by default, then. Instead, inclusivists argue that citizens should feel free to introduce any considerations whatsoever that they think are relevant to the topic under public discussion.
Even the most secularized countries Sweden is typically cited as a prime example include substantial numbers of people who still identify themselves as religious.
These people are often given substantial democratic rights, sometimes including formal citizenship. And the confrontation between radical Islam and the West shows few signs of abating anytime soon. In a widely influential study, Robert Pape argues that suicide terrorism follows a "strategic logic" that aims to extract short-term, usually territorial, gains from liberal democracies Pape Using crosscase quantitative data and case studies on a number of conflicts, including Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine and the Kurdish conflict in Turkey, Pape contends that "suicide terrorism is on the rise" because terrorists have learned that "it pays.
Though he recognizes that this conclusion, produced by scholarly work in the s was "consistent with the data from that period," he also notes that later cases have confirmed that suicide terrorism is not limited to Islamic Fundamentalism Pape, Religious motives may be invoked, but at the core of terrorism lay the thirst for territorial and political gains. What is the strategic goal of terrorism, then?
According to Pape, suicide bombers aim to coerce the opponent into making territorial concessions. As such, Pape argues, these tactics are not the result of "fanatical" or irrational fighters, but rather are carefully deployed, connected to nationalist claims, and selective in its targets.
Stathis Kalyvas has made a similar argument about the massacres in Algeria Kalyvas, For scholars writing in this theoretical vein, religion constitutes not a proxy or "mask" variable, but rather represents a powerful cognitive structure consisting "of shared understandings, expectations, and social knowledge, [which] provide[s] social actors with value-laden conceptions of the self and others, and consequently affect[s] their strategic choices" Hasenclever et al, In addition, religion is neither intrinsically belligerent nor always readily accessible to the instrumental needs of greedy elites.
Rather, religious doctrine offers a wide net of inter-subjective understandings and scripts over which interpretational battles are fought, and as such, attention should be placed on the contest of interpretational frames and strategies and those who put them forth for understanding both the peaceful and the violent impact of religion in politics. Note, however, that constructivists do not disagree with instrumentalists on the fact that religion is susceptible of factoring into the interests of leaders, or on the idea that political entrepreneurship is needed to mobilize crowd support based on religious arguments.
However, as Hasenclever and Rittberger note, constructivists do disagree with the instrumentalist tendency to see religion as a mask of deeper, material interests. Instead, they attempt to take doctrine more seriously and argue that it can, by virtue of the mobilization power granted by its own cognitive force, lead to violent outcomes. Constructivists also disagree with instrumentalist approaches on the ease with which leaders in the latter's viewpoint galvanize societal support: Scott Appleby's argument about the "ambivalence of the sacred", presented later in more detail, illustrates this line of research well: Seizing a Middle Ground: Eclectic Approaches Hasenclever and Rittberger's theoretical overview is extremely helpful in teasing out the differences between major social scientific approaches to the study of religion and violence.
However, a closer reading of some of the most recent studies on religion and violence reveals that the above picture of clearly demarcated theoretical camps is a highly stylized one. Some of the same authors referenced above, particular Duffy Toft, Hasenclever and Rittberger, or Daniel Philpott, as well as sociological works such as those by Appleby and Marty, fuse instrumentalist and constructivist tools in their explanatory frameworks.
In this subsection I aim to illustrate the "eclecticism" that characterizes the arguments of these authors, and which I argue is increasingly becoming the conventional wisdom in the subfield of religion and violent conflict.
First, a few lines are necessary on what I mean by this "eclecticism. Though "thin" and "thick" variants of rationalism exist, the version that has usually gained more currency among scholars, perhaps following a market bias, has been associated rationalism with materialism and the attainment of wealth and power. The other meta-theory of social action is constructivism, which, as explained earlier in reference to Hasenclever and Rittberger, takes actors' ideas and beliefs more seriously, and uses them not only to understand how said actors' "interests," strategies and identities are constituted and are subject to change over time via actors' interaction.
Scholarly practice has usually treated these two meta-theories as radically and mutually exclusive, and indeed many academic debates and careers have been built on a "dueling theories" approach to social science.
However, recently, more scholars have become skeptical about the impermeability of the divide between these two camps, and have introduced into the debate the idea that rationalism and constructivism may be combined regardless of whether core philosophical and epistemological questions remain unresolved.
As such, James Fearon and Alexander Wendt and more recently Katzenstein and Silhave promoted pursuing a "pragmatic" and "eclectic" route of research that combines the major insights from both approaches to produce more persuasive scholarly work. As Katzenstein and Sil explain: This pragmatic turn to eclecticism is now hailed as the new mantra of the International Relations subfield, and key figures are trying to promote it as a sort of academic best practice.
Such enthusiasm, naturally, does not mean automatic uptake by the broader scholarly community, and as such, the turn to eclectic theorizing remains work in progress. In what follows, however, I want to argue that the subfield of religion and conflict reviewed here if perhaps not the larger subfield of religion and politics seems to have made this "eclectic" turn, insofar as many of the main theories currently held by major scholars incorporate insights and tools from both rationalism and constructivism.
A distillation of the arguments of the scholarly camps discussed earlier helps to flesh out my point. First, it must be said that primordialism has been widely discarded as a valid explanation of the religion and conflict nexus.
This is the case, I would argue, for two possible reasons. One the one hand, it appears to be factually unsound. As the empirical work by Fox and Duffy Toft presented earlier show, 6 no single religion accounts for all religious conflict around the world, and in particular, Christians and Muslims share an important slice of the existing cases.
On the other hand, it may simply be politically incorrect -indeed, politically dangerous- to single out any major religion as essentially and inevitably violence-prone. Setting aside primordialism, three key factors are identified in the existing religion-and-violence literature: These three factors correspond roughly to the variables central to constructivism and rationalism: Yet, as seen below, mono-causal arguments using any single one of these variables are rarely persuasive.
Indeed, my survey of the literature suggests an emerging scholarly consensus on the idea that separately, though necessary, neither one of these traits is expected to be a sufficient cause of religious violence.
As a result, rather than a rivalry between approaches, a combinatory approach may be the best route. Taking this eclectic perspective, different scholars have opted either to present mid-level hypotheses or to build broader interpretive frames to understand the religion and conflict nexus, and explain violent outcomes.
Let us explore those arguments in turn. How do religious group membership, religious doctrine and leadership combine and lead to conflict? In an important article, Daniel Philpott identifies a series of pathways Philpott, Based on constructivist insights, Philpott agrees that religion offers an ideal and powerful "cognitive" set of scripts through which mass support can be mobilized around religious identity.
Group membership in religious communities, which usually rest on strong ties of brother- and sisterhood, may lead to in- and out-group dynamics that characterize social life generally and derive in violent clashes with believers of different faiths or against secularists. A corollary of this is that a radicalized belief in the need to defend one's religion may lead believers to discount their fear of death, which would explain phenomena such as suicide terrorism.
For Philpott then, the above combination of factors community and leadership, and doctrine, if only superficially represents a first pathway of religiously-activated conflict: This pathway provides scholars such as Duffy Toft with the grounds to propose a more concrete theory to explain cases in when religion goes from peripheral to central in a conflict, which she dubs "religious outbidding" inspired in Jack Snyder's work on nationalist wars.
Note that this explanation combines constitutive, that is, constructivist notions, as well as rationalist ones: It must be noted that for scholars such as Duffy Toft, this approach that I call eclectic takes the wind from claims regarding the irrationality of religious violence.
As she argues, "Religious actors are actually rational, but they base their utility calculations on intangible values" Duffy Toft, Toft uses the cases of the First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars to test her theory, but more qualitative work beyond those cases remains to be done to ascertain, via process tracing and controlled comparisons, the causal link that her theory suggests.
Philpott proposes a second pathway, which appears to take faith more seriously. In certain cases, he suggests, religious doctrine may not only help define the identities of the groups engaged in violence, but also their ulterior goals regarding political order.
Wath is the Link Between Religión and Violence? An Assement of the Literature
In what he dubs the "integrationist" nature of some religious causes, certain political theologies and interpretations thereof lead groups and their supporters to discriminate against other, often minority, groups. Duffy Toft seems to agree with Philpott in her analysis of interpretations surrounding the notion of jihad as a "structural-institutional" cause of Islam-related violence Duffy Toft, In addition, Toft also offers an additional historical-structural factor for the higher prevalence of Islam in recent conflicto trends, suggesting that in comparison to Christianity, Islam has not undergone a systematic process of differentiation between religion and state Duffy Toft There are also cases Iran being the foremost in which such movements have succeed in capturing the state and pursue integrationist agendas, making them more "conflict-prone" Philpott, As a corollary to this second pathway, Philpott notes that in some conflicts, religious ends may combine with other strong cognitive structures such as ethnicity and nationalism.
Such are the cases of the Sudan and Sri Lanka. Finally, Philpott also notes that "integrationist" political theologies sometimes also play a role in shaping the identities and goals of opposition groups.
This combinatory approach, as is evident, also contains institutionalist elements to explain variance in violent and non-violent outcomes, not unlike the approach taken by Fearon and Laitin in the study of inter-ethnic non- cooperation Fearon and Laitin, For their part, Hasenclever and Rittberger offer a similarly "eclectic" theory of religious mobilization leading to conflict.
Like Duffy Toft, they focus on the choices of elites, seen as rational actors who calculate the costs and benefits of resorting to religious arguments in order to incite supporters toward violence. Importantly, elites' decisions are determined by the likelihood of mobilization success.
Following a rationalist logic, they suggest that "controlling for the strength of the adversary, the prospects of success, in turn, are a function of at least two variables: As a result, "we should expect elite's choices to be affected by the degree of support they can muster for their cause and their strategies. What affects the likelihood that elites' mobilization strategies will succeed, and what determines public support for those goals and strategies?
They point to four factors connected to religion: Religious attachment, as mentioned earlier, has a tendency to increase believers' will to sacrifice to defend their cause. When peaceful options have been exhausted or there is a history of animosity between groups, leaders may find in religion a potent and effective catalyst for violent action.
Leaders must then engage in persuasive framing of their cause "in terms that lend credibility to their claim that violence is unavoidable. Finally, let me briefly discuss the work of sociologists Martin Marty and Scott Appleby.
In an impressive series of volumes framed around a broader research project, Marty and Appleby, with the aid of dozens of contributors, including political scientist Gabriel Almond and historian Emmanuel Sivan, developed a collection of comparative historical case studies in order to construct an interpretive framework of fundamentalism, covering a diversity of religions and regions in the world.