Relationship between religion and political violence today

Religion and Politics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

relationship between religion and political violence today

First, to give the reader a sense of the dimension of the religion and conflict nexus Political scientists were often content to point to a few highly visible cases of .. to eclecticism is now hailed as the new mantra of the International Relations. We now take the secular state so much for granted that it is hard for us to Nor was it a question of the state simply “using” religion for political ends. . a symbiotic relationship with a secularisation that is experienced as cruel. Disentangling the relationship between religion and violence in armed Keywords endogeneity, religion and politics, religious violence, temporal Cunningham, Kathleen Gallagher, Bakke, Kristin M, Seymour, Lee JM () Shirts today.

This segued into outright violence during the September massacres ofwhen the mob fell upon the jails of Paris and slaughtered between two and three thousand prisoners, many of them priests. Their instructions were to spare no one. I have crushed children beneath the hooves of our horses, and massacred the women … The roads are littered with corpses. Their new gods were liberty, nature and the French nation, which they worshipped in elaborate festivals choreographed by the artist Jacques Louis David.

The same year that the goddess of reason was enthroned on the high altar of Notre Dame cathedral, the reign of terror plunged the new nation into an irrational bloodbath, in which some 17, men, women and children were executed by the state. It is now considered admirable to die for your country, but not for your religion. As the nation-state came into its own in the 19th century along with the industrial revolution, its citizens had to be bound tightly together and mobilised for industry.

Modern communications enabled governments to create and propagate a national ethos, and allowed states to intrude into the lives of their citizens more than had ever been possible. But in the late 19th century, the British historian Lord Acton feared that the adulation of the national spirit that laid such emphasis on ethnicity, culture and language, would penalise those who did not fit the national norm: The structural injustice of the agrarian state, however, had made it impossible to implement these ideals fully.

The nation-state made these noble aspirations practical necessities. 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?

Religion and Politics

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.

relationship between religion and political violence today

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.

The myth of religious violence | Karen Armstrong | World news | The Guardian

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.

relationship between religion and political violence today

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.

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.

relationship between religion and political violence today

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.

One way of ensuring this kind of homogeneity is to enact one of the forms of establishment mentioned above, such as displaying religious symbols in political buildings and monuments, or by including references to a particular religion in political ceremonies.

Rather than emphasizing the distinctively political benefits of establishment, a different version of this argument could appeal to the ethical benefits that would accrue to citizens themselves as private individuals. For example, on many understandings of politics, one of the purposes of the polis is to ensure that citizens have the resources necessary for living a choiceworthy, flourishing life.

One such resource is a sense of belonging to a common culture that is rooted in a tradition, as opposed to a sense of rootlessness and social fragmentation Sandel, ; MacIntyre, Thus, in order to ensure that citizens have this sense of cultural cohesion, the state must or at least may in some way privilege a religious institution or creed.

Of course, a different version of this argument could simply appeal to the truth of a particular religion and to the good of obtaining salvation, but given the persistent intractability of settling such questions, this would be a much more difficult argument to make.

Against these positions, the liberal tradition has generally opposed establishment in all of the aforementioned forms. Contemporary liberals typically appeal to the value of fairness.

It is claimed, for example, that the state should remain neutral among religions because it is unfair—especially for a democratic government that is supposed to represent all of the people composing its demos—to intentionally disadvantage or unequally favor any group of citizens in their pursuit of the good as they understand it, religious or otherwise Rawls, Similarly, liberals often argue that fairness precludes devoting tax revenues to religious groups because doing so amounts to forcing non-believers to subsidize religions that they reject.

If all people have such a right, then it is morally wrong for the state to force them to participate in religious practices and institutions that they would otherwise oppose, such as forcing them to take part in public prayer.

It is also wrong, for the same reason, to force people to support financially via taxation religious institutions and communities that they would not otherwise wish to support. In addition, there are liberal consequentialist concerns about establishment, such as the possibility that it will result in or increase the likelihood of religious repression and curtailment of liberty Audi, While protections and advantages given to one faith may be accompanied by promises to refrain from persecuting adherents of rival faiths, the introduction of political power into religion moves the state closer to interferences which are clearly unjust, and it creates perverse incentives for religious groups to seek more political power in order to get the upper hand over their rivals.

From the perspective of many religious people themselves, moreover, there are worries that a political role for their religion may well corrupt their faith community and its mission. Toleration and Accommodation of Religious Belief and Practice As European and American societies faced the growing plurality of religious beliefs, communities, and institutions in the early modern era, one of the paramount social problems was determining whether and to what extent they should be tolerated.

A political exile himself at the time of its composition, Locke argues a that it is futile to attempt to coerce belief because it does not fall to the will to accept or reject propositions, b that it is wrong to restrict religious practice so long as it does not interfere with the rights of others, and c that allowing a wide range of religious groups will likely prevent any one of them from becoming so powerful as to threaten the peace.

Central to his arguments is a Protestant view of a religious body as a voluntary society composed only of those people who choose to join it, a view that is in sharp contrast to the earlier medieval view of the church as having authority over all people within a particular geographic domain. In contrast to Locke, Thomas Hobbes sees religion and its divisiveness as a source of political instability, and so he argues that the sovereign has the right to determine which opinions may be publicly espoused and disseminated, a power necessary for maintaining civil peace see Leviathan xviii, 9.

Like the issue of establishment, the general issue of whether people should be allowed to decide for themselves which religion to believe in has not received much attention in recent times, again because of the wide consensus on the right of all people to liberty of conscience. However, despite this agreement on liberty of belief, modern states nevertheless face challenging questions of toleration and accommodation pertaining to religious practice, and these questions are made more difficult by the fact that they often involve multiple ideals which pull in different directions.

Some of these questions concern actions which are inspired by religion and are either obviously or typically unjust. For example, violent fundamentalists feel justified in killing and persecuting infidels—how should society respond to them? While no one seriously defends the right to repress other people, it is less clear to what extent, say, religious speech that calls for such actions should be tolerated in the name of a right to free speech.

A similar challenge concerns religious objections to certain medical procedures that are necessary to save a life.

  • The myth of religious violence

While it seems clearly wrong to force someone to undergo even lifesaving treatment if she objects to it at least with sufficient rationality, which of course is a difficult topic in itselfand it seems equally wrong to deny lifesaving treatment to someone who needs it and is not refusing it, the issue becomes less clear when parents have religious objections to lifesaving treatment for their children. In such a case, there are at least three values that ordinarily demand great respect and latitude: For example, Quakers and other religious groups are committed to pacifism, and yet many of them live in societies that expect all male citizens to serve in the military or register for the draft.

Other groups perform religious rituals that involve the use of illegal substances, such as peyote. Is it fair to exempt such people from the burdens other citizens must bear?

Many examples of this second kind of challenge are addressed in the literature on education and schooling. In developed societies and developing ones, for that mattera substantial education is necessary for citizens to be able to achieve a decent life for themselves.

relationship between religion and political violence today

However, the pursuit of this latter goal raises certain issues for religious parents. In the famous case of Mozert v.

Hawkins, some parents objected for religious reasons to their children being taught from a reading curriculum that presented alternative beliefs and ways of life in a favorable way, and consequently the parents asked that their children be excused from class when that curriculum was being taught. Similarly, many proposals for educational curricula are aimed at developing a measure of autonomy in children, which often involves having them achieve a certain critical distance from their family background, with its traditions, beliefs, and ways of life Callan, ; Brighouse, The idea is that only then can children autonomously choose a way of life for themselves, free of undue influence of upbringing and custom.

A related argument holds that this critical distance will allow children to develop a sufficient sense of respect for different social groups, a respect that is necessary for the practice of democratic citizenship. However, this critical distance is antithetical to authentic religious commitment, at least on some accounts see the following section.

Also, religious parents typically wish to pass on their faith to their children, and doing so involves cultivating religious devotion through practices and rituals, rather than presenting their faith as just one among many equally good or true ones. For such parents, passing on their religious faith is central to good parenting, and in this respect it does not differ from passing on good moral values, for instance.

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. 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.

relationship between religion and political violence today