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February 29.docx

Course Code
Joseph Bryant

of 7
February 29, 12
Religion and War/Violence
- Religious values, beliefs, practices and their “social articulation”: in
politics, in kinship, economics, educationand in WAR.
- Religion is often deeply implicated in group conflicts and violence
- 1) religion and group/ethnic identity (Catholic/Protestant,
Jew/Muslim, etc…)
- 2) Conflicts over sacred space (The Holy Land, demolition of Babri
mosque in Ayodhya, etc…)
- 3) religion as institutional and cultural power/privilege forms of
religious-based domination and discrimination (religion and law,
education, norms, values, etc.) says things about the distribution
of power in society.
- War as a form of social action that requires divine backing, support
patron deities blessings of priests rituals to empower
preliminary divination sacred tendance of the dead claims to
divine favour.
- Religions are either explicitly or implicitly ideologies of power,
because the forces/beings they worship, propitiate, are “world-
- Divination finding out things through “magic” – entrails of birds
anticipation of the god‟s favour.
- A society‟s kriegstluk,(war ethics) its preferred style of collective
raping, looting, burning, enslaving, and killing, is typically
interwoven with the prevailing religious mythology/worldview:
- A) Vocabulary of acceptable motives (why go to war)
- B) legitimate goals and opponents (dehumanize the pother, or
sacralize objectives)
- C) Approved ways of fighting
- Two basic orientations: James Aho Religious Mythology and the
Art of War
- 1) Immanentist Cosmological war maintains, records the
cosmos, so war is a part of the natural order. War and violence is
built into the system and the divine beings that are part of this
picture are imminent in the cosmos participatory
- Ex. Hindu epic Mahabharata, Aztec Guerra florida, Norse or Viking
religion, etc…
- 2) Transcendent Historical (re)establish god‟s law in history,
implement the divine plan this is essentially the orientation of the
monotheistic traditions.
- Ex. Israelite conquest of Canaan, Islamic Jihad, Christian crusades.
„Holy war‟ is one that G-d requires the faithful to fight
consecrated aggression against the “enemies of G-d”: infidels,
apostates, heretics, etc…
- Contrasts: Imm-Cosmo = war as play, as a noble end in itself
(when pursued correctly), death and killing in battle glorious
conduct governed by ritual propriety, chivalric norms (our rivals,
our opponents in war, also have gods...)
- Trans-Hist = War as moral duty ends justify means religious
intensity and brutality against “enemies of G-d” (our rivals, our
opponents are “godless” or followers of demons, Satan…).
- War-gods and the Rise of the State
- The boasts of the conquerors: the Babylonian Ishtar “broke their
bow and undid their battle formations” the Akkafian Inanna routed
the foe and “watered the earth with their blood”
- Ascendancy of storm gods/ war gods
- The material support of the gods in battle was featured in
the propaganda of the imperial powers on friezes, temples,
paintings, scriptures, texts.
- Sacramental Warfare in Ancient Mexico
- Aztecs = Mexica
- ^a nomatic warrior people, speakers of Nahuatl, from the north
late-comers to the valley of Mexico (mid 13thC) called Chichimecs,
the „lineage of the dog‟, by their more civilized neighbors and
- Mesoamerica had already witnessed several cycles of pop growth,
urban expansion, political centralization, and collapse enduring
religio-cultural patterns
- Olmec (800-400 BCE) practiced ritual blood-letting/autosacrifice
- Classic Maya (c. 300-900 CE) human sacrifices made,
autosacrifice by elites
- Toltec hegemony (c. 700-1400 CE) The great city of El Tajin (600-
- C.1400 the Aztecs begin rise to imperial power capture
Atzcapotzalco in 1428
- Further conquests follow: land, labour, tribute stimulates trade,
cultural exchanges to obtain cotton, precious metals, stones,
feathers, cacao, tobacco… etc…
- Economy: based on advanced hydro-agriculture, using chinampas
or floating mud platforms, pole anchored networks of dams,
canals, aqueducts, reservoirs water-based transport
- Empire-Building:
- Eventually the Aztec empire control some 38 provinces: fortresses,
garrisons, client states Aztec ruling elite use resources to reward
nobles and the warrior groups - also intermarriages with regional
- Aztec supreme ruler Tlatoani, literally „speaker‟ – first Tlatoani
rules from 1376-95.
- Nobles (pipiltin) were descendants of the higher gods.
- Noble youth attended special schools to learn myth, ritual,
calendrics, writing and recitation, and the arts of war
- Rewards for loyal servants.
- Ideology/Worldview
- Aztecs develop a tradition as being the chosen people of the Solar
- The Great Temple For the Solar god and the Rain god.
- Reforms Need their religion and mythology to exemplify that fact.
- Obsidian Serpent Orders destruction of past calendric records and
painted books (they contain “too many lies”) new works
composed elevated the warrior-sun god Huitzilopochtli.
- Creation Myth revamped
- Earth-Mother/mountain goddess Coaticue (Serpent Skirt), is the
mother of 400 southern gods (the Huitznahua) she finds a ball of
fine feathers, clutches them, and becomes pregnant with
Huitzilopochtli his older siblings jealous and shamed, plot to kill
him; but he springs from the womb as a warrior and destroys them
- = an imperialist charter myth: the new, rising imperial power must
destroy the older powers.
- The Aztecs/Mexica are said to be the heirs to the obligation of
maintaining the cosmos, as it passes through cycles of growth and
decay, destruction and renewal.
- Five Ages of the Sun Cosmic cycles of creation and destruction,
each leading to new creation of earth, sun and moon now in the
5th age, drawing close to the end of its cycle.
- Cyclical calendric the past as „template‟ for the present and
- Solar calendar: 18 months of 20 days, ending with 5 bad omen
days (`Feb. 8-12)
- Ritual Celndar: 20 signs and 13 numbers used for divination,
ritual, etc.
- 52 year cycle.
- Mesoamerican “blood cult
- Humans were created by the divine powers through sacrifice, who
mixed their blood with maize to make human beings, and through
their collective immolation to create and raise the sun humankind
thus has a “blood-debtto the gods
- Central meatphysical principle the cyclical interdependence of life
and death, killing and living (even today: la vida y la muerte son