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March 14, 2012 Lecture

Course Code
Joseph Bryant

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Religion and War
Violent struggles between peoples and states.
Religious values, beliefs, practices and their “social articulation” in politics, kinship, economics,
education and in war.
Religion is often deeply implicated in group conflicts and violence:
1) Religion and group/ethnic identity (Catholic/Protestant, Kew/Muslim etc)
2) Conflicts over sacred space ( in holy land, demolition of Babri mosque in Ayodhya, said to be a
Ram Temple site, expropriation of aboriginal sacred places)
3) Religion as institutional and cultural power/privilege forms of religious based domination and
discrimination (religion and law, education, norms, values etc)
War as a form of social action that requires divine backing/support: patron deities/blessings of
priests/rituals to empower/preliminary divination/sacred tendence of the dead/claims to divine favor.
Religions are either explicitly or implicitly ideologies of power because the forces/beings they worship,
propagate are “world ordering a society’s kriegsetluik; its preferred style of collective raping, looting,
burning, enslaving and killing is typically interwoven with the prevailing religious mythology/worldview:
1) Vocabulary of acceptable motives
2) Legitimate goals/opponents (dehumanize the other or sacralize objectives)
3) Approved ways of fighting
2 basic orientations:
1) Immanentist-cosmoligical War maintains, reorders the cosmos so was is part of the natural
2) Transcendent Historical reestablish god’s law in history, implement the divine plan this is
essentially the orientation of the monotheistic traditions.
Contrasts Immanentist- Cosmological = 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
opponent is in war also have gods)
Transcendent Historical war as moral duty, ends justify means religious intensity and brutality against
“enemies of god” (our rivaler, our opponents are godless or followers of demons Satan)
War gods and rise of state: ruling dynasties were military monarchs the boasts of the conquers: the
Babylonian Ishtar
The martial support of the gods in battle was featured in the propaganda of the imperial powers on
friezes, temples, paintings, sculptures
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