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religion and war.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Joseph Bryant

RELIGION AND WAR violet struggles between peoples and states Religious values, beliefs, practices and their “social articulation”: in politics, in kinship, economics, education … and 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 Ayadhya, said to be a Ram Temple site, expropriation of aboriginal sacred places, etc.] - Territory that is fought over based on the religious group’s claims that it is their sacred land 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 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-ordering” A society’s kriegsethik, 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 b. Legitimate goals and opponents [dehumanize the other, or sacralise honour] c. Approved ways of fighting - Certain types of religions place a prominent role in dehumanizing others – waging war on them is legitimate - Religions will often make holy or sacralise certain forms of warfare – understanding it to be honorary to wage wars - Kriegsethik (war ethic) – links violence with the world view of legitimate/illegitimate warfare - There are considerable differences Two basic orientations: [James Aho, Religious Mythology and the Art of War 1981] I. Immanentist – Cosmological – war maintains; reorders the cosmos, so war is a part of the natural order - war is inevitably apart of life and that way justified Examples: the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Aztec Guerra florida (flowery war), Norse or Viking religion [where warriors killed in combat are transported by valkyries to Wodan’s Valhalla, to rise daily, partake of mead and boar flesh, enjoy sensual delights with the valkyries, and fight anew - Norse/Vikings – warfare itself is an honorific and divinely supported act II. Transcendent – Historical – (re)establish god’s law in history, implement the divine plan this is essentially the arientation of the monotheistic traditions - Historical – a linear view – the notions that the deity created the universe, the universe has drama (beginning, middle, end) - the purpose of warfare in this model is: to exterminate those who are not believers and do not subscribe to that revelation – “holy” war in the service and plan of the deity Examples: Israelite conquest of Canaan, Islamic jihad, Christian crusades “holy war” is one that god requires the faithful to fight consecrated aggression against the “enemies of God”: infidels, apostates, heretics, pagans/polytheist, blasphemers - These two orientations are not mutually exclusive and have characteristics that spill over to the other Contrast: Imm-Cosmo = war as play, as a noble end in itself (when pursued correctly). Death and killing in bettle glorious, conduct governed by ritual propriety, chivalric norms *our rivals, our opponents in war, also have gods…+ Trans – hist : war as normal duty ends justiy means religious intensity and brutalityy against “enemies of God” [our rivals, our opponents are “godless” or followers of demons, Satan…+ SACRAMENTAL WARFARE IN ANCIENT MEXICO source challenges: few Amerindian documents, view of the victors, but art and archaeology help Aztec [=Mexica] a nomadic warrior people, speakers of Nahuatl, from the north late-comers to the Valley of th Mexico (mid 13 c.) called Chichimecs, the ‘lineage of the dog’, by their more civilized neighbours and overlords Mesoamerica (Aztec)had already witnessed several cycles of pop growth, urban expansion, political centralization and a collapse enduring religio-cultural patterns - Mesoamerican world views were shared amongst many other civilizations, not just amongst the Aztecs Olmec (800-400BCE) – practiced ritual blood-letting/autosacrifice Classic Maya (. 300-900 CE) – human sacrifices made, autosacrifice by elites Toltec hegemony (c. 700-1400 BCE) the great city of El Tajin (600-900) 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, cocoa, 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 elites Aztec supreme ruler – Tlatoani, literally means ‘speaker’ first Tlatoani rules from 1376-95 Nobles (Pipilton) 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 loyalty, service: received rights to land, labour and tribute shares through royal disbursement IDEOLOGY/WORLDVIEW: Aztecs develop a charter myth of being the chosen people of the solar god Huitzilopochtli, who led them to Tenochtitlan (found in 1325 on lake Texcoco), from mythical northern land Aztlan Spaniards stunned by the grandeur, order – a paradise ~200,000 pop. th Key reformers: the 4 Tlatoani, Itzcoatl or ‘Obsidian Serpent’ (1427-40), and his High Priest/Advisor, Tlacaelel Rebuild the Great Temple, to the gods Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, god of rain and fertility; said to be the cosmic navel, which unites the four cardinal directions and the vertical axis - Great temple where sacrifices are made – regarded as the navel of the world (uniting the four cardinal directions of N,S,E,W Obsidian Serpent also orders destruction of past calendric records and painted books (they contain “too many lies”) – new works composed elevate the warrior-sun god Huitzilopochtli, and refashion the status of the creator and sky god Quetzalcoatl or Feathered Serpent (Toltec myth of his banishment): the Aztec tlatoani is declared to be his living surrogate - Myth of Quetzalcoatl being put into exile and brought back - Incorporate Quetzalcoatl into their religion – adopting the sky god who already was an existing deity from a stronger society Creation Myth revamped: Huitzilopochtli, as chief god of the Mexica, must rise Earth-mother/mountain goddess Coatlicue (Serpent Skirt), is the mother of 400 southern gods (the Huiznahua) she finds a ball of fine feathers, cluthes them, and becomes pregnant with Huitzilopochtli – his older siblings jealous and shamed, plot to kill him, but he springs from the womb early as a warrior and destroys them all 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 5 age, drawing close to the end of its cycle th - The Aztecs were under the belief they were in the last age of the cycle (the 5 – the declining) - There was anxiety – so they saw it as their duty to preserve the last 5 cycleh Cyclical calendric – the past as ‘template’ for the present and future - Solar calendar
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