Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society)

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9780520223011: Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society)

Beneath the histories of religious traditions--from biblical wars to crusading ventures and great acts of martyrdom--violence has lurked as a shadowy presence. Images of death have never been far from the heart of religion's power to stir the imagination. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Mark Juergensmeyer asks one of the most important and perplexing questions of our age: Why do religious people commit violent acts in the name of their god, taking the lives of innocent victims and terrorizing entire populations?

This, the first comparative study of religious terrorism, explores incidents such as the World Trade Center explosion, Hamas suicide bombings, the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack, and the killing of abortion clinic doctors in the United States. Incorporating personal interviews with World Trade Center bomber Mahmud Abouhalima, Christian Right activist Mike Bray, Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin and Abdul Azis Rantisi, and Sikh political leader Simranjit Singh Mann, among others, Juergensmeyer takes us into the mindset of those who perpetrate and support violent acts. In the process, he helps us understand why these acts are often associated with religious causes and why they occur with such frequency at this moment in history.

Terror in the Mind of God places these acts of violence in the context of global political and social changes, and posits them as attempts to empower the cultures of violence that support them. Juergensmeyer analyzes the economic, ideological, and gender-related dimensions of cultures that embrace a central sacred concept--cosmic war--and that employ religion to demonize their enemies.

Juergensmeyer's narrative is engaging, incisive, and sweeping in scope. He convincingly shows that while, in many cases, religion supplies not only the ideology but also the motivation and organizational structure for the perpetrators of violent acts, it also carries with it the possibilities for peace.

Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Book of 2000

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From the Inside Flap:

"By studying different 'cultures of violence' Mark Juergensmeyer has provided a plausible and imaginative interpretation of this phenomenon. He presents a lucid and compelling argument that does not belittle or demonize its subjects. This is an important contribution to our knowledge of the relationship between religion and violence."—Martha Crenshaw, editor of Terrorism in Context

"In this important book Juergensmeyer argues that the violence associated with religion is not an aberration but comes from the fundamental structures of the belief system of all major religions. Juergensmeyer has achieved what very few scholars can do with much success, providing an insightful analysis of the function of religion in national and international life while moving in broad sweeps from culture to culture and continent to continent."—Ainslie T. Embree, former cultural attaché, United States Embassy, New Delhi

"Half of the world's thirty most dangerous terrorist groups claim religion as their motivation. How can the word of God sanction acts of terror against human beings ? How can violence become a sacred duty ? These are the questions at the heart of Mark Juergensmeyer's calm, lucid, insightful and compassionate book. What sets it apart is Juergensmeyer's dedicated attempt to talk to former terrorists and work his way into their state of mind. His book shines light on the dark places from which terror springs." — Michael Ignatieff, author of The Warrior's Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience

About the Author:

Mark Juergensmeyer is Professor of Sociology and Director of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (California, 1993), Radhasoami Reality: The Logic of a Modern Faith (1991), and editor of Violence and the Sacred in the Modern World (1992).

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