Cover image for Terror in the mind of God : the global rise of religious violence
Terror in the mind of God : the global rise of religious violence
Juergensmeyer, Mark.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 316 pages, 11 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Mike Bray and abortion clinic bombings -- Theological justifications -- Eric Robert Rudolph and Timothy McVeigh -- Catholics and Protestants in Belfast -- Yoel Lerner and the assassinatin of Yitzhak Rabin -- Baruch Goldstein's attack at the Tomb of the Patriarchs -- Meir Kahane and Jewish justifications for violence -- Mahmud Abouhalima and the World Trade Center bombing -- Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Hamas suicide missions -- Modern Islamic justifications for violence -- Simranjit Singh Mann and India's assassinations -- Sikh and Hindu justifications for violence -- Takeshi Nakamura and the Aum Shinrikyo assault -- Can Buddhist violence be justified?
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BL65.V55 J84 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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

Author Notes

Mark Juergensmeyer is Professor of Sociology and Director of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This dark, enthralling book not only documents the global rise of religious terrorism but seeks to understand the "odd attraction of religion and violence." Juergensmeyer bases his study on scholarly sources, media accounts and personal interviews with convicted terrorists. He exercises caution with the term "terrorist," preferring to emphasize the large religious community of supporters who make violent acts possible rather than the relatively small number who carry them out. Juergensmeyer identifies certain "cultures of violence" via case studies along the spectrum of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Such religious communities often perceive themselves and their way of life as under attack. In Japan, for example, a new branch of "socially prophetic" Buddhists released toxic sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, shattering their own nonviolent ethic and harming thousands because they had adopted millenarian prophecies about an imminent end to the world. Juergensmeyer is a powerful, skillful writer whose deeply empathic interviewing techniques allow readers to enter the minds of some of the late 20th century's most feared religious terrorists. Yet he is also a sensitive scholar who aptly dissects religious terrorism as a sociological phenomenon. Later chapters pay special attention to issues of "performance violence," enemy formation, martyrology, satanization and "images of cosmic confrontation." (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Juergensmeyer offers a cultural and ideological analysis of the emergence of global religious violence that is today championed by communities that foster "cultures of violence" and terror. Chapter-length journalistic case studies explore Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, and Aum Shinrikyo religious terrorism. The author interprets religiously motivated acts of mind-numbing violence that lack a clear military objective as theater, especially timed, scripted, and staged against the symbols of political or financial power such as The World Trade Center or The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. True believers wage a cosmic war as a defense of the faith where defeat is unthinkable. They adopt rites of violence and commit themselves to heroic acts of martyrdom and the destruction of their demonized enemies. The chapter "Warrior Power" employs a psychoanalytic view of terrorist careers as a means to symbolic empowerment for groups of marginalized young men who face uncertain paths to manhood, sexual identity, and conventional lives. This books offers chilling insight into the worldview of disparate cultures of religious violence, the inevitability of such cosmic battles, and the unending fanaticism of true believers. The author's conclusion, however, fails to persuade that new forms of religion may arise to cure religious violence. All levels. J. H. Rubin; Saint Joseph College

Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised Editionp. xi
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
1 Terror and Godp. 3
The Meaning of Religious Terrorismp. 4
Seeing Inside Cultures of Violencep. 10
Cultures of Violence
2 Soldiers for Christp. 19
Mike Bray and Abortion Clinic Bombingsp. 20
Theological Justificationsp. 24
Eric Robert Rudolph and Timothy McVeighp. 30
Catholics and Protestants in Belfastp. 36
3 Zion Betrayedp. 45
Yoel Lerner and the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabinp. 46
Baruch Goldstein's Attack at the Tomb of the Patriarchsp. 50
Meir Kahane and Jewish Justifications for Violencep. 53
4 Islam's "Neglected Duty"p. 61
Mahmud Abouhalima and the World Trade Center Bombingp. 62
Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Hamas Suicide Missionsp. 70
Modern Islamic Justifications for Violencep. 80
5 The Sword of Sikhismp. 85
Simranjit Singh Mann and India's Assassinationsp. 87
Sikh and Hindu Justifications for Violencep. 94
6 Armageddon in a Tokyo Subwayp. 103
Takeshi Nakamura and the Aum Shinrikyo Assaultp. 106
Can Buddhist Violence Be Justified?p. 113
The Logic of Religious Violence
7 Theater of Terrorp. 121
Performance Violencep. 124
Setting the Stagep. 128
A Time to Killp. 135
Reaching the Audiencep. 141
8 Cosmic Warp. 148
Grand Scenariosp. 152
Symbolic Warp. 158
When Symbols Become Deadlyp. 163
9 Martyrs and Demonsp. 167
Sacrificial Victimsp. 168
The Invention of Enemiesp. 174
America as Enemyp. 181
Satanization and the Stages of Empowermentp. 185
10 Warriors' Powerp. 190
Empowering Marginal Menp. 191
Why Guys Throw Bombsp. 198
Fighting for the Rule of Godp. 210
11 The Mind of Godp. 219
Empowering Religionp. 221
Postmodern Terrorp. 228
Destroying Violencep. 233
Notesp. 251
Interviews and Correspondencep. 281
Bibliographyp. 285
Indexp. 305