Article

Religion and Violence from a Psychological Perspective

James W. Jones

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199759996
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199759996.013.0027

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Religion and Violence from a Psychological Perspective

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This chapter summarizes some of the methods and findings in religion and violence from a psychological perspective, reviewing Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority and Philip Zimbardo's prison experiment. There are important differences between Milgrim's and Zimbardo's experimental conditions and contemporary campaigns of religious terrorism. The theory of the origins of violence by Heinz Kohut highlights the role of a person's sense of self and any threats to it. It is indicated that universal religious themes such as purification or the search for reunion with the source of life or the longing for personal meaning and transformation can become colligated into destructive psychological motivations. The combination of powerful psychological motivations with profound spiritual desires gives the rhetoric of religious violence its appeal and power.

Keywords: religion; religious violence; Stanley Milgram; Philip Zimbardo; religious terrorism; Heinz Kohut; psychological motivations; spiritual desires

Article.  5171 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Sociology of Religion ; Comparative Religion

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