Ritual, Religion, and Violence

Candace S. Alcorta and Richard Sosis

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199759996
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Ritual, Religion, and Violence

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  • Religion
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Comparative Religion



This chapter, which discusses the association between religion and violence, also addresses why suicide terrorists are willing to offer their lives for their life-affirming religions. Religious violence and “sacred pain” have long been significant components in the mythology and ritual of Western religious traditions. Religious rituals differ widely across cultures. Music intensifies the ritual experience itself, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and laying the foundation for creation of the sacred. Religious ritual is an efficient tool for altering group cooperation and cohesion. The evolution of religion is closely linked with the emergence of large social groups in early human populations. It can be stated that understanding both the proximate and evolutionary mechanisms which link religion and violence is an important first step in understanding, and hopefully eradicating, the religious violence that has become so prevalent in the modern world.

Keywords: religion; religious violence; suicide terrorists; sacred pain; religious rituals; human populations; cooperation; cohesion; social groups

Article.  11594 words. 

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

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