The Power of Moral Belief

Scott Atran

in Natural Security

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780520253476
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520934313 | DOI:
The Power of Moral Belief

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Suicide attacks have grown exponentially in recent years and result in roughly 50% of the casualties due to terrorism. This chapter examines the role of religion in motivating fundamentalist terrorism and provides some surprising findings from interviews with Islamic Jihad leaders and individuals who have committed themselves to suicide operations. It briefly outlines the consequences of moral beliefs for terrorist and antiterrorist activities. The chapter suggests that decision making based on moral beliefs or values creates risk/reward pathways that fall outside typically used risk-assessment frameworks based on economics, utility, or rational decision making.

Keywords: suicide attacks; terrorism; religion; fundamentalist terrorism; Jihad; suicide operations; moral beliefs

Chapter.  1840 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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