Symbolic Violence

Mark Juergensmeyer

in Powers

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231560
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235537 | DOI:

Series: The Future of the Religious Past

Symbolic Violence

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This chapter focuses on the interconnections between religion and violence, which is closely connected with the striving for empowerment. It explores why religious symbols convey an experience of empowerment and why this experience is intimately related to violence. It argues that violent acts themselves, including terrorism, provide empowerment as an antidote to humiliation. At times these acts also result in political change. The term “symbolic” illustrates, in this connection, that the target is outside the field of immediate action and that the act can be understood as a symbol, a ritual, or a sacred drama. In this context, religious violence should be explained by the impact of war as a leading idea in religious discourse. The outcome of war is a new social order. When war and religion are fused, a “cosmic war” ensues: a war undertaken on behalf of God or carried out by God, which legitimates and empowers the group that entered the battle in question.

Keywords: religion; religious violence; empowerment; religious symbols; ritual; sacred drama; cosmic war; social order; terrorism; humiliation

Chapter.  5836 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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