Thursday, June 30, 2011

The child of secularism: The myth of religious violence


William Cavanaugh argued strongly against the myth of religious violence, exposing their origin as a political rhetoric:

"My hypothesis is that religion-and-violence arguments serve a particular need for their consumers in the West. These arguments are part of a broader Enlightenment narrative that has invented a dichotomy between the religious and the secular and constructed the former as an irrational and dangerous impulse that must give way in public to rational, secular forms of power. In the west, revulsion towards killing and dying in the name of one's religion is one of the principal means by which we become convinced that killing and dying in the name of the nation-state is laudable and proper. The myth of religious violence also provides secular social orders with a stock character, the religious fanatic, to serve as enemy. Carl Schmitt may be right--descriptively, not normatively--to point out that the friend-enemy distinction is essential to the creation of the political in the modern state. [...] The danger is that, in establishing an Other who is essentially irrational, fanatical, and violent, we legitimate coercive measures against that Other."
(William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence [USA: Oxford University Press, 2009], p.4-5)

Further commenting on what is written,

"Today in the West, killing for Jesus or for Christianity is universally considered repugnant, yet the worthiness of killing for one’s country or for an ideal such as “freedom” is generally taken for granted."

Since violence is a given in human society, to set up the religious as the epitome of violation of peace and civility is very much an employment of excessive rhetoric.

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