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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 1
Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves In The Name Of Religion?

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Displaying: 1-20 of 27 documents


introduction
1. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Kjersti Hellesøy Special Issue: Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves In The Name Of Religion?
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articles
2. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Helen Farley Self-Harm and Falun Gong: Karmic Release, Martyrdom or Suicide
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The teachings of Falun Gong explicitly forbid suicide, yet in 2001, five protesters set themselves ablaze in Tiananmen Square resulting in the death of two. Allegedly, their stated aim was to bring the world’s focus onto the repression of the movement by the Chinese government. Falun Gong spokespeople were quick to speak out in defence of founder Li Hongzhi, saying that the movement strictly forbids suicide in line with the traditional Chinese belief that says that suicide is an affront to the ancestors. They further claimed that the Chinese government had staged the suicides in order to stir up public opinion against the movement andindeed the tide of public opinion did turn against Falun Gong and its founder (Bell and Boas 2003, 285).Even given Falun Gong’s stated opposition to suicide, the movement does encourage its adherents to refuse to take medicine or accept medical treatment and some consider this refusal of treatment could be considered to be suicidal. Chinese state media seized upon Li's writing in which he expressed that illnesses are caused by karma, and claimed that in excess of 1000 deaths were the direct result of adherents following Li’s teachings. Authorities also maintain that several hundred practitioners had cut their stomachs open looking for the Dharma Wheel that turns in response to the practice of the five meditative exercises characteristic of the movement. Indeed, many of their fellow followers had been arrested in Tianjin, following condemnation of their movement by physicist He Zouxiu of the Chinese Academy of the Sciences. He had claimed that Falun Gong had been responsible for several deaths (Bejsky 2004, 190).This paper will examine the complex relationship between FalunGong and the Chinese government, exploring the reality behind the claims and counterclaims in relation to the former’s stated opposition to suicide. This will be contrasted with other Falun Gong writings which encourage adherents to refuse medical treatment and medication in order to rid themselves of karma.
3. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Christopher Hartney Why Muslims Kill Themselves on Film: From Girard’s Victimage Mechanism to a Radical Constructivist Explanation
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In this article a methodological approach to representations of suicide on film is developed, sited between the Girardian victimage approach on one side, and a radical constructivist approach on the other. The argument does not start by considering Muslim suicide as a thing in and of itself; rather it contextualises suicide on film through examples ranging from adaptations of Romeo and Juliette by Zeffirelli and Luhrmann, to Ashby's Harold and Maude, Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, and Sono's Suicide Club. With thematics on cinema and suicide identified in this section of the article, the second half of the work demonstrateshow such thematics are developed or distorted when Muslim characters are introduced to the screen. The four case studies in this section include analysis on recent film examples. These include the Hollywood produced The Kingdom (directed by Peter Berg) and Gaghan's Syriana. It is clearly established that where Hollywood pays attention to white people who may be considering suicide and dedicates significant screen time to them, Hollywood presents Muslims as inherently suicidal. This fits into Jack Shaheen's work on racist stereotypes in the presentation of Arabs by Hollywood. To confirm this, the article concludes byanalyzing the place of suicide in Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry, and Abu-Assad's Paradise Now. The article concludes with an examination not of suicide per se, but of how suicide is represented generally in film, how layers of Arab and Muslim stereotypes in Hollywood have, almost criminally, distorted representations of Muslims on screen, and how serious and considered work by Muslim directors are not so much redressing this balance, but rather highlighting how impervious the Hollywood system is to redressing its long held biases.
4. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Rebecca Moore Rhetoric, Revolution and Resistance in Jonestown, Guyana
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Initial reports of the deaths that occurred in Jonestown, Guyana in November 1978 characterized them as mass suicides. As accounts of the deaths of children and old people emerged, however, the events began to be described as murder, especially by conspiracy theorists. But scholarship in New Religions studies over the last three decades has begun to claim that at least some of the deaths for some of the people were a type of martyrdom. A narrative of martyrdom pervaded life in Jonestown, as well as life within Peoples Temple, the group sponsoring the agricultural commune. Jim Jones, the group’s leader, appropriated and re-interpreted the Black Panther Party rhetoric of revolutionary suicide, calling upon residents to lay down their lives to protest capitalism. This act of protest was rehearsed many times in Jonestown, and in the Temple in the U.S. Some survivors who lived in Jonestown challenge the assertion that residents took these rehearsals seriously, although a number of audiotapes have parents providing the justification for killing their children to save them from torture; others on tape state that they are taking their own lives as a rejection of capitalism. In any event, by killing the children first, the mass suicides of the parents seemed virtually assured.
5. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Lynn S. Neal Suicide and Cultural Memory in Functional Television
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As the central storyteller in and of American life, television has played a profound role in the maintenance and dissemination of the cult stereotype. By emphasizing these stereotypical features, television shows firmly situate cults as abnormal and dangerous entities on the American religious landscape. Many of these televised portrayals include issues of cult violence, specifically suicide. This article analyzes how fictional American television shows from South Park to CSI have depicted the relationship between cults and suicide. In addition to episode analysis, this article addresses the role that popular culture plays in perpetuating anti-cult ideas and attitudes.
6. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Katarina Plank Living torches of Tibet – Religious and Political Implications of the Recent Self-Immolations
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Self-immolation is not an ordinary suicide or self-destructive act, but has a religious dimension since one’s own body is seen as a gift for a greater cause. This article highlights the specific Buddhist ritual and textual heritage when analyzing the recent wave of self-immolations in Tibet, and incorporates the act in a wider Buddhist set of practices called ”gift of the body”. The first political sacrifices made in the 1960s intended to save Buddhism at a time when it was perceived as being threatened in South Vietnam, and later focus shifted towards bringing an end to the Vietnam War. As a result, their sacrifices were addressed to Vietnamese politicians and to the global community. Nearly fifty years later, a new wave of self-immolations have occurred in Tibet – with previously no tradition of self-immolation – and this time, the fiery suicides by Tibetan monks and former monks can be seen as an expression of the nationalist struggle for a free Tibet.
7. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Beatriz Reyes-Foster The Devil Made Her Do it: Understanding Suicide, Demonic Discourse, and the Social Construction of ‘Health’ in Yucatan, Mexico
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In the state of Yucatan, Mexico, the suicide rate more than doubles the Mexican national average. This article uses ethnographic data to argue that 1) local understandings of suicide in Yucatán reflect a logic of health among Yucatec Maya people hinging on the belief that spiritual, bodily, and spatial balance must be maintained in order to prevent “illness,” understood as bodily and spiritual suffering; and 2) that Yucatec Maya users of Mexico’s public health system readily adapt the biomedical model to existing paradigms that comingle spiritual, mental, and bodily health due in great part to the inherent contradictions in bothsystems that simultaneously attribute responsibility for suicide and take it away. This apparent contradiction is thus a sympathetic template on which biomedical discourse and its imperfect application can map itself.
introduction
8. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Wilhelm Guggenberger, Wolfgang Palaver Special Issue: René Girard’s Mimetic Theory and its Contribution to the Study of Religion and Violence
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articles
9. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Nikolaus Wandinger Religion and Violence: A Girardian Overview
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René Girard’s mimetic theory sees mimesis as the most central determinant of human behavior. According to him it also generated so much violence that it threatened the very existence of humanity. Yet, the same force also found a means to minimize and contain violence—through religion. Girard distinguishes between archaic and Biblical religion and finds criteria for this distinction and the anthropology and theology of a religion. This article tries to give an overview of Girard’s theory with special consideration to the role of religion.
10. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Mathias Moosbrugger René Girard and Raymund Schwager on Religion, Violence, and Sacrifice: New Insights from Their Correspondence
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This article shows, that despite their different academic backgrounds and even before having met, cultural anthropologist René Girard and theologian Raymund Schwager had surprisingly similar convictions concerning the decisive dynamics in interpersonal relations and the problematic field of collective violence and its connection to the logic of sacrifice. Nevertheless, they differed in their applications of these convictions when it came to appraising the specific character of theJudeo-Christian revelation and the Christ event. Therefore, for several years, they had an intense discussion about this issue. This discussion, which Girardians regard as the source of Girard’s most important re-evaluation of his thinking, is reconstructed using material from their letter exchange. It is argued that this discussion was quite different from what it is usually believed to have been like.
11. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Wilhelm Guggenberger Taming Violence
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To René Girard, religion is not a source of violence but rather one of the most widespread means to reduce violence. It even preserved archaic societies from self-destruction and worked in the same mode for most of history. The article tries to depict this mechanism and to explain its paradoxical nature, which is the taming of violence by violent means. Further on, functional equivalents are shown, which become necessary because of the enlightenment triggered by the biblical revelation and other axial-age-dynamisms.
12. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Wolfgang Palaver Terrorism versus Non-Violent Resistance
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The following article starts with the horror and terror that have been caused be recent terrorist attacks like the mass murder of 9/11 or the Norway massacre from 2011. From a Western perspective suicide terrorism is especially terrifying. In a first part of his article Palaver tries to show that suicide terrorism, despite our first reaction to it, is a rational phenomenon that has to be understood precisely in order to respond to this challenge properly. Drawing on the work of LouiseRichardson and other experts on terrorism he shows that traditional forms of military sacrifices that have forced people to die for their country is much closer to suicide terrorism than we think at first sight. By using René Girard’s mimetic theory, Palaver’s second part focuses on the complex relationship between religion and violence. He especially emphasizes the danger that follows the Abrahamic overcoming of the scapegoat mechanism – the Abrahamic revolution parting from the world of human sacrifice – if the solidarity with the victims is disconnected from forgiveness. In the third part Palaver turns to an alternative model of how we can respond to injustice and oppression by emphasizing a still often overlooked legacy of the Abrahamic tradition that avoids the dangers that characterizecontemporary terrorism. From this perspective, non-violence, forgiveness, and the love of enemies become important criteria for martyrdom and resistance.
13. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Jodok Troy The Power of the Zealots: Religion, Violence, and International Relations
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This article evaluates the issue of religion and conflict in international relations. René Girard’s mimetic theory offers explanations for basic problems of the ‘new world order’: why violence is a persistent pattern in human and political conduct as well as the understanding of religion and conflict. Therefore the article, after an assessment of framing religion and conflict in the context of theoretical approaches to political science, evaluates the possibilities of mimetic theory to provide a new understanding of the nexus of religion and conflict in international relations. It will do so in arguing for the hypothesis that the mimetic theory provides insights to the interplay of the evolving of power as it is described by the Realist tradition of international relations. The power of the ‘zealots,’ is the power of mimetic desire, which always threatens to bring people apart.
14. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Stephen L. Gardner Modernity as Revelation
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The notion of apocalypse is the unifying architecture of Rene Girard’s theory of history. The terrible paradox that motivates Girard is the inner affinity between Apocalypse and Enlightenment, progress and the disintegration of stable order, revelation and violence. In this essay, I look at three dimensions of Girard’s vision of the “end of history”: The first is the rise of “victimology” and its idioms in Western culture (and now their globalization) since the end of World War II, signaling the collapse of Western ethics through their own truth. The second is Girard’s image of the end of history in terms of the “return of the archaic,” a relapse into the chaos of the evolutionary beginnings of the human at the summit of cultural achievement. As moral distinctions crumble, the polarities of political life become more brittle and violent. And the last is to indicate (however sketchily) Girard’s relation to a modern tradition of apocalyptic thought that includes Pascal andRousseau, Marx and Sartre, and Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. As with his recent appropriation of Carl von Clausewitz, he aims both to finish and to finish off this tradition by bringing it back to its Christian underpinnings.
15. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
James R. Lewis Introduction
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essay
16. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Faisal Devji Speaking of Violence
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articles
17. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Kjersti Hellesøy Civil War and the Radicalization of Islam in Chechnya
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In this article I will focus on the recent developments in Islam in Chechnya in terms of the question, “How do we understand the radicalization of Islam in Chechnya in terms of the conflicts in the 1990s?” As a way of sorting this out, I will be making reference to Monica Duffy Toft’s discussion of the conditionsthat increase the probability of a civil war becoming a religious war, and her analysis of the role religion can play in such conflicts. There are elements of her analysis that I do not use, and in the latter part of this article I will argue that one component of her approach – namely her essentialization of religion and itsconnection with violence – is misconceived.
18. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Maria Leppäkari Apocalyptic Scapegoats
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This article highlights the impact of endtime representations in relation to concepts of an apocalyptic enemy. Apocalyptic violence, as related here, involves three parties: Jewish Temple activists, Christian Zionists and their common apocalyptic enemy, Islam. Violence is always present in endtime representations, but it does not necessarily involve physical confrontation. Violence has a double nature. René Girard calls it a two-edged sword, which can be used to oppress as well as to liberate. The role prescribed by Christian Zionists (CZ) to the Jewish Third Temple activists and vice versa is here addressed in light of Girard’s theory of the scapegoat as presented in Violence and the Sacred [1977] (2005) and in Leppäkari’s previous studies, such as, Apocalyptic Representations of Jerusalem (2006) and Hungry for Heaven (2008). Here the double nature of violence accounts for the point that violence can stain or cleanse, contaminate or purify, drive humans to fury and murder or appease their anger and restore them to life. When set in an apocalyptic context the double nature of violence enables dissemination of images of threat and xenophobia, yielding physical confrontation.
19. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Gustavo Morello, S.J. Christianity and Revolution: Catholicism and Guerrilla Warfare in Argentina’s Seventies
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Through an analysis of the journal Cristianismo y Revolución (Buenos Aires, 1966-1971), this paper highlights the conditions that made the link between certain Catholic groups and revolutionary movements possible during the Sixties in Argentina. The changes in Christian conscience characterized by the attempts the Catholic Church made during the twentieth century to face the Modern era, and by developing a concern for structural social problems, were the primary influences that led some Catholics to the Left. Moral concern with the poor, the success of the Cuban Revolution and the political situation in Argentina and throughout Latin America laid the foundation for revolutionary activity.
20. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Michael J. Walsh States of Exception: The Violence of Territoriality, Sacrality, and Religion in China-Tibet Relations
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The relationship between sovereign violence, constitutional language, territorial claims, and certain human rights such as the freedom of religion plays out in complex ways in China-Tibet relations with broad ramifications for other nation-states. This essay begins to explore some of these ramifications. In terms ofChinese sovereignty, Tibet is part of what China’s constitution refers to as “sacred territory” and as such is exclusively beholden to the Chinese state. To claim constitutionally that one’s sovereign territory is sacred, as in a space to be set apart precisely so as to be able to control it through a politicized inclusivity, is tantamount to the process of territorialization becoming a type of sacralization, a rendering of social and geographical space as inviolate. I argue that territorialization by the nation-state, in this case China, is in fact a form of sacralization bolstered by mythos and sovereign violence. Implicated in claims of sacrality is the language of human rights, and for the purposes of this paper, China’s constitutional claim of freedom of religion. To employ the term religion, however, is to unwittingly bind oneself to a European Protestant narrative and all the complications thereof. Both claims have deep implications for juridical constructions, the containment of populace, freedom of religion, and human rights in general.