1. Terror in the Mind of God

Disclaimer: This is a journal for my class on Religious Violence. It is generally written as if it is addressing my teacher, Chuck, and is written in relation to the book Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

Terror in the mind of God; it certainly sounded promising, and I already liked the idea of looking at specific, concrete examples. Juergensmeyer starts out the book with an introductory chapter entitled “Terror and God.” It runs much as one would expect; it gives a number of examples of religious violence (bombing in the Ben Yehuda shopping mall, 9/11, subway bombs, etc.) that serve to catch the reader’s attention. He then goes on to define religious terrorism.

There’s this thing authors do where they change the meaning of the word they’re talking about without informing their reader (for a prime example, see Friedrich Hayek’s essay on equality). I wondered, at first, if Juergensmeyer had done something similar. The reader could assume that he meant the same thing and was using violence and terrorism interchangably, or the reader could wonder if there was significance behind the switch.

Main Entry: Violence
vi·o·lence Listen to the pronunciation of violence
\’vi-l?n(t)s, ‘vi-?-\
14th century

1 a: exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in warfare effecting illegal entry into a house) b: an instance of violent treatment or procedure2: injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation : outrage3 a: intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force <the violence of the storm> b: vehement feeling or expression : fervor ; also : an instance of such action or feeling c: a clashing or jarring quality : discordance4: undue alteration (as of wording or sense in editing a text)

That is the definition of violence, which up to this point we had been talking about.

Main Entry: Terrorism
ter·ror·ism Listen to the pronunciation of terrorism

: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

Those definitely sound like different things. One is much more complicated than the other. Although Juergensmeyer actually spends a reasonable amount of time talking about what terrorism is, he doesn’t directly address this point.

The other thing that I noticed from this chapter was the sort of “personal touch” Juergensmeyer gives everything–“I interviewed”, “I saw”, “I met”. I am excited to read a book where the author has BEEN THERE.

The chapter closes with Juergensmeyer informing us that in order to respond to religious violence in a way that is effective and doesn’t produce more violence, people must understand the motivation behind these acts.


~ by spim on October 23, 2008.

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