8. Cosmic War

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.

Bottom of page 148, last paragraph: “I call such images “cosmic” because they are larger than life.”

Allow me to disabuse you of any notion that I agree with the idea of cosmic war. No, that’s still incorrect. Allow me to disabuse of the notion that I believe there IS such a thing as cosmic war.

Much better.

This whole chapter was extremely frustrating to me. I do agree with some of what Juergensmeyer says–mainly that conflict can be intimately personal, but that it can also be translated to a social plane. The rest of it…well, not so much. The most important paragraph in this chapter is the one I cited from, which extends to the top of page 150. In that chapter, he explains everything that he is saying; the rest is simply ways to back it up. It is, therefore, this paragraph that I am going to examine.

The sentence following the one cited at the top of this page talks about metaphysical conflicts between good and evil. I don’t think I’ve ever really come out and said it, but I don’t believe in good or in evil. I believe that people do good and people do bad (evil), but there is no concentrated vanilla of either of those substances–because they’re not substances. They’re also not entities. They are what we make of them.

“Ultimately, though, they transcend human experience.” Is that possible? I suppose if you believe in a higher power or a higher SOMETHING, it is. If you don’t, are you screwed? I suppose I do agree with Juergensmeyer when he says that the struggle of religious violence is so dramatic because the perpetrators hold notions of cosmic war, but I don’t think that makes cosmic war true, valid, or present.

After you admit that the people enacting violence believe that they are doing something cosmic, something that “transcends human experience”, things can get a little sticky. Does the notion that one does it for a better afterlife justify the action? If you refrain from violence out of a religious obligation or respect for humanity, but violence would improve the world, what then? It is enough to admit that people hold cosmic reasons for violence–to admit cosmic war is to encounter those two questions–which are really only the first two monkeys in the barrel–and more. How do you answer them?

Can you answer them?

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~ by spim on October 23, 2008.

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