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date: 16 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the cultural evolution of religious terrorism since the late nineteenth century and explores how terrorists have effectively exploited religious systems to pursue their political goals. Religious systems are adaptive complexes that efficiently respond to rapidly changing socioenvironmental conditions and successfully motivate prosocial and sacrificial behavior by engaging evolved psychological capacities. Ongoing religious terrorism differs from previous waves of terror by manipulating religious systems in order to frame political conflicts, organize combatants, and render collective violence as sacred. By taking an evolutionary perspective of religious terrorism, scholars can begin to shed light on the ultimate and proximate mechanisms of collective violence and the manner in which religion contributes to contemporary terrorist activity.

Keywords: coalitional aggression, collective violence, intergroup conflict, moral disengagement, parochial altruism, religious system, religious terrorism, revenge

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