Harvey Whitehouse and Brian McQuinn
This chapter investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired, and coordinated—ritual—which may be defined as normative behavior with an irretrievably opaque causal structure. The divergent modes of religiosity (DMR) theory is applied to armed groups engaged in civil conflicts, some of which explicitly incorporate “religious” traditions while others vehemently repudiate supernatural beliefs of any kind. It is argued that the DMR theory can be extended to explain recurrent features of ritual traditions which lack many or all beliefs typically marked “religious.” Unlike many religions, rebel groups tend to display the predictions of only one mode, although this may be an effect of small sample size. It is believed that the DMR theory can possibly clarify broad patterns in intergroup violence and the dynamics of contemporary civil wars.
This article describes folklore as a unique form of cultural creativity and expression and discusses Jewish folklore through the ages and the scholarship of Jewish folklore. Folklore is a form of creativity and expression that exists in all the cultures we know. It is characterized by its qualities of collectivity and tradition, by its oral mode of expression, and usually by anonymity. Folklore is created and transmitted among individuals and groups through all the audio-visual interpersonal channels of communication. The discussion offers remarks on the field of folkloristics, to facilitate the application of accepted general terminology to the survey of Jewish folklore. The collective aspect of folklore is expressed both in the immediate interaction established between performer and audience, and in the concept of authority and ownership of the work, that is considered as belonging to the group and not an individual.
Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern
This chapter reviews a variety of anthropological approaches to religion from the work of Emile Durkheim through the contemporary cognitive theory of mind. It specifically investigates the culturally vast interplay of imagination with divinatory processes that legitimate war, witch-hunting, and revenge, and with cosmic postulates which sanctify the imposition of suffering on others and on oneself. Rituals have an important role in either supporting or opposing violence, whether or not they have explicitly to do with spirit worlds. Durkheim has argued that religion was essentially social and founded on the expression of community values, the images of society itself. Religiously sanctioned or enjoined practices of inflicting harm on one's own body depend on cosmology. Tendencies to violence are counterposed to tendencies to benevolence.
Candace S. Alcorta and Richard Sosis
This chapter, which discusses the association between religion and violence, also addresses why suicide terrorists are willing to offer their lives for their life-affirming religions. Religious violence and “sacred pain” have long been significant components in the mythology and ritual of Western religious traditions. Religious rituals differ widely across cultures. Music intensifies the ritual experience itself, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and laying the foundation for creation of the sacred. Religious ritual is an efficient tool for altering group cooperation and cohesion. The evolution of religion is closely linked with the emergence of large social groups in early human populations. It can be stated that understanding both the proximate and evolutionary mechanisms which link religion and violence is an important first step in understanding, and hopefully eradicating, the religious violence that has become so prevalent in the modern world.
This article identifies key features of the comparison between video games and religion, focusing on contemporary video games based on specific ancient apocalypses including “The Book of the Watchers” in the Enoch corpus and the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Many contemporary video games function as rituals of order-making, creating spaces of play in which violence is a performative mode of metaphysical sorting, allowing for new negotiations between “good” and “evil.” Through a consideration of popular gaming elements (fragging, fiero, firepower, and fun), this article proposes that the strong relationship between video games and apocalyptic literature invites a closer examination of how eschatological tensions infuse contemporary times, too often inviting an overly simplistic apocalyptic response to contemporary global challenges.