Although there existed no real millennial text prior to late Jewish and early Christian texts, there exists an overabundance of resources that heavily draw on millennial texts. This article deals with the “Apocrypha” or the Hebrew Bible, which is wrought with apocalyptic literature. Similar literature is also to be found in Mesopotamian scriptures, a string of texts known as the “Akkadian Prophecies”. Ancient Zoroastrian texts, predating both Jewish and Christian counterparts, too seem to have substantial pre-millennial texts, similar in subjective elements such as an unhappy end of time with subsequent salvation, resurrection, personified angels etc. The common factors between these texts are: they commonly draw on general crisis contexts and most immediate and obvious hurdles in projecting the evils of the world; secondly, the geographical origins of these texts were unified by the common factor of their unequivocal resistance to Hellenic expansionism, something that figures prominently in the subjective interpretation of these texts.
This chapter offers a working definition of the apocalyptic, followed by some of the apocalyptic's most important constituent components. Then, it concentrates on associations between these components and violence, illuminating how structures of the apocalyptic can be deployed to serve violent ends. Apocalyptic texts and movements alike demonstrate a tendency to split the world and its contents into absolute good and absolute evil. Dualistic thinking has been noted by many scholars as a quintessential element of religious violence. Furthermore, the chapter examines three interrelated processes connected to duality that aid in the transformation of apocalyptic thinking into violence against others. Apocalyptic duality is deepened through a sense of temporality that envisions all of time having led up to the unique moment in history in which only the elect exclusively possess the truth. Duality and utopia coalesce as motive forces for foreign intervention to “free” those who are “oppressed.”
Michael A. Sells
This chapter, which looks at the actual or alleged cases of apocalypticism within contemporary Iranian Shi'ite, Saudi Sunni, and American Christian circles, evaluates the issue of contemporary militant apocalypticism, emphasizing the competition between its American Christian and Islamic versions. The hadith collections present contradictory reports regarding the end-time struggle between the Messiah Jesus and Dajjal. Militant near-term apocalypticism summons the power of religion, imagination, and personal conviction against any serious peace endeavor; demonizes those who work toward such endeavors; and sanctifies those who, once the tribulation or endtimes conflict is underway, kill the peacemakers. The apocalyptic messianism of American dispensationalists, and of the Salafi Sunni figures Safar al-Hawali and Ali al-Timimi, feature scenarios of Middle Eastern and global carnage ending with messianic triumph and theologically grounded rejection of Middle East peacemaking.
The concept of avertive apocalypticism describes a wide range of beliefs that predict imminent worldly destruction and maintains that apocalypse may be averted or forestalled if believers engage in specific spiritual or ritual actions. This article represents the survivalist strain in millennialism, believing in earthly deliberations, and history as pre-ordained, beyond human control and subject to divine will. Salvation from the impending apocalypse is to be delivered by some divine entity that involves enduring by divine messianic preaching. The ideas range from apparitions to planetary escape on exploration of UFOs to employ collective psychic efforts, through mass prayers and to avert imminent destruction. This article focuses on selected contemporary expressions of spiritual avertive beliefs and practices. The concept of avertive apocalypticism upholds human agency and free will. Failure of the apocalypse predictions is pitched as post-facto triumph. The continued analysis of the dynamics of such ideas is crucial for an expanded understanding of the complexity and enduring appeal of apocalyptic and millennial thought and practice.
Eugene V. Gallagher
Catastrophic millennialism emanates from a deep pessimism towards society, history, and general humanity. This article develops an analysis of the basic descriptive vocabulary of catastrophic millennialism from the examination of a pair of texts from Late Antiquity. It simultaneously emphasizes a catastrophic end to life as we know it and “a heaven on earth”, the new coming of humanity, following the cleansing. The article also states that predictions of the apocalypse always combine certain general but instrumental factors that invariably strengthen the conflict. This article shows how a group of contemporary millennialist movements have used the basic tropes of catastrophic millennialism to create their own distinctive apocalyptic messages. It highlights how these groups differ in their assessments of why the world will soon be destroyed, precisely how it will happen, who will accomplish that destruction, when and where it will happen, and, especially, what their faithful followers must do in the meantime.
Ron E. Hassner
This chapter argues that contested sacred sites pose indivisibility challenges which can drive even natural religious allies into violent conflict, and also outlines the multiple roots of conflicts over sacred sites based on the type of objective at stake: legitimacy, security, or profit. It then turns to investigate several aspects that characterize these disputes, regardless of cause. Sacred sites cannot be shared to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The characteristics of disputes over sacred places include cohesion, boundaries, and value. Leaders have pursued three primary strategies in order to avoid bloodshed: partition, scheduling, and exclusion. These approaches develop tensions that threaten to burst as soon as one of the claimants perceives a change in the balance of power. Religious leaders can introduce flexibility into the rules governing holy places and add a measure of harmony to contests over holy sites.
This chapter provides a discussion on cosmic war in religious traditions, focusing on the development and evolution of cosmic war in the Hebrew Bible. Cosmic war can allow belief in the direct intervention of a deity on the battlefield on behalf of the deity's tribe, nation, or peopl, and is a concept that is profoundly settled in the religious traditions of the ancient Near East. The major themes found in most cosmic war traditions are elaborated. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq rapidly play the tenor of a cosmic conflict against demonic forces. It must be noted that behind the cosmic impulse, there often lurks very real and earthly grievances that must be considered if the drive toward cosmic war, which remains such a destructive factor in contemporary religious disputes, is to be stemmed.
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 discusses three recurring themes that can be identified from the midst of global millennialism, namely Sacred time—the categorization of history into religiously relevant holy phases; sacred geography—physical locations of great religious relevance, with Mount Zion and Jerusalem at the apex; and lastly sacred commonwealth—an ideal, transcendental state, divinely ruled, by angels or messiahs with divine mandate. The 7,000-year period or “the seventy weeks of year”, at the end of which the salvation would occur, forms the basis of the sacred time. The Islamic conquest of Iberia and the subsequent purging of Christians, Jews, and heterodox Islam put that place in the list of sacred locales. It also gained relevance by facilitating comparative dialogue among the Judaic religions. This article reveals that in Europe, the Taborites under Jan Hus and the Florentine Republic under Girolamo Savonarola, were prominent instances of sacred commonwealth while the 600-year Caliphate resembled the same for Islam.
Melissa M. Wilcox
This article deals with the issues of gender and sexuality in millennial movements. Patriarchy pervades across the spectrum, varieties range from reversal of normative gender based divisions of labor, to anti-abortion drives, to a renouncement of the original sin (sexual intercourse) and others. Convinced at a gross degeneration of the divinely ordained ways, various strains proposed practice of “free love”. Differential interpretations of scriptures evoke different responses to the same elements. While raising a woman to the level of a messiah, generating obedience from men and women alike, and throwing a protectionist cordon around the woman, may seem overtly empowering, with the woman shrouded in false consciousness, becoming party to the abetment of patriarchy. This article sites an instance of white and colored racial supremacists, two extremes of the same spectrum, having in common the same patriarchal subjective notion of women and their role.
This article introduces the Japanese millennial movements, which came into contact with its western counterparts in the nineteenth century. While periodization has been intrinsic to millennialism, the Japanese had no period-based idea of millennialism, marked by the return of a messiah. Pre-Buddhist Japan did not have much to do with temporal demarcations. The loosest attempt at periodization came from the observation of the harvest seasons. Omoto (1892–1935) and Aum Shirinkyo (1986–1995) are Japan's most notorious tryst with millennialism. While the former, launched by a peasant woman Deguchi Nao, preached the return of the mythical figure “Ushitora Konjin”, to salvage man, and the latter, the most notorious, founded by Asahara Shoko, was involved in various nefarious activities, including the infamous Sarin gas incident on the Tokyo subway (1995). Shoko and several members were arrested and sentenced to death. Post Aum, millennialism lost influence in Japan.
This chapter concentrates on the mimetic theory of Rene Girard in evaluating foundational myths of violence. It shows Girard's notion of the scapegoating mechanism, whereby a substitute victim absorbs the mimetic animosities of the entire group and thereby promotes peace, as applicable to the disturbing tendency to direct violence outward toward exogenous groups. According to Girard, competition is the main source of human violence. His explanation, that violence has its roots in competition or mimetic rivalry, contributes to Thomas Hobbes, who also highlighted this cause of violence at the beginning of the modern era. The Abrahamic solidarity with the victim easily becomes an aggressive weapon if taking the side of the victim is not connected with the forgiveness of persecutors. Girard interprets the imitation of Christ in the context of rivalries prohibited in the tenth commandment of the First Testament.
Jean E. Rosenfeld
This article examines five nativistic millennial movements that are culturally, geographically, and temporally dissimilar to find the similarities that bind them into a single category: the Ghost Dance, the Common Law Freemen, Pai Marire, “cargo” cults, and al-Qaeda–the International Jihad. It discusses features of nativist millennialism that began to be extrapolated in the mid-twentieth century with the appearance of pioneering monographs by anthropologists. Loss of ancestral land and traditional ways of life, under foreign invasion, informs the nativist school. The ultimate goal is the redeeming of these elements, by magical means—the sudden disappearance of the invading forces, the return of mythical heroes or messiahs, and an altered landscape. The distant nature of the ultimate goal motivates the nativist to relinquish present ways of life and material possessions as sacrifices.
Monica Duffy Toft
This chapter, which describes why religion is resurging in the political sphere and the conditions under which religion is most likely to cause troubling violence, also places the source of the problem at the intersection of local politics and three global trends: modernization, democratization, and globalization. The urbanization that accompanied modernization is largely an artifact of the increasing industrialization of production, including especially agricultural production. A greater voice for religion and religious actors is assisted by the global movement toward greater democratization. When globalization accelerated, religious actors are in a position to harness its associated technologies. In the current era, the transnational dimensions of religion, and in particular Islam, explain why religious civil wars have the character of starting out local and then becoming more global. Solving religiously inspired violence demands the combination of religious authority with a better idea.
This chapter demonstrates the viability of a new theory for the role of religion in violence by applying it to cases ranging from the ancient to the modern world, and in the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). It also describes how scarce resource theory can help elaborate religious violence. Moreover, the chapter reports how religion produces scarce resources, and then concentrates on: 1) access to the divine will, particularly through inscripturation, 2) sacred space, 3) group privileging, and 4) salvation. It is noted that religion is not the cause of all violence. Violence against scriptures can engage all sorts of permutations within the Abrahamic traditions. Sacred space is the source of violence in Abrahamic religions. The fact that religious violence is always immoral, and the fact that non-religious violence is not always immoral, is the key ethical distinction between religious and non-religious violence.
This chapter presents an account for religious violence, and also evaluates institutional independence and political theology more carefully. Then, it uses these two factors to elaborate forms of religious violence: communal conflict and terrorism. Political theology and institutional independence are far from the only factors that explain religious violence, but it is proposed that they can account for communal conflict and terrorism. The analysis of Monica Duffy Toft's cases shows that nine of the twenty one religious civil wars in which religion has shaped ends have involved opposition groups with an integrationist political theology, all of them Muslim. Moreover, the analysis of the Terrorism Knowledge Base exhibits a positive link between authoritarian regimes and the site where religious terrorists work. It is noted that religious violence is least likely to occur in settings of consensual independence, which are found most commonly in religion-friendly liberal democracies.
James W. Jones
This chapter summarizes some of the methods and findings in religion and violence from a psychological perspective, reviewing Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority and Philip Zimbardo's prison experiment. There are important differences between Milgrim's and Zimbardo's experimental conditions and contemporary campaigns of religious terrorism. The theory of the origins of violence by Heinz Kohut highlights the role of a person's sense of self and any threats to it. It is indicated that universal religious themes such as purification or the search for reunion with the source of life or the longing for personal meaning and transformation can become colligated into destructive psychological motivations. The combination of powerful psychological motivations with profound spiritual desires gives the rhetoric of religious violence its appeal and power.
John R. Hall
This chapter investigates the circumstances of violence in a way that identifies alternative “domains” in which religious concatenations of violence arise. Despite the fluidity of empirical trajectories and theoretical transitions among analytic types, diverse situations are not so idiosyncratically historicist as to prevent theorization of alternative patterns. Religious communities “contained” by a state may raise countercultural ideologies. The structural circumstances of violence have been modified by apocalyptic war. In social processes, the link of religion to political power differentiates a variety of hegemonic and counterhegemonic conditions in which religion and violence become concatenated. Theorizing relationships between religion and violence should not be an exercise in differentiating “ideal” and “material” causes but rather an effort to understand their complex interplay in social processes.
This chapter provides some of the answers as to how evil is experienced and why it exists. Evil explodes into the everyday world unasked and unwelcome, and has little underlying meaning other than in relation to culturally contrived notions of orderliness, goodliness, or legality. Three major reasons or rhetorics are routinely raised by evil-doers when called upon to account for their acts: arguments from affect, from custom, and from rationality. Human evil is always “reasonable” even if it seems at first glance to be crazy. Mankind becomes the occasion of evil; not out of craven malignity, but out of a yearning to triumph over evil. Albert Camus reported on the human response to “plague,” a metaphor for the evils he had just witnessed during the Second World War. However, he failed to determine exactly what a disillusioned grappling with evil might mean.
This chapter describes religious terrorism as “performance violence,” illustrating that performance violence is planned in order to obtain tangible goals, and also to theatrically enact and communicate an imagined reality. The scenario that underlies the performance of religious terrorism is often one of cosmic war. Some religious terrorism could also be motivated by scenarios other than cosmic war. The idea of warfare involves more than an attitude; it is ultimately a world view and an assertion of power. An act of violence sends two messages at the same time: a broad message aimed at the general public and a specific communication targeted at a narrower audience. Silent terrors are those in which the audience is not directly evident. It is noted that terrorism has been conducted for a television audience around the world.