In addition to summarizing key concerns in Theravāda Buddhist Economics by scholars such as E. F. Schumacher and the Thai monk Payutto, this essay explores how descriptions of the West, Western development, and the “science” of economics serves in that literature to construct Occidentalist versions of Southeast Asian traditionalism and religious orthodoxy. It then introduces the previously unstudied work of Shérab Tendar, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholar in the contemporary People’s Republic of China who has written prodigiously on what he considers to be a scripturally based Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhist Economics. Comparing these three influential iterations of Buddhist Economics, this essay argues that this movement has less to do with economics proper than with what I call trans-Buddhist “scales of value”: site-specific desires and measures of sought after outcomes that here privilege the economy and economic behavior as a technique for individual, social, and environmental well-being and emancipation.
This chapter looks at the relevance of the concept of ‘differentiation’ for the study of religion. Differentiation plays a major part in most explanations of secularization, but it is important to distinguish two different senses of the term. Social differentiation—social division resulting primarily from the division of labor in modernizing nations—is normally secularizing due to the fragmentation of overarching religious institutions into competing sects and denominations. This is correlated with increased religious pluralism, which is generally secularizing, due to decreasing dogmatism. Functional (or structural) differentiation has important implication for religion: as religion becomes separated off as a discrete subsystem, it loses power and influence. The creation of secular alternatives leads to a decline in the popularity of religious services. The chapter argues that claims that modernization is characterized by de-differentiation—as advanced by rational choice theory/supply-side approaches—are unconvincing.
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.
Harvey E. Goldberg
Life-cycle rituals only gradually became an explicit axis of concern in Abrahamic religions while some of the cultural materials for this focus are ancient. There are both conceptual and empirical reasons for this lag. The notion of ritual as a defined domain of concern emerged only in recent centuries, while the traditional study, and self-understanding, of these religions has emphasized authoritative texts rather than the depiction of practice. Parallel to this, scholars often have searched for historical connections linking the religions, while paying less attention to synchronic approaches which view each religion, and their socio-historical expressions, in their distinct contexts, a step that also lays the groundwork for analytic comparisons among them. Modern and late modern sensibilities have strengthened awareness of the individual self and quotidian practice in all the religions, while ethnographic research has shown how this trend intermeshes with cultural and socio-political developments.
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 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.
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 examines questions about religious diversity from a sociological perspective, focusing on Europe and the United States. The public face and much of the public's awareness of religious diversity are filtered through the mosaic of symbols that demarcate religious differences. It is through symbols that societies, groups, and communities demarcate the sacred from the profane. The distinction Emile Durkheim draws between the sacred and the profane anticipates the specter of religious intolerance. There are limits, however, to what the state or other institutions can accomplish in nurturing a political culture of religious tolerance. For some time now, the sociology of religion has been dominated by a theoretical approach that emphasizes a market paradigm of church behavior. It is important to recognize that the origins and socio-historical development of the different world religions have given rise to each institutionalizing different worldviews. This is a topic that Max Weber wrote about extensively based on his detailed comparative-historical analyses of the five world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism).
Mark Juergensmeyer and Mona Kanwal Sheikh
This chapter tries to illustrate that there has been a “sociotheological turn” in contemporary scholarship which encourages social scientists to take stock of the religious justifications for social action, and theologians and scholars of religious studies to be more aware of the social significance of spiritual ideas and practices. Sociotheology takes religious thinking and social context seriously. The approximation of the fields of psychology and theology and sociology as poles in the same discursive dynamics contributes to eroding a stonewall dichotomy between theology and the social sciences. Guidelines for sociotheological studies include demarcating an epistemic worldview, bracketing assumptions about the truth of a worldview, entering into an epistemic worldview, conducting informative conversations, identifying narrative structures, and locating social contexts. The revival of religion in world politics and the rising value of transnational religious movements have offered an analytic dispute that sociotheology has risen to meet.