This chapter explores the construction of evil and the strategies of violence in purification. Prurient fascination and righteous revulsion both recreate and repel each other, developing an anxiety of confusion that has resulted in many circumstances in community efforts to cast the subject, the symbol, of that confusion. Erotic prurience into the nature and deeds of Evil may remain as a living genre for centuries without lending itself to societies as legitimation for purge. Dramaturgy and procession can contribute to brutal but cathartic narratives of saints and monsters, martyrs, and their persecutors, into the immediate festival lives of communities. Furthermore, brutality and atrocity are recurrent characteristics of any culture, often aggravated in situations of historical stress independent of religious systems.
This chapter examines the difficulties the Holocaust posed and continues to raise for Jews, Jewish theology, and specifically Jewish ethics, identifying eight major commitments made by Jews and non-Jews that have since then inspired Jewish and global responses to human-made atrocities such as genocide and crimes against humanity. These are (1) to survive; (2) to perpetuate the memory of what happened; (3) to survive as Jews; (4) to set the moral bar high such that people are expected to be “upstanders,” not bystanders, in the face of evil; (5) to recreate relationships with people of other faiths; (6) to combat discrimination and genocide; (7) to define and demand humane standards for medical research; and (8) to learn how to attain both justice and reconciliation after genocidal atrocities.
Notwithstanding almost six decades of scholarship and a fast-swelling stream of publications, the historiography of the Holocaust still remains divided in its initial and traditional clusters: the history of the perpetrators, that of the bystanders, and that of the victims. Most of the historical publications about the Holocaust deal with the perpetrators (the Germans and their collaborators) and their anti-Jewish policies and measures in the Reich and throughout occupied Europe. The history of Nazi policies and measures often tends to be considered as equivalent to the history of the Holocaust as such. The second cluster of monographs examines the attitudes and initiatives of the bystanders, of local authorities in occupied countries, of the European populations, the churches, the neutral countries, and the Allies. The third historiographical cluster deals with the life and death of the victims.
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.
Hent de Vries
This chapter offers the example of a philosophy that began with Jacques Derrida, the genesis and structure of whose overall thinking, writing, and interpretative praxis it reviews. Derrida, who has played an influential role as a groundbreaking thinker, speaks of an unconditional affirmation, an absolute performative, whose contours are not established. The neologism mondialatinisation captures the old-new and new-old taken as a total social phenomenon and one that is “at the same time hegemonic and finite, ultra-powerful and in the process of exhausting itself.” Derrida determines that if religion was ever dead and overcome, in its resurrected form it is much less localizable and predictable than ever before, most manifestly in the “cyberspatialized or cyberspaced wars of religion” or “war of religions.” Religion, the political religions, and religious wars and terrorisms in the contemporary world resist their very own demise or rumors thereof.
This chapter reviews the movement from pacifism to Just War and Crusade. It also tries to demonstrate the ways prominent Catholic and Protestant leaders have harshly used violent measures within their communities, and determines contemporary manifestations of these three approaches among twenty-first-century Christians. The Crusades constitute the third type of response to war and peace among Christians, joining the ongoing Just War and pacifist traditions. The Inquisition within the Catholic Church and the city-state of Geneva under John Calvin's leadership within the emerging Protestant movement are elaborated. These examples show how pervasive the use of violence in the name of religion had become. The Just Peacemaking Paradigm is the alternative to pacifism and Just War theory, an effort that tries to change the focus to initiatives which can help prevent war and foster peace.
This chapter investigates how violence gets into religious texts and how it gets out of them, into action. Religious literatures clearly help to provide archives of cosmologies, memories, personalities, and symbols for collective imagination. Trauma, terror, pain and the like are among the fundamental components of religious literature, and conjure a violent imaginary, which, by definition, takes shape in violent acts. It surely modifies wartime actions constituted within ancient literature, in some cases saturating warlike acts with sacrificial themes. Upon reading, hearing, or seeing, it is hard to imagine that any conscious being would not be focused by a spectacle of violent destruction, grasping immediately the specter of his or her own demise.
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.
Michael J. Murray
From Leibniz's time until the mid-1970s, the word ‘theodicy’ was used to describe attempts to explain God's permission of evil. Since the mid-1970s, however, it has taken on a more refined sense among philosophers of religion – a change that can be attributed to Alvin Plantinga's book God, Freedom and Evil (1974). In this work, Plantinga distinguishes between two types of explanations of evil that theists might construct. The first type is offered in response to arguments that the coexistence of God and evil is impossible. Explanations of this sort, which Plantinga calls ‘defences’, need only show the logical compatibility of God and evil. The second type aims to provide plausible and perhaps even likely-to-be-true explanations of evil, explanations which show that the existence of evil is not unlikely given the existence of God (or perhaps given the existence of God and some additional plausible and/or likely-to-be-true claims). Plantinga labelled explanations of this latter sort ‘theodicies’. His distinction has left a lasting mark on the field, and in the contemporary literature philosophers of religion use the term ‘theodicy’ in this narrower sense, and it is in this sense that it will be addressed in this article. The article discusses the punishment theodicy, the natural consequence theodicy, the free-will theodicy, the natural-law theodicy, soul-making theodicies, and theodicies of animal suffering.