RELIGION AND IDEOLOGY FISSURE AS A MAJOR FACTOR OF TERRORISM

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

Ideology has often been implicated in violent, radical movements (Rapoport, 1984) and since 9/11, much attention has been devoted to the ideological underpinnings of violent Jihadist groups and others (Atran, Axelrod, & Davis, 2007; Habeck, 2006; Jurgensmeyer, 2004; Ranstorp, 2004; Schbley& McCauley, 2005; Stern, 2003). Scholars and other experts hardly agree on the role religious ideology plays in non-state violence. Is it cause or consequence, afterthe-fact justification, or simply a rhetorical rallying call? In this study, we will examine how anthropologists have defined religion and ideology, and consider its role in violent movements.  In this brief essay, we will make the case that the concept of religious ideology is imprecise and because of this analytical imprecision, its usefulness as an aid to understanding people’s shared thoughts and values is severely limited.  Furthermore, we will assert that the concept should never be used to account for or to explain people’s behavior.  we will suggest that a better way to think about different religious traditions and the groups of people immersed in them is derived from a research strategy in anthropology called “cultural materialism” (Harris 1979).  Cultural materialism avoids explanations based on ideology and concentrates instead on the pragmatic, day-to-day circumstances that condition people’s actual behavior.

The phrase “religious ideology” is often used loosely in anthropology and in casual conversation to refer to the set of socially shared ideas associated with a given religion.  Thus, people talk and write about the religious ideology of Islam or Christianity as if a distinctive set of ideas or beliefs characterizes the one religion in opposition to the other.  Furthermore, these imputed characteristic ideas and beliefs are often used by analysts to account for certain forms of behavior engaged in by followers of a religious tradition.  For example, people often say that Catholics have more children than Protestants because their religious ideology leads them to regard birth control as sinful and it is therefore avoided.  Major world religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism have features that make them relatively easy to identify. 
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RELIGION AND IDEOLOGY FISSURE AS A MAJOR FACTOR OF TERRORISM