Sunday, June 04, 2006

Religious Theories of Violence: antony ka

 According to the Encyclopedia of Religion:
Violence may be religious in form, an end in itself, or a dramatic symbol. It may be enacted with awe, as if its instigator or perpetrator has encountered the “mysterium tremendum”. Violence as means may serve religious values or, more typically, a blend of religious and economic or religious and political ends… violence may be rationalized by the perpetrator’s claim to have exhausted the alternative of social negotiation.

How does religion transform an individual’s thinking? How is the fear of his own death, and anxiety to kill the other overcome?
The Encyclopedia suggests that in a religious environment, there are three steps in the ritual development of the courage to act violently despite anxiety:
(1) acceptance by the worshiping community of members on the basis of their intrinsic, not achieved characteristics;
(2) achievement of solidarity among the members; and
(3) encouragement of activities that engender and release effect in support of religious values.
Martyrdom is basically a political act affecting allocation of power between two centers.

The Maccabean Revolt, which offered early and paradigmatic martyrs, was the action of small community struggling to achieve local cultural independence. Similarly, the Christians of Asia Minor in the first two centuries offered martyrs to the Roman authorities against their power to coerce particular expressions of loyalty. It shows that martyrdom is attempted to break through the ideological and social boundaries between the conflicting groups with hierocratic, religiously based power. The streak of violence and non-violence is distinctly visible in Christianity, as is true of other religions. The justification of violence is as significant in the Bible, even in the NT, as its negation. If Jesus got himself Crucified in its superbly non-violent manner, the Popes lauded the ‘assassins’ and the ‘crusaders’. Even primitive Christianity, which conquered ostensibly with the slogans of love and the technique of non-resistance, destroyed pagan temples and hounded their priests.

The ‘just war’ tradition of Western culture is a product of the influence of abroad variety of cultural sources over a long period. No doubt it’s a religious grounding is too obvious, yet its secular roots are no less significant. Christianity’s popular image of pacifism is attributed to the non-violent crucifixion of Jesus. No doubt it had a radical streak even then which got prominently articulated the overtime thus leading to the formulation of liberation theology.
In Islam, on the other hand there are no such phases. The notion of Jihad, which can also mean ‘fighting’ for the just cause, is as old as Mohammad. The Jihad is the verbal noun of the Arabic verb Jahada which means ‘to endeavour, to strive, to struggle’. In religious contexts it can mean struggle against one’s inclinations or an effort to uplift society or towards the spread of Islam.
In Hinduism, violent destruction of evil is also permissible. It may appear in the form of Shiva’s tandava nritya to set in order the cosmic disorder, in Vishnu’s becoming the Narasimha to kill Hiraniakashyapa, Rama’s killing of Ravana and the most elaborate discourse of Bhagavad-Gita, inspiring Arjuna to wage a holy war, dharmayuddha against his ancestors, teachers and cousins. Such a holy war is the last alternative to seek justice and freedom.

It is not violence per se, which is condemned, but the ultimate goal, which determines its character, as good and desirable or evil and detestable. It is in this sense one finds continuity of this theme with the earlier ones. It is the principle of universal goodness that brings together the secular and scientific theories of violence with those grounded in the religious theory and practice. All the major religions of the world have had their sojourn with violence.


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