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William Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence - Book Report/Review Example

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William Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence

Religion, he says, must be tamed through restricting its access to the general public (Cavanaugh, 2009). In this book Cavanaugh examines how the twin categories of religion and secular are initially constructed by showing that they are used in arguing that they are the key factors of violence. He argues that there is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion, and attempts to separate religious violence from secular violence are incoherent. What refers to as secular or religious, in any given situation, is just but a function of different configuration of power (Cavanaugh, 2009). According to Cavanaugh, the myth of religious violence helps to construct and marginalize a religious group prone to fanaticism, to the contrast with the rational, peace-making secular subject. This myth, he says, can be and is used in domestic politics to legitimize the marginalization of certain types of practices and groups labeled religious, while it undermines the nation-state’s control on its citizens’ compliance to kill and sacrifice (Cavanaugh, 2009). In foreign policy, the myth of religious violence has served to cast non-secular social orders especially Muslim societies, in the role of villain. Cavanaugh states that these societies have not yet known how to to eliminate the dangerous influence of religion from political life, hence making their violence irrational and fanatical. Contemporary liberalism, he says, has found its definitive foe in followers of Islam who decline to differentiate between politics and religion. Cavanaugh feels the danger of this is that in establishing a society that is irrational, fanatical and violent; we legitimize coercive measures against them (Cavanaugh, 2009). While he has no doubt that ideologies and practices of all kinds can and do promote violence under certain conditions, he disputes the illogical reasoning that religion is in itself violent. This book does not argue that religion either does or does not promote violence, but it analyses the circumstances that the various religious categories are founded. It is also not a support of religion against violence (Cavanaugh, 2009). Cavanaugh does not excuse any religion from careful scrutiny because given certain conditions, Christianity and Islam can and do contribute to violence. War in the Middle East cannot be blamed on only the issues of petroleum and liberty, but also on the basis of millenarian reading of parts of the Christian scriptures. Conventional wisdom clearly assumes that religious categories are totally far removed from ideologies and that religious categories are more inclined to violence since they are regarded authoritative, disruptive and illogical (Murphy, 2011; Smith, 1962; Wentz, 1993). Cavanaugh declares that these assumptions are unsustainable because ideologies and institutions labeled as secular can be just as authoritative, disruptive, and illogical as those labeled religious. This he adds is dangerous since it helps to marginalize, and even legitimize aggression towards those opposed to the structure of certain religious categories. Therefore, that which is branded as religious or as not is of crucial importance (Kimball, 2002). Cavanaugh attempts to institute the never-ending, widespread and normal subject of different categories, whether religious or secular, which are, in fact, constructions of the modern west. Individuals who refuse to acknowledge that these categories are unchanging widespread and are normal are liable to oppression (Kimball, 2002). Particular configuration of power in society may be groundless but that is precisely why they are difficult to argue against because they were not ...Show more


The Myth of Religious Violence
William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, clearly states that religion is both a transhistorical, as well as a transcultural element of human life. That religion is essentially distinct from “secular” features such as politics and economics, which have an inclination to promote violence. …
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William Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence essay example
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