The Myth of Religious Violence

16602201_10154132069066536_3695703769791007909_o“In what is called ‘Western Society,’ the attempt to create a transhistorical and transcultural concept of religion that is essentially prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of the liberal nation-state. The myth of religious violence helps to construct and marginalize a religious Other, prone to fanaticism, to contrast with a rational, peace-making, secular subject. This myth can be and is used in domestic politics to legitimate the marginalization of certain types of practices and groups labeled religious, while underwriting the nation-state’s monopoly on its citizens’ willingness to sacrifice and kill. In foreign policy, the myth of religious violence serves to cast non-secular social orders, especially Muslim societies, in the role of villain. They have not yet learned to remove the dangerous role of religion from political life. Their violence, being ‘religious,’ is therefore irrational and fanatical. Our violence, being secular, is rational, peace-making, and sometimes regrettably necessary to contain their violence. We find ourselves obliged to bomb them into liberal democracy.”

– William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict

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