From Religious Cooperation to Religious Conflict – Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict by Ara Norenzayan
Domanda: cosa rende una religione fonte di violenza? Tesi: spesso proprio cio’ che la rende edificatrice di civiltà.
how much of a role does religion play in violent conflicts? Critics of religion think that it is a major cause, and there is of course no shortage of examples, historical and contemporary: the Crusades, the early Islamic conquests, the sixteenth-century Catholic-Protestant religious wars, violent Jihadi campaigns of today, Hindu-Muslim violence, Lebanon of the 1970s and 1980s, Bosnia in the early 1990s, Northern Ireland. With these examples in mind, Richard Dawkins argues: Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb.
Note:LA POSIZIONE CRITICA: RELIGIONE PRIMA CAUSA DI GUERRA
they offer counterexamples of violent conflicts motivated by secular ideologies that lack a religious dimension: the two World Wars in the twentieth century (including the carnage caused by Fascism and the Nazis), Stalin’s and Mao’s purges, and the genocidal Pol Pot regime, to name a few. Earlier, starting in 1915, the Committee for Union and Progress, known as the Young Turk Regime, Westernizers who wanted to reform and secularize the ailing (religiously organized) Ottoman Empire, carried out the first genocide of the twentieth century by annihilating most of the Armenian population as well as depopulating the rest of the Ottoman Christians from their ancestral lands.
Note:PRIMA RISPOSTA DEGLI APOLOGETI
Moreover, defenders of religion point out that some of the sins attributed to religion are in fact caused by something else that gets entangled with religion. William James, one of the great founders of modern psychology who took a great interest in religion, put it this way: The baseness so commonly charged to religion’s account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable to religion proper, but rather to religion’s wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion.
If we take all the violent conflicts we know of in a given historical period, and assess the degree to which religious divisions were a factor, what would we find? Such studies are rare, but in the Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod attempted one such comprehensive analysis. They surveyed nearly 1,800 violent conflicts throughout history. They measured, based on historical records, whether or not religion was a factor, and if so, to what degree. They found that less than 10 percent involved religion at all.
In a related “God and War” audit commissioned by the BBC, researchers again scrutinized 3,500 years of violent… In the end, religion was a factor in 40 percent of all rated violent conflicts, but rarely as the key motivator of the conflict. Religion is an important player, but rarely the primary cause of wars and violent conflicts….
Sharpening the Question: Three Clarifications about Religion and Conflict
In the popular imagination, there are the tolerant religions (Buddhism gets a lot of votes, and of course, the pacifist Quakers!) and there are intolerant religions (the fundamentalist strains of the Abrahamic faiths)… Today, many people, with more seriousness than Franken, think that radical Islam is the “problem religion” of the twenty-first century, but ten centuries earlier, it was Christianity (mainly Catholicism), and Islamic Spain was a cosmopolitan center of many faiths, a far more tolerant society than medieval Christendom. If some religions are inherently more violent than others, how do we explain these changes within a religious tradition?…
Note:RELIGIONE DI PACE
Religion and Its “Wicked Partners”
We wanted to know: do people who are more religiously devoted scapegoat other religious groups more? Or less? The answer, it turned out, depends on teasing apart “religious devotion” from its “wicked partners.”… We also considered what James called religion’s wicked intellectual partner, the “spirit of dogmatic dominion.” We got a measure of religious exclusivity: “My God (beliefs) is the only true God (beliefs).”… Hansen and I found that, after matching people on age, gender, occupational status, and other factors, exclusivity increased the odds of scapegoating. No surprise there—more dogmatic people are more scapegoating of other religions. But what was more interesting, holding constant exclusivity, was that prayer frequency reduced the odds of scapegoating….
Note:DISCERNERE NELLE RELIGIONI: ESCLUSIVITÀ DOGMATISMO PREGHIERA
Religion inevitably contains, reflects, and reveals all that is within the realm of humanity: the good and the bad. It is like any other facet of human civilization: some of it is noble and inspirational, much of it is nonsensical and even dangerous.
Religious tendencies contribute to intolerance and violence in at least three ways. The first one involves the workings of supernatural monitoring as a group-building social device. This leads to a sliding scale of distrust toward those who fall outside of one’s own supernatural jurisdiction. Second is the social bonding power of religious participation and ritual that could exacerbate conflict between groups. Third, religion fosters sacred values, making them immune to trade-off,
Note:LE TRE VIE DA CUI S’INSINUA L’INTOLLERANZA: SUPERERWATCHER (COESIONE), AFFILIAZIONE, SACRALITA’.
The Outer Limits of Supernatural Monitoring
Social cohesion inevitably involves setting up boundaries between those who can be trusted and those who cannot. After all, and despite some theological teachings about universal love and indiscriminate compassion, a religious community would not be a cooperative community if there were no social boundaries.
Note:I CONFINI DELLA FIDUCIA. CREDERE CHE DIO CI GUARDI E’ ESSENZIALE
Azim Shariff and I tested this idea in the well-known Dictator Game… If Christian folk were good theologians, they would follow Christian doctrine and be “Good Samaritans,” being generous equally with everyone. But they were not. Christian participants primed with thoughts of God were most generous toward the Christian receiver, less generous toward a stranger with unknown religious affiliation, and least generous toward the Muslim receiver… While this result is not exactly an indication of intense hostility toward religious outgroups, it does show that making supernatural monitoring salient does lead to a discriminant form of generosity that is sensitive to group boundaries….
Note:TESTARE L’IPOTESI DEL DIO ONNISCIENTE
Religious Participation, Social Solidarity, and Conflict
There is a common belief that social ties are inherently good, and indeed there is a great deal of evidence showing that people with strong community ties are healthier, happier, and more prosocial.
Note:IL LATO POSITIVO DELLE RELAZIONI FORTI
The same processes that build community also open the door for exclusion to those who are seen as not belonging, and often, violent opposition to those who are seen as threatening. This could be called the social solidarity hypothesis of intergroup violence.
Note:IL LATO OSCURO
In a series of experiments, psychologists Adam Waytz and Nicholas Epley illustrate how this seeming paradox enables a particularly toxic form of an intergroup attitude: dehumanization of socially distant others… Who dehumanizes more: people who feel socially disengaged or socially connected? Their results were counterintuitive but decisive: feelings of stronger social connection to close others led to more dehumanization and harsher moral judgment of socially distant others….
Suicide attacks come in waves, with one act of self-sacrifice inspiring others, creating cultural cycles of violent martyrdom. What better way to inspire and mobilize one’s community than to lay down one’s life for a cause? As an extreme form of parochial altruism
We found that those who attended mosque often, compared to those who attended rarely or never, were twice to three-and-a-half times more likely to support suicide attacks against the perceived enemy (Israelis). This clearly supports the social solidarity hypothesis.
Note:IL SUICIDA È SOCIALMENTE ATTIVO
No doubt, then, religious practices and rituals can add fuel to conflict. But it is important to emphasize that religious participation can also be coopted to work for greater inclusiveness.
Note:MA… CI SONO FORME DI PARTECIPAZIONE CHE CI RENDONO PIU’ TOLLERANTI
In a pioneering study, a team of economists led by David Clingingsmith wanted to know what effects, if any, participation in the hajj—the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca—has on social attitudes toward various groups. Are people transformed by this powerful experience? This annual pilgrimage brings together millions of practicing Muslims from all over the world and all walks of life into the holy city of Mecca to devote themselves to prayer, fasting, and other ascetic practices… Clingingsmith’s findings were complex and wide ranging, but they told a consistent story: hajj participation led to more tolerance toward Muslims and nonMuslims alike. It increased endorsement of equality, harmony, and peace among different ethnic and religious groups. Participation also encouraged more favorable attitudes toward women and their right to education and jobs….
Note:COME TI TRASFORMA ANDARE ALLA MECCA?
It is only in political contexts where there is asymmetric conflict and there are strong feelings that one’s group is under threat that altruism turns violent. In less conflict-prone contexts, when there is no target to attack or adversary to scapegoat, religious attendance would be more about sacrificing and less about attacking.
there is the nature of the religious participation itself. In the case of the former, religious participation was local—it reflected how often Palestinians attended mosque or Jewish settlers remembered attending synagogue in their local neighborhoods. In the hajj, in contrast, participation is global by its very nature. It’s an opportunity for Muslims to meet and interact with other Muslims of all stripes from all over the world… Religious ritual is typically enacted in a local context and cements ties with one’s immediate neighbors….
Religion and the Sacred: Negotiating the Non-Negotiable
Finally, a third path from religion to conflict is something that religions are particularly good at: the creation of sacred values.
Note:IL SACRO-VALORI NONNEGOZIABILI
Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges explain: Ample historical and cross-cultural evidence shows that when conflict is framed by competing religious and sacred values, intergroup violence may persist for decades, even centuries. Disputes over otherwise mundane phenomena (people, places, objects, events) then become existential struggles, as when land becomes “holy land.” Secular issues become sacralized and nonnegotiable.
All of this tells us that parts of the religious bundle can create and intensify conflict, but somewhere in the same bundle there lie seeds that can be coopted to soften and overcome conflict.