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Blood That Cries Out From the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism [Hardcover]

James Jones
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 11, 2008 019533597X 978-0195335972 0
Religious terrorism has become the scourge of the modern world. What causes a person to kill innocent strangers in the name of religion? As both a clinical psychologist and an authority on comparative religion, James W. Jones is uniquely qualified to address this increasingly urgent question. Research on the psychology of violence shows that several factors work to make ordinary people turn "evil." These include feelings of humiliation or shame, a tendency to see the world in black and white, and demonization or dehumanization of other people. Authoritarian religion or "fundamentalism," Jones shows, is a particularly rich source of such ideas and feelings, which he finds throughout the writings of Islamic jihadists, such as the 9/11 conspirators.

Jones goes on to apply this model to two very different religious groups that have engaged in violence: Aum Shinrikyo, the Buddhist splinter group behind the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system, and members of the extreme religious right in the U.S. who have advocated and committed violence against abortion providers. Jones notes that not every adherent of an authoritarian group will turn to violence, and he shows how theories of personality development can explain why certain individuals are easily recruited to perform terrorist acts.

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Editorial Reviews


"This complex and nuanced book addresses one of the urgent issues of our times: the intersection of religion and violence. It does so with high intelligence and great sensitivity. Moving between examples as apparently different as the Left Behind series of Christian evangelical books in America, the global Jihad within Islam, and the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, Jones develops a masterful psychology of religious terrorism. This book will be of great interest for all thinking Americans. --Charles B. Strozier, author of Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America

"Blood that Cries Out From the Earth is an astonishing tour de force. Dr. Jones probes deeply into the spiritual and emotional needs that drive some youth to accept violent ideologies. He pays particular attention to the interplay between social networks, extreme religion, and individual needs -- something that previous studies have missed. This book is a gift to all of us who hope to understand and to reduce terrorist violence carried out by those who imagine themselves to be serving God by killing innocents." --Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God

About the Author

James W. Jones is Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Psychology, at Rutgers University.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019533597X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195335972
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,517,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonably good effort at difficult subject April 18, 2009
Jones sets out to combine psychology and religion to create an understanding of what he calls "religious terrorism". He has some good points which are well-thought out such as sanctifying violence, sacrifice, and martyrdom. Other points, however, are either unsupported or contradictory.

"The failures, as much if not more than the successes, of the ideologies of modernity (capitalism and Marxism) are the breeding ground for fundamentalism and its violent offshoots." (pg 40)

This is a very interesting claim, but not only is this not supported anywhere in the text (it appears in a section on humiliation) but it is contradicted by Jones's own premise of religion being the primary factor in inspiring "religious terrorism".

"The usual sociological variables-poverty, lack of education, and so on-often appear to play little role and have little predictive value. One of the best predictors is religiosity." (pg 59)

So if the focus is religion, then how exactly is "modernity" to blame?

In most of his book Jones tends to dampen his own case. For example, he says that Arabs in the Middle East suffer shame and humiliation which inspires them to join terrorist groups, etc. Then he says that Jewish settlers in Israel also suffer shame and humiliation. This begs the question: why does one group have a serious problem with terrorist groups and not the other one? And doesn't this mean that humiliation ISN'T a key factor? The entire goal is to find the unique conditions under which terrorism is fostered.

Another problem is that he seems to quote the same few sources over and over again.

Leaving on a positive note: I took the time to read the book and review it (however poorly) so I would say that Jones has added to the discussion of terrorism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terror In the Name of God July 8, 2008
Dr. James Jones book, "Blood That Cries Out From the Earth" is the most important reflection to date on the relationship between psychoanalytic theory and the psychology of religous motivated terrorism. His approach is based on extensive research not only from a political, cultural or mitliatry nature but with a specific focus on the role of the religious mind. The world needs a spiritual/religious response in this time of terrorism. Jones outlines the underlining journey into the shame/humiliation, rigidity and splitting of terroism and leads the reader back to a vision of hope. Future engagement with this area of study must begin with facing this dreadful reality and forge forward with wisdom and compassion. PaulaJHamm, LPC,Member of American Psychoanalytic Association
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Psychology of Religion Text November 6, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Blood That Cries Out . . . is an engaging and timely text for teaching psychology of religion courses, and/or religion studies. Jones skillfully utilizes the psychoanalytic concepts of shame and idealization as primary rubrics to understand the dynamics of religious terrorism. The reader gains insight into the belief systems and the behavior of persons who justify violence on the basis of religious conviction as the psychological function of idealization and the effect of shame in personality formation are explicated. In addition to the psychological analysis, another strength of the volume is the inclusive range of religiosity addressed in the book: Islamic fundamentalism; violence in Japanese Buddhism; and U.S. Christian contexts.

Especially poignant is the author's experience not only as a clinician and educator, but also as a human being living in the vicinity of Manhattan on 911. The book is well written and compelling for anyone who seeks to understand the complexity of religion gone awry in our contemporary society. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
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