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Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society) 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520232068
ISBN-10: 0520232062
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This dark, enthralling book not only documents the global rise of religious terrorism but seeks to understand the "odd attraction of religion and violence." Juergensmeyer bases his study on scholarly sources, media accounts and personal interviews with convicted terrorists. He exercises caution with the term "terrorist," preferring to emphasize the large religious community of supporters who make violent acts possible rather than the relatively small number who carry them out. Juergensmeyer identifies certain "cultures of violence" via case studies along the spectrum of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Such religious communities often perceive themselves and their way of life as under attack. In Japan, for example, a new branch of "socially prophetic" Buddhists released toxic sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, shattering their own nonviolent ethic and harming thousands because they had adopted millenarian prophecies about an imminent end to the world. Juergensmeyer is a powerful, skillful writer whose deeply empathic interviewing techniques allow readers to enter the minds of some of the late 20th century's most feared religious terrorists. Yet he is also a sensitive scholar who aptly dissects religious terrorism as a sociological phenomenon. Later chapters pay special attention to issues of "performance violence," enemy formation, martyrology, satanization and "images of cosmic confrontation." (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"An unsettling book but also a courageous one." -- Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

"Takes an academic approach to its subject, but readers outside the academy will find it quite accessible." -- Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

"This . . . enthralling book . . . documents the . . . rise of religious terrorism [and] seeks to understand the 'odd attraction of religion and violence'." -- Publishers Weekly

"Written well and engagingly for a popular audience." -- Jonathan Groner, Washington Post Book World

"[Juergensmeyer] builds a powerful case for the common elements in five terrorist movements." -- Baltimore Sun
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (September 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520232062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520232068
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,124,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This compelling and deeply insightful book, obviously misread by the previous reviewer, does not attempt to advance a hypothesis about the causal origins of religious activism. It does, however, place the rise of religious activism within the context of globalization. Since nearly all of the spokespersons of the movements themselves rail against the global forces of secularism, this seems a reasonable context indeed. This is an excellent piece of work.
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Format: Hardcover
When the tragic events of September 11th occured, the onslaught of media coverage made me want to search for a objective discussion of these terrorist acts. This book certainly met my expectations. The author studies not just Islamic groups but Christian, Buddhist and Sikh as well. It is eerie when you read descriptions of the 1993 bombing of the WTC and the authors analysis as to why this structure was picked. In fact, the author clearly describes the terrorist goal of complete destruction of the towers and its impact on the Amercian population. All this two years before the actual event.
Its a rational discussion without the hysteria and flag waving of the media. It allows the reader to read and let the meaning of the last few weeks sink in. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"I will send my terror before you, and will throw into confusion all the people..." (Exodus 23:27).
This book sets out to explore why, in a few extreme instances, religion is used to justify terrorism. "Terror in the Mind of God" was published in 2000, before the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, but it is extremely relevant to today's headlines. The psyche of suicide bombers is explored, and the men who send them to their deaths are interviewed. The author also interviews actual terrorists (and/or their close associates) who perpetrated many acts of murder and destruction within the last two decades
The cultures of violence that the author treats in depth are: "Soldiers for Christ;" "Zion Betrayed (Judaism);" "Islam's `Neglected Duty';" "The Sword of Sikhism;" and "Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway (Buddhism)."
In the last five chapters of this book, the author attempts to explain the logic of religious violence. He maintains a very non-judgmental, even tone even when explaining the reasons behind the grisliest acts of terror. It was spooky to find myself nodding my head at Juergensmeyer's explanations of the terrorists' logic; `okay, so that's why they did it.' Taking a teen-ager who feels he has nothing to live for and everything to die for, and turning him into a human bomb seems like a relatively simple task for a religious zealot, now that I've read this book.
Fascinating and extremely frightening.
In one of the most interesting and hopeful parts of the book, Juergensmeyer turns his thesis on its head, and suggests that, "the entrance of religion into public life would help to leaven these negative influences [the use of terror to promote a religion].
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Terror in the mind of God is a remarkable work made all the more remarkable by the author's dispassionate portrayal of people who, in every other facet (except that facet, religious belief, which has consumed and overwhelmed all the other elements of their humanity) of their lives seem to be no different from the reasonable and decent "normal" people who espouse Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist,or Jewish beliefs. Perhaps a major difference which sets apart those who kill, and in some cases die, for their religious beliefs is that there is never the slightest element of doubt in the minds of the true believer, and this total belief by religious fundamentalists of any faith in a cosmology which unbelievers find incredible, is always dangerous. (Didn't someone smart once say, "I don't care what you believe about God so long as you don't believe it totally.") Juergensmeyer has managed to elicit and portray their fanaticism in such a way that the reader is never tempted to laugh uproarously at even the most fantastic, unbelievable and outrageous claims of these "true believers". I've no experience with Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Hindu or Buddhist true believers, but having lived all of my adult life in Northwest Arkansas and provided abortions in my medical practice in area surrounded by "true believers" from the furtherest fringes of the Christian Right and having been the target of Christian antiabortion fundamentalists on numerous occasions in the past, I can testify that Jeurgensmeyer knows his terrorists. The folks who have targeted me and my practice seem on first glance to be concerned and reasonable people, at least until the subject turns to abortion or gays, evolution or prayer in the schools.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
...This book is most fantastic in the access Juergensmeyer had to these people. His work is based on original interviews with the thinkers and actors who produce terrorism; this includes Jewish militants, Irish Protestants, Christian Identity types, Pro-Lifers, Sikh militants, and Hamas. He identifies common sociological themes behind all of these various movements that come to see violence as an acceptable means to achieving their religious ends. His second section, which is just a number of hypotheses on these linkages, may be the most open to criticism, but the whole process is valuable none the less. One comes away with a sense of the intelligence and fortitude of these actors. Understanding the internal logic of their cosmic systems is one of the most important aspects one can derive from this book.
Getting away from common conceptions of these types of people as "irrational" and "crazy" is the first step in stemming their impact on innocent people.
I also recommend taking a skim through Marc Gopin's, "Between Eden and Armageddon," though it is long and redundant.
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