By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
What is it that causes some people to commit violent acts in the name of religion, either against themselves or others? Why does violence even play a role in religion to begin with? How can theology, as well as history, sociology, and other frameworks, help us grasp the nature of religious violence? All religions, including the world’s great faiths—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism—have their inner battles with violent beliefs and practices. And, in a world where violence in the name of religion can impact so many other people’s lives, it’s critical to understand the intersection between the two.
“If we want to know why bad stuff happens in the name of religion, we need to understand how those who commit religious violence perceive what they’re doing,” says Dr. Jason C. Bivins, award-winning professor of Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. “That’s the best way to understand why our world is producing so much of it, and what we can do about it.”
In his 24-lecture course, Thinking about Religion and Violence, Professor Bivins takes you on a global, historical, and multidisciplinary investigation of religious violence. Delivered with honesty and sensitivity to the diversity of spiritual beliefs, he examines the roots of this phenomenon and guides us toward more informed ways of thinking about it. We’ll consider how faiths like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism view concepts like human sacrifice, martyrdom, penitence, and means of violence; the ways religious violence can be directed toward specific races, genders, and cultural groups; the connections between violence and other religions, including Mormonism and Native American faiths; concepts like heresy, demonology, and witch-hunting; and more. Blending history, theology, psychology, sociology, and other fields, Professor Bivins helps you get to the heart of a complex problem that’s broader and deeper (and more optimistic) than we may have thought.
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