Description of the book Terror in the Mind of God

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Praising God and doing violent acts where innocent people are killed don't seem to go together. Mark Juergensmeyer's book, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, explores this growing phenomenon in the world today. He studies several areas in the world where this is happening, including Americans who bomb abortion clinics, Israelis who attack their Palestinian neighbors, Muslims who attack Israeli neighbors as well as others who they see as oppressing them, Irish and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Sikhs and Muslims in India, and Japanese Buddhists. This paper will identify the author's main arguments and his suggestions for easing these conflicts. It will also explore a case study focusing on both Israeli and Muslim terrorists. Finally, the paper will reflect on how this book helps in understanding racial and ethnic relations in the United States. Reading and reflecting on the points made in this book greatly helps to understand what is currently happening in the world today and perhaps also understanding our own history of racial and ethnic conflict.

Mark Juergensmeyer has several goals in his book about religious terrorism. One of his goals is to understand why acts of violence are associated with religious causes and why they have occurred with such frequency at this time in history (7). Another goal is to understand not only the mindset of religious activists who have committed violence but also the groups that have supported them and the ideologies to which they subscribe (10). The author also states that his goal is to focus on case studies of religious violence within their own cultural context and within the framework of global, social and political changes distinctive to our time (7). Finally, he wants to understand how religion and violence are linked. How violence accomplishes symbolic purposes. How most terrorists view their struggle as a cosmic war and the enemy then needs to be demonized and how religious violence empowers individuals (14).

Juergensmeyer discusses the militant and often violent Jews in Israel in his book. He says that they are defending a vision of Jewish society that has ancient roots. In an interview with Yoel Learner, who is a supporter of Yitzak Rabin's killer, Yigal Amir, he relates interesting insight about the motivations of these people. Learner believes that it is important to restore the ancient temple of Jerusalem and allow Jews to settle on the West Bank of the Jordan River. He believes also that the state government should be based on Biblical law. He is a follower of Messianic Zionism. A belief that the Messiah will come back after the temple is built and other conditions are met that are necessary for the return. He believes that Jewish control over Jerusalem is necessary. Learner thinks that Rabin's government was illegitimate because it was formed by liberal Jewish and Arab votes. That the anti-Jewishness of Rabin's policies were responsible for forfeiting Jewish authority and Rabin was guilty of treason for giving away Jewish land. Learner didn't like the growing secularism of the Israeli government under Rabin and other contemporary leaders.

Another person interviewed was Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the American Jewish Defense League and the right wing Kach Party in Israel. He also didn't want sacred West Bank land handed over to Palestinians. He is also a believer in Messianic Zionism and goes further to believe in "catastrophic messianism". This is the idea that the Messiah will come in a great conflict where Jews triumph. The problem is that the conditions aren't ready for the coming. He believes that the enemies of Israel, mainly the Arabs are standing in the way of establishing a biblical nation. He also believes that this particular land was designated, in the bible, by God for the Jewish people. Like Learner, he also detests the secular Jewish state in Israel.

A third man interviewed was Dr. Baruch Goldstein. He killed 30...
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