“Does Religion Cause Violence?”

William T. Cavanaugh, Senior Research Professor at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, and Professor of Catholic Studies, DePaul University, Chicago:

Based on his book The Myth of Religious Violence (Oxford University Press, 2009), Cavanaugh will argue that the idea that there is something called “religion” that has a tendency toward violence is a piece of secularist folklore that in fact underwrites violence on behalf of Western social orders. The myth of religious violence helps construct a religious “other,” prone to fanaticism, to contrast with the rational, peacemaking secular subject. In domestic politics, the myth underwrites the triumph of the state over the church in the early modern period, and the nation-state’s subsequent monopoly on its citizens’ willingness to sacrifice and kill. In foreign policy, the myth of religious violence reinforces the superiority of Western social orders to non-secular—especially Muslim—social orders.

September 15, 2010, 7:00 p.m., Room 331, Smith Hall, 207 Pleasant Street SE, University of Minnesota

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