SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

Religious Violence Today: Faith and Conflict in the Modern World

ABC-CLIO. Jul. 2020. 900p. ed. by ed. by Michael Jerryson. ISBN 9781440859908. $204. REF
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Jerryson (philosophy & religious studies, Youngstown State Univ.; The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism) and 33 contributors consider hundreds of instances of recent (and historical) violence, perpetrated, and endured. The introduction cautions against comparing religions on a scale of violence; entries consider psychological, material, symbolic, and structural social oppression as well as physical harm. Jerryson claims that “the ten most-populated religions” were chosen for individual sections: African religion, Buddhism, Chinese religion, Christianity, Hinduism, (primarily Sunni) Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and new religious movements, followed by a section on state violence. (Jainism’s inclusion is debatable, as the peaceful, persecuted Bahá’í Faith, ignored here, has millions more adherents.) New religious movements include the Branch Davidians, Scientology, and Raëlians (but not, for example, Cao Dai, or Tenrikyo). Chapter overviews provide extensive historical background and context (including significantly different definitions of violence) for the instances then discussed in full entries. The summary of each religion’s ethics and tenets is as comprehensive as the analyses of violence. Although the work is aimed at nonspecialists, in several chapters language and references require background knowledge, and in some chapters the writing can be repetitive and confusing. There are quibbles (defining sangha as monastics; including the Malheur occupiers among new religious movements).
VERDICT Despite the lack of careful editing, especially in the African and Buddhism chapters, these generally nuanced, in-depth, and wide-ranging volumes should benefit postgraduates and general readers alike.

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