The recent debate on the relation between certain religious traditions and violence has offered us multiple perspectives on this issue. Some scholars accept the conflictual image of religion in the contemporary time projected by the media, seeking the reason for religion’s supposedly violent nature. Some scholars have completely rejected the association between violence and religion, defending religion against what they see as a myth. Faced with difficulty reaching any consensus, R. Scott Appleby addresses the complexity of the phenomenon through the notion of ambivalence. His approach accommodates the revolutionary moments of religion and offers us a comprehensive perspective on the violence used by religious actors. In this paper, however, I will argue that Appleby fails to distinguish between violence on an ontological level and violence as means to achieve justice. I will introduce the notion of ambivalence as it appears in Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy to construct an alternative theory about religion’s ambivalent attitude towards violence, where violence is limited to its role in justice but is yet transcended by religious infinite love. With this extended meaning of ambivalence, I will be able to confirm that the interhuman encounter implied in one’s relation to the sacred should be prioritised in addressing religious violence.
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