Special Issue "In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2022) | Viewed by 9216

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Michael Staudigl
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Interests: (religious) violence; fundamentalism; war; intersection of religion, ethics, and politics; methodological inspiration by the phenomenological tradition
Prof. Dr. Olga Louchakova-Schwartz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Medicine, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA
Interests: religious experience; comparative phenomenology and philosophy of religion; illuminationism; Vedanta; Husserl
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Jason Alvis
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Interests: philosophy of religion; phenomenology; cultural theory/social philosophy; continental philosophy; political theology; theories and methods in religion; 20th century (Christian) systematic theology; violence studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Recent advances in the study of religion have successfully demonstrated the positive, community-building potential of religious experience in terms of its material/performative practices, psychological models of coping with pain/crisis, and embodied habits that help individuals establish more co-creative forms of reason in order to develop more grounded social imaginaries and epistemologies.

Without disregarding or disagreeing with the innumerable potential effects and benefits of having and creating religious experiences, we wish to focus more so on how the irrevocable ambivalence of religious experience simultaneously can lead it to bear its discontents and negative socialities, namely, in the forms of hostility, violence, and revenge. Although violence is not the necessary product of hostility, it always looms as a threat and is often motivated by various processes of enmification.  And although revenge is not a necessary response to some preceding act of violence, individuals and groups quite often resort to it in order to appease aggrieved individuals and parties. Of course, this trifecta of hostility, violence, and revenge very often is invoked in political activities irrespective of religious traditions and engagements. Yet in all too many cases, this trifecta becomes even more pronounced due to the ways and means individuals and groups have, and choose to have, religious experiences and use religious narratives to justify violent responses.   

Can we phenomenologically describe the core motivations for why hostility, violence, or revenge are too frequently preferred over peaceful interactions and phronetic engagements with others?  Does a certain entitlement or perverse freedom arise from a sense of representing divine power, stemming from unconditional claims that are promoted “in the name of” a transcendent principle? To what degree does the dialectic between purity and compromise play a role in the will to act violently towards others who one deems to embody a “threat of disorder,” a stain of impurity, or are simply passed by indifferently? Could the clear-cut orders of “the sacred” and “the secular” possibly contribute to deepening an age-old dualism or desire for equilibrium through revenge? Further, if religious experience does not necessarily invite the irrational (or on the contrary, hyper-rational) responses of seeking the harm, injury, or “correction” of others, in what way do forms of religious experience contribute to the (re)production of negative socialities that revolve around imaginations of threat and disorder? What kind of responsibilities might the presence of a non- or a-religious community or politic play in creating spaces of opposition and conflict?

In order to find constructive answers to such questions, we invite reference to the whole phenomenological movement, including post-phenomenology, hermeneutics, and deconstruction; historical and contemporary research with the engagement of phenomenology, theological phenomenology, experienced-based comparative studies like cultural anthropology of experience, qualitatively based sociology of religion; as well as theological and psychological perspectives that utilize phenomenological research methods. Abstract and paper proposals on the following topics would be most welcome:

– Critiques of the relationship between “religion” and “secularism” as a social, political, and epistemological separation that is prone to deepen habits of hostility, legitimize violence, and motivate revenge;

– Analyses of the role religious experience (and the discourse about it) might play in academic, social, and political discourse(s) on hostility, violence, or revenge;

– Developments of accounts of religious experience that clearly demonstrate its inherently ambiguous role in how it fundamentally is constitutive of the “human condition”;

– Depictions of the theologico-political undercurrents of late modern social imaginaries that nourish the habitus of “cultures of violence”;

– Descriptions of how the break-down of meaning in a) the maelstrom of globalization, b) the advent of apathy and indifference in a modernity spinning out of control, and c) the social construction of murderous consent to neoliberal exploitation and the resulting nihilism of a commodified society committed to the myth of progress have all influenced religious communities and their contemporary self-understanding.

Prof. Dr. Michael Staudigl
Prof. Dr. Olga Louchakova-Schwartz
Dr. Jason Alvis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • phenomenology
  • philosophy of religion
  • religious experience
  • religious violence
  • religious emotion
  • social imaginaries
  • cultures of violence
  • neoliberalism
  • exploitation
  • human condition
  • homo religiosus
  • secularism
  • first person authority
  • intersubjectivity
  • power

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Political Violence and Instrumental Use of Religion in the Works of Carl Schmitt and Walter Benjamin
Religions 2022, 13(10), 917; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100917 - 30 Sep 2022
Viewed by 534
Abstract
Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt were active in the interwar period, a very difficult time in the history of Germany. The issues of violence, war, and the role of religion in public affairs were of vast importance for both men. I want to [...] Read more.
Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt were active in the interwar period, a very difficult time in the history of Germany. The issues of violence, war, and the role of religion in public affairs were of vast importance for both men. I want to show that, in relation to the issues of religion and political theology, both favored instrumentalizing religious concepts in the name of their own political ideas. Schmitt used Catholicism to establish the so-called concrete order, and Benjamin used Judaism to promote Marxist and anarchist ideas of liberation. That means they were more interested in earthly affairs than in having mystical religious experiences or exploring metaphysical concepts of God and the afterworld. I believe that the instrumental use of theology and religion in the works of Schmitt and Benjamin could indicate that theology was then and is now in a big crisis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Framing the Intentions of Suicide Bombers
Religions 2022, 13(9), 864; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090864 - 16 Sep 2022
Viewed by 698
Abstract
Despite the extensive information known about suicide bombings, widely-varying intentions have been used by many scholars to explain the religious motivations for the violence: these events are framed by participants as religious experiences, raising complex questions about the relationship between religious experience and [...] Read more.
Despite the extensive information known about suicide bombings, widely-varying intentions have been used by many scholars to explain the religious motivations for the violence: these events are framed by participants as religious experiences, raising complex questions about the relationship between religious experience and violence. Recent studies use the vocabulary of religious studies—sacrifice, martyr, witness—to locate “cultures of violence” in a specific psychic structure, in a specific religion, or in religion in general; this paper compares three major studies that are representative of contemporary debate about religious experience. Ivan Strenski’s approach offers the broadest view, grounding suicide bombings in specific Islamic shaping of religious experience by a (non-normative) view of self-sacrifice emboldened by notions of jihad. Gideon Aran reconstructs a much narrower frame, a mutual attachment by bombers and their enemies around motivations from the redemptive capacity of blood (spilling and collecting). Ruth Stein psychoanalyzes the mind of a specific suicide bomber, Mohammed Atta, locating a complex web of love and hate as a motivation. These studies, each in a different way, demonstrate just how elusive the intentions of bombers remain and the sheer range of frameworks that might illuminate the aims of individuals who engage in suicide bombings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Between Religion and Psychotherapy: Responses to Violence in a Secular Age
Religions 2022, 13(9), 860; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090860 - 15 Sep 2022
Viewed by 701
Abstract
The aim of my article is to present and critique two different approaches to the problem of violence. On the one hand, I will discuss the religious standpoint present in the deliberations of the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. On the other hand, I [...] Read more.
The aim of my article is to present and critique two different approaches to the problem of violence. On the one hand, I will discuss the religious standpoint present in the deliberations of the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. On the other hand, I will examine the secular concept of ethically-oriented psychoanalysis by the American psychiatrist, Robert Drozek. Both thinkers, as I will show, take an exclusivist position towards the question of the moral transformation of human beings. According to Taylor, only a religious perspective, based on the recognition of a transcendent good, is capable of liberating man from the drive towards violence. In his opinion, the secular approach represented by various forms of psychotherapy is insufficient in this respect, because it eschews moral–spiritual language. Drozek, on the other hand, believes that it is psychoanalysis and not religion that can be healing for us. In this paper I will argue for an inclusive position, according to which both religion and ethically-oriented psychoanalysis have transformative potential. I will try to show that the exclusivism of Taylor and Drozek is not tenable, and that the religious and secular perspectives they represent need not be seen as being in opposition to each other. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Phenomenology of Immanence. Doxography on the “Idea of God” (Descartes, Kant, Schelling, Levinas)
Religions 2022, 13(8), 755; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080755 - 19 Aug 2022
Viewed by 627
Abstract
This article describes the history of modern metaphysics as the history of the immanentization of transcendence. We show this from the concept of the “idea of god”, which is the phenomenon that violently separates subjectivity from transcendence and opens up a tear in [...] Read more.
This article describes the history of modern metaphysics as the history of the immanentization of transcendence. We show this from the concept of the “idea of god”, which is the phenomenon that violently separates subjectivity from transcendence and opens up a tear in it that we call “psycho-theological”: the divine violently leaves a trace in us by its very distance. We describe this phenomenon by means of a study of four archives: Descartes’ third Metaphysical Meditations (1641), the refutation of the cosmological proof of the existence of God in Kant’s Transcendental Dialectic in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781–87), Schelling’s commentary on this Kant’s text in his Introduction to the lectures on Philosophy of Revelation (1841), and the traces of Descartes’ third Meditation in the work of Levinas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Religious Experience in the First-Person Perspective: The Lived Body and Perception of Reality
Religions 2022, 13(8), 704; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080704 - 31 Jul 2022
Viewed by 798
Abstract
The first-person perspective, developed by Husserl for the scientific study of consciousness, consists of formal categories which can be used both for the analyses of consciousness as such and its concrete forms. Evidence (Evidenz), the central category in this approach, characterizes [...] Read more.
The first-person perspective, developed by Husserl for the scientific study of consciousness, consists of formal categories which can be used both for the analyses of consciousness as such and its concrete forms. Evidence (Evidenz), the central category in this approach, characterizes consciousness as knowledge. This paper presents the phenomenology of changes in perception and embodiment which lead to evidence for religious/spiritual experience (RE). Such change develops over time via contemplative practice, but also can be a part of spontaneous RE. Because of the presence of evidence, RE containing the change of perception are presentational (as distinct from appresentative). This temporally extended evidence concerns reality’s giving of itself, granted that the main distinction between religious and non-religious experience is in the kind of reality to which they refer: physical in the case of non-religious, and ‘ultimate’ in the case of religious experience. Involving flesh and the reversibility of the body, the change in such complex RE also entails the transmutation of emotion from negative to positive. I compare these findings with Husserl’s analysis of religious experience in HUA XVII, and argue that grounding religious experience in the preconceived idea of God, as Husserl does, limits RE to regressive forms which do not constitute knowledge. Such experiences remain teleologically directed at the world-horizon. By contrast, REs grounded in change of perception have a different teleology and do constitute knowledge. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Locating Religious Violence in the Spiritual Constitution of Experience
Religions 2022, 13(7), 649; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070649 - 14 Jul 2022
Viewed by 519
Abstract
This work sought to address the question of where religious violence is located in our constitution of experience, so as to show how transcendental phenomenology can help us begin to better understand religious violence. The paper begins with an outline of four distinct [...] Read more.
This work sought to address the question of where religious violence is located in our constitution of experience, so as to show how transcendental phenomenology can help us begin to better understand religious violence. The paper begins with an outline of four distinct levels of phenomenological analysis provided by transcendental phenomenology. It then relates those four levels to religious experience, showing that religious violence can refer to violence occurring on all four of those levels. In doing so, it also shows that “religious experience” can refer both to particular experiences we call ‘religious’ and to a dimension of all experiencing. Finally, the paper ends with the suggestion that religious communities wishing to address the question of religious violence must pay attention both to the spiritual force that animates them and to the cultural context in which they express that force. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Praying Together, Hating Together—Transforming Hostility through the Effective Direction of Religious Communitarization
Religions 2022, 13(7), 630; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070630 - 07 Jul 2022
Viewed by 637
Abstract
Perceived belonging to a community is one of the most frequently given reasons for the regularity of religious practice. However, it also plays a key role in the practice of religious violence. The paper addresses the relationship between felt belonging, which is established [...] Read more.
Perceived belonging to a community is one of the most frequently given reasons for the regularity of religious practice. However, it also plays a key role in the practice of religious violence. The paper addresses the relationship between felt belonging, which is established in shared religious experiences, and different expressions of religious hostility. By means of a phenomenological analysis based on the work of Bernhard Waldenfels, the author distinguishes between different modes of religious self-localization. On the one hand, the performative moments of religious practices are reconstructed, unfolding their effect even in regular and less intensive experiences. On the other hand, the intrinsically shared nature of religious assemblies becomes describable, which includes the co-actors in the process of religious self-constitution. Due to the existential and shared nature of this self-constitution, violent affects appear to be group-directed, which particularly encourages the self-sacrificial behavior that seems to distinguish religious violence. This methodological focus on performative communitarization keeps the study also interoperable with a variety of meaning-based theories, promoting phenomenology as a resourceful method for a philosophical division of labor. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
‘This Is Our Testimony to the Whole World’: Quaker Peace Work and Religious Experience
Religions 2022, 13(7), 623; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070623 - 06 Jul 2022
Viewed by 667
Abstract
Quakers express their faith by refraining from war, often actively opposing it. In modern Quakerism, this is known as the ‘Peace Testimony’. This commonly has a negative and positive construal: it is seen as a testimony against war, and as a testimony to [...] Read more.
Quakers express their faith by refraining from war, often actively opposing it. In modern Quakerism, this is known as the ‘Peace Testimony’. This commonly has a negative and positive construal: it is seen as a testimony against war, and as a testimony to the possibility and goodness of peaceful lives. This paper offers an account of how these aspects of the Peace Testimony are unified in and grounded on a corporate experience of being led by God into a way of life that renders war unthinkable. My goal is to make sense of Friends’ activism in light of their religious experience and to introduce some ideas from Quaker practical theology to philosophers and theologians more generally. I begin by considering the role of what Rachel Muers calls ‘negative testimony’ in Quaker peace work, arguing that we risk misunderstanding this work if we do not see the unity of the Peace Testimony’s negativity and Friends’ positive peace-making endeavors. I then turn to the Testimony’s ground, which I claim can be nothing other than an experience of direct revelation. I conclude by arguing that prominent objections to pacifism, such as Elizabeth Anscombe’s, hold little weight against the Peace Testimony. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
The Puzzle of Revenge
Religions 2022, 13(5), 444; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050444 - 16 May 2022
Viewed by 736
Abstract
We pursue a multi-leveled phenomenological exploration of revenge. Revenge’s puzzle is to give an account of what exactly revenge accomplishes when it apparently cannot alter the past or remedy the initiating harm. The structure of revenge consists of one harmed, the perception of [...] Read more.
We pursue a multi-leveled phenomenological exploration of revenge. Revenge’s puzzle is to give an account of what exactly revenge accomplishes when it apparently cannot alter the past or remedy the initiating harm. The structure of revenge consists of one harmed, the perception of harm and suffering, and one perceived as responsible for the harm. The situation is apperceived as a negatively saturated experience; as such, it binds and has a hold on the one harmed, constituting her as enthralled. Revenge seeks to remedy the situation by the intentional act of objectifying, constituting, and finitizing the infinite situation. This is accomplished by constituting the guilty one as guilty, thereby mastering, in some measure, the saturated situation. We suggest that the realm and machinery required for this process is found in the realm of the imagination, where similarity and association of ideas and concepts are at play. Saturation plays at the edge of this realm as alien. It is by way of the familiar and constituted that the alien is tamed, and revenge puts the situation to “rest”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
Article
Nietzsche and Levinas against Innocence
Religions 2022, 13(4), 314; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040314 - 02 Apr 2022
Viewed by 840
Abstract
There cannot perhaps be two more polarly opposed philosophers than Friedrich Nietzsche and Emmanuel Levinas, and yet when it comes to instituting moral ideals or establishing moral principles, they both paradoxically converge in suspecting them as pretenses to a false innocence. They do, [...] Read more.
There cannot perhaps be two more polarly opposed philosophers than Friedrich Nietzsche and Emmanuel Levinas, and yet when it comes to instituting moral ideals or establishing moral principles, they both paradoxically converge in suspecting them as pretenses to a false innocence. They do, however, differ concerning why such innocence is dangerous. Nietzsche sees innocence as a disguise covering violence, power, and an attempt at domination, crippling the self and destroying human relationships. For Levinas, innocence is claimed as a method of exempting oneself from responsibility. Each philosopher recommends ways of evading the pitfalls of innocence. Contrasts will be drawn between the two authors, inquiring how they might benefit from the other’s critique of such pretenses to moral innocence and critically evaluating their strategies for escaping the dangers of such pretenses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Shadows of Religious Experience: Hostility, Violence, Revenge)
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