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1. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Margo Kitts, James Lewis Suicide, Martyrdom, and Violence: Introduction to Journal of Religion and Violence, Volume 6, Issue 2
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2. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
James R. Lewis A Burning Faith in the Master: Interpreting the 1.23 Incident
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Falun Gong (FLG) is a qi gong group that entered into conflict with the Chinese state around the turn of the century, and gradually transformed into a political movement. Qi gong, in turn, is an ancient system of exercises that have been compared with yoga, though qi gong exercises more closely resemble the gentle, meditative movements of Tai Chi. Falun Gong was founded in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by Li Hongzhi (LHZ) in 1992, in the latter part of what has been termed the qi gong “boom.” As the leadership of the PRC became increasingly critical of the traditional folk religion and superstition that was emerging within some of the qi gong groups, Li Hongzhi and his family emigrated to the United States. From the safety of his new country of residence, LHZ directed his Chinese followers to become increasingly belligerent, eventually staging a mass demonstration in front of government offices in Beijing on 25 April 1999. The movement was subsequently banned.
3. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
George D. Chryssides Suicide, Suicidology, and Heaven’s Gate
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There are insufficient examples of collective religious suicides such as Heaven’s Gate (1997) to enable firm explanation when considered on their own. One must therefore look beyond such religious groups, drawing on the contribution of suicidology. Since Durkheim’s analysis of suicide relates principally to individuals, the phenomenon of suicide pacts affords a better model for explaining the phenomenon. Suicide pacts typically involve using poison, and the Heaven’s Gate group employed Derek Humphry’s precise recommendations for this. Suicide pacts involve mutual trust, and hence discussion is given to the way in which a charismatic leader secures group loyalty, typically asserting superhuman status, drawing on a pool of potential supporters, securing assent rather than discussion, and isolating the group from conventional reality. Although the ideas of leader Marshall Herff Applewhite seem irrational compared with conventional worldviews, his teachings had an inner logic that the group found persuasive.
4. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Carole M. Cusack Self-Murder, Sin, and Crime: Religion and Suicide in the Middle Ages
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From around 1000 CE, evidence for suicide in the West becomes more plentiful. Sources include chronicles, legal records, saints’ lives, and other religious texts. Motivations for suicide are familiar: “bereavement, poverty, and sudden disgrace or dismissal from a high post,” and some “suicides without obvious external motive” which clerics focused on, as they viewed acedia (apathy) as demonic (Alexander Murray, “Suicide in the Middle Ages,” 3). Among Christian objections to suicide are that it deprived lords of their property, it offended against humanity, it was linked to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, and it violated the commandment “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20: 13). Religious aspects of suicide motivations and punishments are here examined in terms of victims and perpetrators. Émile Durkheim’s sociology, which foregrounds anomie, dialogues with medieval historians to argue that suicide as a sin against God outweighed secular ideas of crime, and that claims of lenience toward women and those driven to self-murder are overstated.
5. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Mary Storm Speculation on Hindu Self-Sacrifice Imagery at Nalgonda
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This is a study of ca. 13th–14th century self-sacrificial memorial stones (vīrakkal) from Nalgonda, India. Suicide is usually condemned, but sometimes accepted as self-sacrifice, during periods of social upheaval or religious crisis. The article asks why and when voluntary death was accepted in the medieval Indian culture of the Deccan Plateau. The hero stones discussed here probably represent Hindu Vīraśaiva worshippers. Hindu monotheistic Śaiva Vīraśaivism originated in The South-West of the Indian Deccan Plateau in the 10–11th centuries, then travelled to the Southeast of the Deccan by the 13th–14th centuries. Vīraśaivism (“The Heroic Worship of Śiva”) reflects distinctive elements of medieval South India. It upended Brahmanical authority, gender and caste exclusions, and it reflected the merger of the transgressive religious devotionalism of Tantra and Bhakti. Vīraśaivism also reflected the social, and biological stressors of the day, such as Hindu inter-sectarian tensions, Muslim invasions, civil warfare, famine, and epidemic disease.
6. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Paul Middleton The “‘Noble Death” of Judas Iscariot: A Reconsideration of Suicide in the Bible and Early Christianity
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This essay problematizes the often repeated claim that Jewish and Christian traditions have always and unambiguously opposed suicide. By examining the suicide narratives in the Hebrew Bible and late Second Temple texts, alongside early Christian martyr texts which demonstrate not only enthusiasm for death, but suicide martyrdom, I argue that many Jewish and Christian self-killings conform to Greco-Roman patterns Noble Death. Finally, I consider the death of Judas Iscariot, and having removed any a priori reason to interpret his suicide negatively, I argue Matthew’s account of his self-killing compares favourably with Luke’s narrative, in which he is the victim of divine execution. Moreover, I conclude that Matthew’s main concern is to transfer the blame for Jesus’ death from Judas to the Jewish authorities, and that he has Judas impose on himself to the appropriate and potentially expiatory penalty for his action. Thus, I conclude, even Judas’s iconic suicide can be read quite plausibly as an example of Noble Death.
7. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Margo Kitts The Martys and Spectacular Death: From Homer to the Roman Arena
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The notion of a martyr, or martys, has undergone a significant conceptual shift since its first attestation in the Iliad, where the martyroi are those witnesses who punish oath-violators with gruesome deaths rather than those who suffer gruesome deaths, as in later usage. This essay traces the conceptual shift of the Greek term martys from the Homeric precedent through the Book of Revelation. Then it explores the visual focus on dying in the Iliad and in ancient martyr texts, as well as some rhetorical means for conveying it. It concludes with a glance at some common ritual features between the Iliad’s oath-sacrifices and Christian martyr spectacles.
book reviews
8. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
John T. Sidel Religious Violence and Conciliation in Indonesia: Christians and Muslims in the Moluccas. By Sumanto Al Qurtuby
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9. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
P. G. T. Nanninga Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State. By Olivier Roy
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10. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 2
Iselin Frydenlund Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities: Religious Conflict in Contemporary Sri Lanka. Edited by John Clifford Holt
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