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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 7, Issue 1, 2019

Religion and Terrorism

James R. Lewis
Pages 44-54
DOI: 10.5840/jrv201941763

Monolithic Inferences
Misinterpreting AUM Shinrikyo

In the study of religion and terrorism, one of the most familiar incidents is the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. With the execution of Shoko Asahara and his close associates in the summer of 2018, it would appear that the last chapter in this tragic tale has finally been written. I would argue, however, that there are still lessons to be learned from this event. In the present article, I describe the complexity of the epistemic situation in which I found myself when I finally met AUM Shinrikyo in the spring of 1995. In addition to misunderstandings arising from monolithic inferences regarding AUM’s membership, I came to feel that certain anomalous items of information were swept under the rug—information that hinted at a more complex array of factors influencing AUM Shinrikyo and the subway attack.