Analyzing Away Religious Violence

Here’s an idea for a PhD thesis:

A major similarity between Christianity and Islam is the brutality and barbarism in their founding documents. The central difference, though, is that Christianity went through a process of enlightenment.

But by what philological and hermeneutic means did Christian theologians in the last 250 years manage to interpret away the brutality of the bible?

A possible title for a PhD Thesis might be:

  • Analyzing (Interpreting) Away Religious Violence in/from Theologically Founding Documents.

The formulation is certainly bumpy and tentative. And I myself don’t know enough about the different religions and their theological sources that I could be of any help. But from a semantic perspective it would certainly be interesting and valuable to inquire into the philological and hermeneutic methods by which Christian theologians paved the way to civilized religious belief. Given the international problems with Islam and the current migration crisis, the goal would be to develop a philosophical and philological suggestion that may also help Islam scholars to civilize the religious and political practices of their belief system.

Is this naïve? It sure is!

But in the face of the tremendous international problems with Islam it may well be worth a try.

So if you are studying philosophy, or theology, and if you are interested in philosophical semantics and hermeneutics this might be something for you. Feel free to use this idea at whatever university you’re studying.

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Addendum Sept. 13, 2015: In response to the here presented idea it has been suggested on Twitter that religious belief should rather be viewed as a psychopathological phenomenon and should either be treated accordingly, or otherwise be fought against, as in Richard Dawkins, for instance. I largely agree as to the psychopathology of religious belief today. In its beginning, however, religions may well have had some epistemological function, that is, they were somewhat tools for explaining the natural world. Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell  is still a valuable source in this respect. This thread, or undercurrent, may still be present in modern religious believers. And since religions do not seem to go away, even have regained influence since 9/11 both in the Christian and the Islamic world, it may be more promising to develop suggestions that can help civilize them than to wholesale discredit or outright fight them. To fight religious brutality and barbarism is the task of law enforcement in countries that function by the rule of democratic law, and, if necessary and backed by the UN, of military intervention, as in the case of Islamic terrorism. To civilize religious belief and practice, by contrast, may be a task of philosophy, even theology, and of the political sciences. It’s the latter which the present idea is meant to support.

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