Robert Griffin's Terrorist's Creed
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Mon Jun 24, 2013 at 11:50:06 AM EST
The recent book by Roger Griffin, named Terrorist's Creed and subtitled Fanatical Violence and the Human Need for Meaning, is a tirelessly researched book by this UK professor.
I had expected  to find a general theme about the fringes of all religions and how they all contain adherents who practice violence and bloodshed.  I found an interesting explanation of the motivations and birthplaces of many of the terrorists around the globe. His research on Chechen terrorism is timely and sheds light on the domestic  problems our own nation recently faced. The work is wordy and at times repetitive in manuscript.  It is a hard read and not one that is easily breezed through.  However, the research is there and the expert analysis is not lacking.  

One item I found intriguing is his case about the void in religion, not religion itself that gives birth to terrorism.  His quotes from T.S. Eliot and Carl Jung provide some revelation into the new world.  The quotes state:  "But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before:  though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.  Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has never happened before                   That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason, And them Money, and Power, and  what they call Life, or Race or Dialectic.  Jung put it:  Our fearsome gods have only changed their name:  They now rhyme with ism'."

It was Joseph Goebbels , the political architect of the Third Reich, who stated National Socialism is my religion and we need a new one in Germany.  He stated German battles were like a church service.   Thus German churches were a mere footnote to a larger quest for meaning found in National Socialism.  

In the book Alain Badiou is noted by the statement, "In this sense, the violence of Nazis, Bolsheviks and Maoists can be seen as heirs of Nietzsche's  `Dionysian modernism'." Griffin makes the case over and over again that the void created by Nietzsche, Sartre, and Existentialism all led to the void of meaning in the Western world.  In Russia, terrorists formed to defeat the Tsar and create a new utopia.  The theme of creating a utopia is a common thread in terrorism.  The meaningless existence of Western man often comes to a resting place in utopia.  To find utopia the ends justifies the means and violence and racial purging are justified to bring about the new world.  Time Magazine has an interesting recent story of an Eastern nation where Buddhist terrorists are practicing violence against Muslims to purge the nation and protect it from the new changes Islam brings to the region.  Much of these movements are not motivated by religion as much as it is change and utopia that are birthing violence and suicide bombings.

Another study that explains school violence and terrorism is the study about finding a meaningful existence in the world.  Again, with Nietzsche's proposals, the loss of meaning has led to acts of terror.  The character played by Robert Deniro  in Taxi is mentioned in the book.  The taxi driver, fresh from a tour in Viet Nam searches for meaning in his existence.  His trek leads him to seek to attack the degenerates he finds in the world.  He finds a purpose for existence and meaning for his life in planned acts of violence.  He finds a reason for his life and is rewarded for it.

Creed writes; "It should thus reassure those of hale and hearty ontological disposition to find that several contributors to terrorism studies endorse this approach by attributing the origins of terrorist commitment as least in part to profound, even desperate, longings for ontological security."

Students of the Religious Right might be reminded of a button I once saw.  It stated the Religious Right is not religious or right. A case can be made that the movement is birthed in the cultural changes, immigration, and hunger for meaning in the world.  It appears distant from the Gospels and the Sermon on the Mount is never mentioned.  If the Bible is noted it is just to remind followers to be salt.  To the Religious Right, this means political activity.  Richard Land kept reminding his followers to be "salt."  Land and his group found that using fear to motivate a crowd worked well.  Many in the movement have found meaning in their own quest for utopia.  Strangely, the Christian idea of utopia is not found in this life.

The book does go into other motives and connects religious zeal to violence.  Griffin traces the original terrorists plots to those coming from Jewish zealots in Jesus time.

by wilkyjr on Mon Jun 24, 2013 at 11:53:44 AM EST

Thanks for the tip. In my own research on the continuing readership and reception of Jane Lead, an obscure yet surprisingly enduring apocalyptic writer of the late 17th century, I've noticed that interest in religious utopia, revolution and apocalypticism correlates with sweeping changes in society, culture, and increasingly, technology, when meaning and the cultural narratives we use to construct meaning are completely in flux. I'll have to check this book out to see if it might provide some more theoretical framing for what I'm doing. Most of the groups who have read the author I'm researching have been relatively benign, but some of her prophecies were picked up by the Latter Rain during the mid-20th century and some of these concepts were later incorporated into the New Apostolic Reformation.  And as readers of this blog know, the NAR is anything but benign, at least in its aspirations.

by ulyankee on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 09:15:56 AM EST

Contemporary TV personalities like Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impee have found an audience with the current trends in Western Culture.

by wilkyjr on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 12:27:46 PM EST

In recent years I have been trying to develop a better understanding of why many of the same groups that are most deeply obsessed with apocalyptic literature and prophecy from a "biblical" viewpoint also engage in active denial of the very real threat of catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale due to climate change. One of the distinctions that I have noted is that the End Times preachers seem to want, indeed long for, the pending destruction, while those who warn of massive suffering and loss from climate disruption are trying to slow the process and mitigate the effects.

What sort of person anticipates with glee the prospect of billions of deaths of humans and other species? What kind of god do they worship, and how have they derived that god from the teachings of Jesus? And if they DON'T derive their god from Jesus' teachings, why do they call themselves Christian? Every time I think I have a bit of the puzzle figured out, more questions arise. But it seems to me to be questions that demand our attention. Survival of life as we know it on planet earth depends on how we answer, and what actions we take.

by MLouise on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 03:33:28 PM EST

"What sort of person anticipates with glee the prospect of billions of deaths of humans and other species?"

The type of person who is alienated from society at large.

"What kind of god do they worship,..."


"and how have they derived that god from the teachings of Jesus?"

Jesus himself condemned entire towns to hell because they doubted his miracles. ( Matthew 11:20-23)

"And if they DON'T derive their god from Jesus' teachings, why do they call themselves Christian?"

For the same reason that the Apostle Paul's followers considered themselves "Christians". There were many different kinds of Christianity back then as there are today.

by Villabolo on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 09:07:08 PM EST
This is not the place to debate theology. That's outside the scope of this website. But I do want to note that the questions I listed are starting points for study and reflection, and I find that they lead to much more nuance and complexity than your response implies. Effectively countering the Christian Right requires far more than simply condemning their belief system. That strategy merely puts us in the same class with Boykin and his ilk. We need to understand what makes it so attractive, and then offer a different way of thinking and believing which is even more attractive and at the same time is respectful of all persons and beneficial for the common good.

by MLouise on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 10:11:54 PM EST
that is respectful of all people - it is Secular Humanism which they demonize.

As for avoiding theology that is outright impossible in view of the fact that their way of thinking is embedded in the theological.

We need to realize and acknowledge that both the New Testament and the "Old" Testament are authoritarian in nature and that these people act accordingly. The only way to convince them otherwise is to realize that they'll have to replace their whole framework of thinking. In other words convert them to humanism.

That simply won't happen en masse unless there is major social disruption and their way of life is no longer tenable.

by Villabolo on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 12:28:22 AM EST

Ex-Con Jim is milking followers again, this time for end of times survival kits.

by wilkyjr on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 09:36:22 AM EST

And will continue to be until we can make sure that none of them are self fulfilled as the Plutocrats and Theocrats want to do in this country. Some think a regional to control state-by-state. Only time will tell.

by Nightgaunt on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 01:15:54 AM EST

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