Mark Juergensmeyer, author of the book “Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence” discussed his research on “religious terrorism” Feb. 7 to launch CSU Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) semester-long speaker series “Tolerance and Violence in the Mind of God.”
Juergensmeyer, a professor of sociology and director of global and international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is an expert in religious violence, conflict resolution, and the author of 22 books. His and other’s work served as inspiration for CSUDH’s speaker series, which explores the connection between religion and violence, solidarity, peacebuilding, and combating terrorism.
“The rise of religious and ethnic violence is a distinctive feature of the last 30 years. But the questions for me, and I suspect the questions for you all are, ‘Why religion, and why is it happening now?’” said Juergensmeyer to begin his talk, which provided insight and analysis of the function of religion in national and international life.
The questions served as segue into sharing his experience as a youth listening to sermons by traveling evangelists who visited his hometown, and how similar experiences influence ideology worldwide. “Who wouldn’t be excited or drawn into something that is bigger than you are?” he continued. “In all the movements that I’ve studied, there’s this appeal—for young people with messy lives in particular—to be invovled in a great cosmic war; a great battle against good and evil.”
CSUDH’s speaker series ‘Tolerance and Violence in the Mind of God’ will continue into April 2017.
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Juergensmeyer’s prowess as a writer and educator has enabled him to gain unparalleled access to those who support violence in the name of religion. He has interviewed 1993 World Trade Center bomber Mahmud Abouhalima; Christian Right activist Mike Bray; and Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin, among many others.
As his talk continued, Juergensmeyer focused on the expansion of terrorism since the 1980s, often in reference to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. He addressed the prevalence of terrorism and how it exists in nearly all religions to varying degrees, touching on the subway nerve gas attack in Tokyo, Japan, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the Oklahoma City bombing as it relates to the mindset of American national groups and individuals, such as Timothy McVeigh.