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Religion and violence

Level 6 - DT3060-02

The course will examine a range of issues bearing upon the relation of religion and violence mainly in recent scholarship.   

Religiously infused violence has become a feature of life at the present time, and the relation of religion and violence has become a matter of considerable public debate. Critics of ‘religion’ accuse it of being the source and cause of violence, and members of different religious traditions, partly under this pressure, examine the way in which their sacred texts, history and present life contain not only actual violence in the name of God, but also symbolic and ritual violence that in some measure appear to validate further religious violence. This course addresses these and related issues in a reflective and analytic way.

Topics covered

  • Introduction and preliminary readings and orientation
  • Religious violence, terrorism and the secular city
  • Violence in sacred texts
  • Monotheism and violence
  • Islam and violence
  • Religious non-violence: Tolstoy and Gandhi
  • A non-violent Jesus in a violent world: N. T. Wright
  • René Girard on violence, religion and scapegoating
  • ‘The Myth of Religious Violence’: W. T. Cavanaugh
  • Freud on the ‘primal murder’ and religion


Forum participation (10%); a two thousand-word essay (40%) and a 1.5-hour unseen written examination (50%).

Tutor in Religion: History and Doctrine

Tutor in Religion Dr John McDade

Dr John McDade - Tutor in Religion, Doctrine and History

John McDade was Senior Lecturer and Principal of Heythrop College, University of London. He became interested in theology because of what he saw as the urgent question about the relationship between ‘the historical Jesus’ and the Christ proclaimed by the Church.