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Searching for the Link between Religion and Violence by Means of the Thomas-Theorem

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Current religious violence is a challenge to students of religions. Do we need categories like “cult,” “fundamentalism,” or “terrorism” in order to distinguish it from allegedly “genuine” and peaceful religion? Do monotheistic religions—with their exclusive claims to truth—necessarily generate intolerance? Sociologists have demonstrated conclusively that every action is based on a definition of the situation. Social actors do not put a norm or a model into practice independent of the immediate context of action. I argue that this holds true for religious actors as well. It is not the personal motive of actors, but the religious meanings they attribute to a conflict of their faith community, which is crucial for understanding religious violence.

Affiliations: 1: Jacobs University P.O. Box 750 561, 28725 Bremen Germany, Email:


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