"I will send my terror before you, and will throw into confusion all the people..." (Exodus 23:27).
This book sets out to explore why, in a few extreme instances, religion is used to justify terrorism. "Terror in the Mind of God" was published in 2000, before the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, but it is extremely relevant to today's headlines. The psyche of suicide bombers is explored, and the men who send them to their deaths are interviewed. The author also interviews actual terrorists (and/or their close associates) who perpetrated many acts of murder and destruction within the last two decades
The cultures of violence that the author treats in depth are: "Soldiers for Christ;" "Zion Betrayed (Judaism);" "Islam's `Neglected Duty';" "The Sword of Sikhism;" and "Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway (Buddhism)."
In the last five chapters of this book, the author attempts to explain the logic of religious violence. He maintains a very non-judgmental, even tone even when explaining the reasons behind the grisliest acts of terror. It was spooky to find myself nodding my head at Juergensmeyer's explanations of the terrorists' logic; `okay, so that's why they did it.' Taking a teen-ager who feels he has nothing to live for and everything to die for, and turning him into a human bomb seems like a relatively simple task for a religious zealot, now that I've read this book.
Fascinating and extremely frightening.
In one of the most interesting and hopeful parts of the book, Juergensmeyer turns his thesis on its head, and suggests that, "the entrance of religion into public life would help to leaven these negative influences [the use of terror to promote a religion]. Several thoughtful observers of Western society have suggested that indeed it might---if religion could enter the public arena in an undogmatic and unobtrusive way....what religion provides society is not just high-mindedness, but also a concern with the quality of life---a goal more ennobling than the simple accretion of power and possessions."
This book could change all of our lives, if we let it.