Peace Blog

Course: Religion, Violence and Peace

Jeanine Diller, PH.D.

Course: Course: Religion, Violence and Peace

Instructor: DR. JEANINE DILLER, Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, The University of Toledo

Course numbers: PHIL 4900/REL 4380/PHIL 5920/LST 4980

Times: Fall 2017, Tuesdays from 4 to 6:45 pm.

Location: TBA.

Questions welcome: jeanine.diller@utoledo.edu

I have for some years assumed that Scott Appleby, Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame (Ambivalence of the Sacred), is right that (1) the way religion plays out in our world is ambivalent. As a powerful force of social cohesion—like social identities of many kinds such as nationality, ethnicity, etc.—it can be wielded for good or for harm or for lots of states in between. Vocal opponents of this position stress that, even if it might be ambivalent, religion’s overall impact is (2) mainly harmful or (3) mainly helpful. After clarifying key terms and exploring our own initial views about religion and violence, we will examine these three “benchmark” positions about it.

We will test these and other perspectives against some actual historical and current events generally alleged to be cases of religious violence and discuss whether these are real cases of religious violence, and, if so, as importantly, in what way or ways. We will be pointedly on the hunt for other factors (such as political, economic, psychological, etc.) that might be driving the violence, and will ask how religion might function to hide such factors, or aggravate them, or cause the conflict in its own right, etc. Recognizing that claims about causation are complicated even for strictly physical phenomena, I will invite graduate students and those undergraduates who opt in to explore work in philosophy of causation to inform these discussions.

We will also explore the variety of responses to the intersection of religious perspectives (exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism) and the growing domestic and international mobilization of especially inter-religious groups for good social and political purposes. We will supplement reading and discussion for this part of the course with a short community service learning component that allows students to witness how religion can be and is being put to work for social goals firsthand. Students will be invited to select for themselves the service time and location from a suggested list of options (or choose their own in consultation with the professor) as well as their role (observation or participation). Experts in various fields will join us some periods.

By the end of the course, I aim for students to be able to:

  • Explain and give examples of these concepts: religion, religions, violence, causation, terror, peace, peace-building, community-building, religious pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.
  • Recount at least three cases of allegedly religious violence and three cases of allegedly religious peace-/community-building.
  • Arrive at your own informed understanding about whether these are really cases of religious violence and peace-/community-building, and – as importantly — in what way(s). Be able to do this very deeply for the case you choose to focus on in your presentation.
  • Experience firsthand local cases of religious peace-/community-building, and reflect on them.
  • Offer a concrete idea for change in this field applicable personally, on campus or in the wider world.
  • Consider what all this makes you think of religion or religions.

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