Reading Religion Open Salon with Mark Juergensmeyer

book cover - when god stops fighting
Mark Juergensmeyer
Sociologist and author Mark Juergensmeyer

 On February 8th, the Boniuk Institute’s Reading Religion Salon welcomed nearly 40 members of the Rice campus community to a special open salon session to discuss religious violence, both past and present, with Mark Juergensmeyer, a sociologist of religion and author of When God Stops Fighting: How Religious Violence Ends.

During an informative interview led by Boniuk Institute Graduate Scholar Eduard van der Merwe, Jurgensmeyer shared his perspective on how religious conflicts start and end, and offered comments on how his research on religious violence related to the current Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. Jurgensmeyer suggested that religious conflicts come to an end when both sides maintain a balance of equal power and are able to understand the opposing side's worldview.  Religious violence fades when participants lose faith in leadership, there is a fracture in the structure of the organization, or alternate opportunities are realized, often through compromise or the conveying of hope for social, political, and economic opportunities.

When asked about how to maintain peace after religious conflicts come to an end, Juergensmeyer said that sustaining peace is difficult, as people will always have fanatical ideas, however there are ways that these ideas can be transformed and lived with.

Following the interview, van der Merwe led a discussion of When God Stops
, in which salon attendees commented on some of the strategies, stories, and resolutions outlined in the book. One highlight from this discussion was how the idea of “cosmic war” makes it difficult to distinguish between innocent and non-innocent individuals, thus leading to an inability to see war casualties as victims or even humans.

The robust discussion of Dr. Mark Jurgensmeyer’s When God Stops Fighting provided ample opportunity for salon scholars and Rice community guests to voice questions and consider various viewpoints about religious violence and its end, especially in regards to current international conflicts.