The Frazerian roots of contemporary theories of religion and violence

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Abstract

The association of religion with violence rather than with peace long antedates 9/11. Among theorists of religion, the association goes back at least to J.G. Frazer, author of the classic The Golden Bough (first ed. 1890). Contemporary theorists who tic religion to violence are beholden to Frazer, even when they spurn any dependence. At the same time the function of religious violence for contemporary theorists has shifted from control over the physical world to control over the social world. That shift typifies the overall shift from a nineteenth-century approach to religion to a twentieth-century one. This article considers two of the most prominent contemporary theorists who connect religion to violence: Rene Girard and Walter Burkert. How they at once depend on Frazer and break with him is the subject of this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-25
Number of pages22
JournalReligion
Volume37
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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