Religion, Nationalism, and International Security: Creation Myths and Social Mechanisms

Authored by: Philip S. Gorski , Gülay Türkmen-Dervis¸ogȈlu


Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415667449
eBook ISBN: 9780203102312
Adobe ISBN: 9781136239328


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The tri-partite relationship of religion, nationalism, and security is currently obscured by two myths. The first is what William Cavanaugh (2009) has dubbed “the myth of religious violence.” According to this myth, religion is always a source of violence, and secularism is always a source of peace; complete privatization of religion is therefore the only solution to the problem of sectarian conflict. The second is what Anthony Smith and others have called the “modernist theory of nationalism” (Smith 1998). According to this myth, nationalism is a specifically modern phenomenon which replaces religion as a source of integration in secularized societies. In the first half of this chapter, we will show why both of these myths are myths, and in both the historical and anthropological senses of the term: they are at odds with the historical record, but serve to legitimate a certain cultural world view, namely, the kind of philosophical liberalism advanced by political theorists like John Rawls.

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