Watch Thinking About Religion and Violence

  • 2018
  • 1 Season

Thinking About Religion and Violence is an engaging and thought-provoking course available in The Great Courses Signature Collection. The course explores the complex relationship between religious beliefs and violent actions throughout history and seeks to answer the question of why religion can sometimes lead to violent behavior.

Presented by Jason C. Bivins, a Professor of Religious Studies at North Carolina State University, this course is divided into 24 lectures, each approximately 30 minutes long. Bivins is an expert in the fields of American religion, race, and popular culture, and his extensive knowledge and experience in the subject matter are evident throughout the course.

The lectures are organized thematically and cover what religion is, different forms of violence and their definitions, The Crusades, The Inquisition, The Salem Witch Trials, terrorism, and religiously motivated violence, among other topics. Bivins provides historical and contemporary examples of religious violence in different cultures and societies and explores the motives, justifications, and outcomes of these actions.

One of the recurring themes of the course is the relationship between religion and power. Bivins discusses how religious beliefs have been used throughout history to justify violent actions and to assert dominance over other beliefs and cultures. He also discusses how non-religious ideologies, such as nationalism, have taken on religious-like qualities and have been used to justify violent actions.

The course also examines how religious beliefs have been twisted and manipulated for political purposes, including the exploitation of religious texts and doctrines to justify acts of aggression and war. Bivins challenges listeners to think critically about how individuals and groups can manipulate religious beliefs to achieve their goals.

Another significant theme of the course is the role of the media in shaping our perceptions of religion and violence. Bivins emphasizes the importance of being aware of the ways the media can skew our understanding of different religious groups and cultures, particularly in the context of violent events. He stresses that critical thinking and questioning are crucial to understanding the complicated relationship between religion and violence.

Overall, Thinking About Religion and Violence is an in-depth and insightful course that presents a balanced and nuanced understanding of the complex relationship between religion and violent behavior. Bivins is an engaging and knowledgeable presenter, and his lectures are rich in historical context and contemporary examples. The course challenges listeners to think more deeply about the ways religious beliefs can be used to justify violence and how critical thinking and questioning can help us to better understand our world.

Thinking About Religion and Violence is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on April 27, 2018.

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What We Can Do About Religious Violence
24. What We Can Do About Religious Violence
April 27, 2018
How can we change a world that produces so much religious violence? Professor Bivins starts with tools for individuals and proceeding from there through communities, nations, and international institutions. The important thing: to think concretely about religious violence rather than be numbed into fear or inaction.
Religion and Terrorism
23. Religion and Terrorism
April 27, 2018
In this lecture, do more than just focus on how to define terrorism. Instead, try and understand how and why terrorists see the world as they do - a task worth undertaking if we're serious about understanding contemporary problems with religious violence. Your case studies here: Gush Emunim, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda.
Islam, Violence, and Islamophobia
22. Islam, Violence, and Islamophobia
April 27, 2018
Here, look at Islam and violence from different perspectives. Shed light on the negative stereotypes and representations common to discrimination against Muslims. Explore how Islamophobia depends on generalization and exaggeration, then consider Muslim theological sources of violence in the modern world, as well as significant examples of Islamic revolution.
The Persistence of Anti-Semitism
21. The Persistence of Anti-Semitism
April 27, 2018
Turn now to one of the more glaring and persistent traditions of anti-religious violence: anti-Semitism. Why has this form of historical suffering become an intimate component of Jewish identity? How is it portrayed in scriptural stories like Exodus, as well as modern-day moments of persecution and social marginalization?
Anti-Catholicism in Europe and America
20. Anti-Catholicism in Europe and America
April 27, 2018
In the first of two lectures on the power of stereotypes and misrepresentation to justify religious violence, look at how church reformers in Europe and the United States of America produced a series of enduring, negative images and stereotypes of Catholics: as degenerate, orgiastic, drunken, and power-mad.
Violence and
19. Violence and "Cults"
April 27, 2018
Study the key characteristics that make a group a "cult," including a desire for authenticity and a new pattern of life that breaks with mainstream culture. Then, use Mormonism, China's Falun Gong, and the Solar Temple as ways to explore why some new religions provoke violence and others practice it.
Native Americans and Religious Violence
18. Native Americans and Religious Violence
April 27, 2018
Trace the role of violence in and around Native American traditions. How common is land displacement or outright theft? What's the relationship between competing gods and vengeful ghosts? Is the story of indigenous peoples inseparable from colonialism and imperialism, which are often motivated to eradicate indigenous faiths?
Religion's Relationship with Slavery
17. Religion's Relationship with Slavery
April 27, 2018
How have religions wrestled with - but also condoned - the brutal institution of slavery (especially in the United States of America)? What you'll learn in this eye-opening lecture is that, while some of slavery's most powerful critics have been full-throated religious practitioners, the same can be said of slavery's defenders.
Religious Violence in India
16. Religious Violence in India
January 1, 1970
First, look at the historical relationship of religious ethics to public life in India. Then, consider the legacy of colonialism in contributing to the rise of interreligious violence (especially surrounding Sikhism). Last, examine the Hindu hyper-nationalism known as Hindutva and the widely-discussed phenomenon called Saffron Terror.
Religious Violence in Israel
15. Religious Violence in Israel
April 27, 2018
A big challenge in understanding interreligious conflict is figuring out the role national identity plays. See why this is the case in modern-day Israel, where conflicts between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam demonstrate the fractious experience of overlapping histories and the limits of secular power in a complex religious world.
War Gods and Holy War
14. War Gods and Holy War
April 27, 2018
Focus on the role of war gods in human cultures and sacred texts. Then, take an extended look at the medieval Crusades, as well as Cold War religious imagery. It turns out the roots of war gods aren't as removed from our present day as we'd like to think.
Peace as a Religious Ideal
13. Peace as a Religious Ideal
April 27, 2018
While sacred texts contain passages on warfare and violence, they also contain maxims, stories, and images exhorting believers to peace. What are the challenges of pacifism? Examine the issue through three historical cases: Mahatma Gandhi, 20th-century American Catholic pacifism, and the Muslim scholar Sheikh al-Hajj Salim Suwari.
Religion and Just War Theory
12. Religion and Just War Theory
April 27, 2018
When is it permissible to go to war? Learn how Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all wrestled - morally, conceptually, strategically - with questions about how to balance religious ideals with real-world conflicts, and how religions define violence in the context of war as a necessary, limited evil.
Heresies and Their Suppression
11. Heresies and Their Suppression
April 27, 2018
Generally speaking, heresies exist in every religious tradition. Professor Bivins explains how religious violence can consist not only of physical harm against people or groups but of legal constraints, denials of basic liberties, and misrepresentation. Examples you'll consider include Pope Gregory IX's heresy courts and the trial of Galileo.
Sexuality, Morality, and Punishment
10. Sexuality, Morality, and Punishment
April 27, 2018
How have religious traditions responded to sexuality with demonization, social constraint, and physical assault? What are some of the oldest, most outlandish forms of religious self-discipline? How has religious and political persecution worked to target specific issues related to sexuality and morality (specifically abortion and homosexuality)?
Religion and Violence against Women
9. Religion and Violence against Women
April 27, 2018
In this lecture, investigate the gendering of religious language and the treatment of women's bodies in religious practices like menstrual seclusion and self-sacrifice. Also, study the anxiety around women that occurred during the Salem witch trials, as well as competing interpretations of women's freedom and constraint in Islam.
Racial Violence and Religion
8. Racial Violence and Religion
April 27, 2018
Focus here on a very specific aspect of Other-ing: the idea of different races as the objects of religious violence. First, examine how religions generate racial ideas. Then, take a closer look at two very different expressions of racial religion: white supremacist Christianity and the Nation of Islam.
The Apocalyptic Outlook
7. The Apocalyptic Outlook
April 27, 2018
For humans, the world is always about to end. Using examples like the People's Temple, the Branch Davidians, and Aum Shinrikyo, as well as 19th-century America, explore the meanings of apocalypticism as a form of human meaning-making, as well as its role in the phenomenon of religious violence.
Understanding Witch Trials
6. Understanding Witch Trials
April 27, 2018
One of the most effective ways of demonstrating religious power is through trial and punishment. Examine the use of law and the meanings of public displays of violence as seen in historical cases of witch hunting and witch trials. Witches, it turns out, are in many ways more reviled than demons.
Scapegoating and Demonology
5. Scapegoating and Demonology
April 27, 2018
Discover how religious violence is almost always justified by portraying its targets as something other than human, or as malevolent. Professor Bivins explains how the social process of Other-ing has led religions to process and create fear through scapegoats, demons and monsters, false gods, and Antichrist figures.
Martyrdom, Sacrifice, and Self-Harm
4. Martyrdom, Sacrifice, and Self-Harm
April 27, 2018
Sacrifice is one of the most fundamental building blocks of religion. Here, examine how and why people commit self-harm and sacrifice for religious purposes. Topics include animal sacrifice during India's Vedic period, self-denial and asceticism (such as vows of celibacy), and religious suicides from ancient Rome to the modern era.
Violence in Sacred Texts
3. Violence in Sacred Texts
April 27, 2018
Explore the special power and authority that sacred texts have for religious practitioners, and how some people invoke these stories and images to legitimize violence. Consider several prevalent themes found in sacred texts like the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Qur'an: vengeful deities, holy wars, and holy suffering.
Defining Religion and Violence
2. Defining Religion and Violence
April 27, 2018
Get a solid introduction to different ways of recognizing and studying religion as a way to start making sense of religious violence. Central to this lecture is the idea that religion and violence exist in a fluid relationship, which can make the boundary between religious and non-religious identities fuzzy as well.
Religion and Violence: A Strange Nexus
1. Religion and Violence: A Strange Nexus
April 27, 2018
What is the essence of religious violence? What are the historical trends that explain the relationship between religious beliefs and violence? What are some problematic ways we often frame the issue of religious violence? Begin your exploration of these and other perplexing questions about this complex subject. #Music, Philosophy & Religion
Where to Watch Thinking About Religion and Violence
Thinking About Religion and Violence is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Thinking About Religion and Violence on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon and Kanopy.
  • Premiere Date
    April 27, 2018