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ARDA/ASREC Working Papers Series

Wars and Rumors of Wars: Explaining Religiously Motivated Violence

Roger Finke and Jaime D. Harris
Pennsylvania State University


Observers have long recognized that religion has the capacity to fuel social action, serving as both the opiate and amphetamine of social change. This paper strives to understand the sources of religiously motivated violence. Using cross-national measures from the Association of Religion Data Archiveís coding of the U.S. State Departmentís International Religious Freedom Reports, we will identify the political and social forces that serve to motivate religious violence. In particular, we will look at how government and social restrictions on religion have both direct and indirect effects on religiously motivated violence. Not only do these restrictions heighten tensions and increase grievances that potentially feed violence, they stimulate the growth of religious social movements and increase the social and physical isolation of religious groups.

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