The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence

By Andrew R. Murphy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Spiritual Devotion
and Self-Annihilation: An
Evolutionary Perspective

Ariel Glucklich

This chapter explores religiously sanctioned self-directed aggression. History is rich with examples of religious individuals and groups that acted in ways that appeared to conflict with their self-interest and at times reached the point of actual or near immolation (economic and physical damage, pain or long-term imprisonment or exile). Such actors were often inspired by a religious leader such as Rabbi Akiva, John Huss, George Fox, and James Nayler, or led by a forceful charismatic figure like Shabbetai Tzvi, Jim Jones, or David Koresh. At other times, such as in the early Christian church or the Shi`ite sect, prolific numbers of early martyrs adopted a course of action that appeared inspired by an ideal or a powerful sacred model (Christ on the cross; Hussein in Karbala).

I argue that such seemingly irrational actions can be traced to the evolutionary principles on which all religious groups are based. The socially integrative function of religion – not counterproductive beliefs – can, in extreme cases, result in self-directed aggression. To be more specific, I show that some religious practices control and manipulate human affect (pleasure/pain) such that simple pleasures, which favor the individual organism, become transformed into complex pleasures (happiness), which favor the group. Religion, broadly conceived as a system of belief, ritual and normative actions and social identity, has evolved and continues to prosper because it is instrumental in producing effective altruism – that is, promoting group interests while enhancing individual satisfaction or well-being. However, this same hedonic control can turn on itself under specific circumstances and yield destructive consequences.


Pleasure and Adaptation

When one pauses to think about what pleasure truly is, and attempts to describe just the pleasure – not the coolness of a drink or the feelings that somehow run parallel

-76-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 616

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.