Fundamentalism and Violence, Part 2

We hear reports on the evening news and on the Internet of Jihad-religious war. Usually those engaged in Jihad have been raised in a distortion of their religion that gives members permission to shed blood. The Middle East excuse has to do with a religious exhortation to protect against invasion of their homeland. In America, fundamentalist polygamists take permission from the apocryphal tenet of Blood Atonement, a belief requiring one's life or the life of a family member in order to redeem the shedding of innocent blood and other heinous sins.

These days, fundamentalist cults seem to pop up like a case of pox across the earth. Why do so many fundamentalist cults attract and perpetrate violence? One explanation is that individuals in a post-nuclear world feel increasingly powerless and afraid. Sometimes individuals allay fear by gathering with other fearful people led by those who know how to exploit paranoia. The illusion of safety intact, they begin to plot ways to manifest and maintain their power and these ways are often violent.

Isolation amplifies the tendency toward violence within the community. When the isolation is breached, the violence can be turned on those who broke the insularity of the group.

These characteristics of a fundamentalist cult bear remarkable similarity to those of an abusive family. As with abusers who deal with daily frustrations in the world by kicking the dog or beating the spouse and/or children, the more helpless and ineffective fundamentalists feel, the more abusive they become, whether toward their own or toward outsiders. Seen from this perspective, it seems a good thing (though costly and abusive in itself) that Texas interrupted the pattern of escalating abuse in the isolated FLDS group.

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