Religion and Violence   /   Spring 2004   /    Introduction


From the Editors

Perhaps the only thing more puzzling than senseless violence is violence that is carried out in the name of high ideals. The role of religion is a particularly difficult part of this puzzle. Religious ideals, and the institutions and traditions that embody them, have been a defining element of some of the greatest moral, aesthetic, and intellectual achievements of the world civilizations. And yet, these ideals, institutions, and traditions have been involved in unspeakable brutality and inhumanity. It would seem that every faith is implicated in both the constructive and destructive, the animation of life and beauty and hope and their negation. What is it about religion that inspires both the best and the worst of what humanity is capable of achieving? And how does all this play out in our world today?

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