Apocalyptic Violence

Chip Berlet

There are apocalyptic versions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and other religions.

Damian Thompson, argues that "Richard Hofstadter was right to emphasise the startling affinities between the paranoid style and apocalyptic belief--the demonisation of opponents, the sense of time running out, and so on. But he stopped short of making a more direct connection between the two. He did not consider the possibility that the paranoia he identified actually derived from apocalyptic belief.".

Not all contemporary religious fundamentalists promote apocalyptic demonization. There are two competing views of how to interpret the apocalyptic themes in prophetic religious texts. One view identifies evil with specific persons and groups, seeking to identify those in league with the forces of evil. This view easily lends itself to demonization. A more positive form of interpreting apocalyptic prophecy is not based on demonization; it is promoted by those who see evil in the will to dominate and oppress. Apocalyptic thinking, in this case, envisions a liberation for the weak, poor, or oppressed. The two interpretations represent a deep division within fundamentalist religious communities.

Even some relatively conservative and orthodox religious adherents look to the prophetic tradition of siding with the poor and oppressed, and these themes can be found in the texts of all major religions.

Fundamentalist apocalypticism refers to a broad range of ideas. The dangerous dynamic arises primarily among those who combine

*** textual literalism, *** apocalyptic timetables, *** demonization, and *** oppressive prejudices.

Scapegoating that is generated or enhanced by apocalyptic fears has distinctive features and targets. Scapegoating always needs to be taken seriously when it bullies its way into political and social discourse. Any group can be framed as doing evil or being evil, given enough creative energy on the part of the scapegoater. Apocalyptic views that demonize by naming specific groups of people as evil pose a threat to civil society.

When apocalyptic demonization is merged with theocratic authoritarianism the result is often a form of clerical fascism.

An expanded explanation of this dealing with just Christian apocalypticism is at Dances with Devils.      

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