The Path to Salvation


The Path to Salvation

Religious Violence from the Crusades to Jihad

Heather Selma Gregg

216 pages
1 figure, 4 tables


January 2014


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2014


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In the wake of 9/11, policy analysts, journalists, and academics have tried to make sense of the rise of militant Islam, particularly its role as a motivating and legitimating force for violence against the United States. The general perception is that Islam is more violence-prone than other religions and that scripture and beliefs within the faith, such as the doctrines of jihad and martyrdom, demonstrate the inherently violent nature of Islam.
Here, however, Heather Selma Gregg draws comparisons across religious traditions to investigate common causes of religious violence. The author sets side-by-side examples of current and historic Islamic violence with similar acts by Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu adherents.
Based on her findings, Gregg challenges the assumption that religious violence stems from a faith’s scriptures. Instead, Gregg argues that religious violence is the result of interpretations of a religion’s beliefs and scriptures. Interpretations calling for violence in the name of a faith are the product of individuals, but it is important to understand the conditions under which these violent interpretations of a religion occur. These conditions must be considered by identifying who is interpreting the religion and by what authority; the social, political, and economic circumstances surrounding these violent interpretations; and the believability of these interpretations by members of religious communities.


Author Bio

HEATHER SELMA GREGG is an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis. Prior to joining the faculty at NPS, she was an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation. In addition to academic experience, she has spent time in several regions of conflict including Palestine/West Bank, Croatia, and Bosnia.


“Professor Gregg has produced a highly accessible contribution to an important and contentious area of study. Highlighting the interpretive enterprise, she explores the complex variables at play in the relationship between religion and violence on a global scale, while giving special attention to notions of salvation (both otherworldly and worldly) in five major religious traditions. Her nuanced and even-handed approach to this charged topic must be commended.”—Jeffry R. Halverson, author of Searching for a King: Muslim Nonviolence and the Future of Islam

“Anyone wishing to understand the phenomenon of Al-Qa’ida and other Muslim extremist groups will definitely profit from Dr. Gregg’s deeply reasoned comparisons of violence and extremist views common to all religions which she assures us are the exception, not the norm.”—Robert Brenton Betts, author of The Druze and The Southern Portals of Byzantium 

“The dark attraction between religion and violence is probed in this intriguing analysis that sees violence justified as a means of salvation by religious activists defending their faith and communities. It examines case studies from the Christian crusades to Jewish Zionist extremism, from Islamic Jihad movements to the Hindu far right. This penetrating and comprehensive study is a significant contribution to the growing literature on religion and violence.”—Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1: Religion: Love, Peace, and the Two Salvations
2: The Causes of Religious Violence: From Social Movements to Hastening the Apocalypse
3: The Christian Crusades: From Pilgrims to Holy Warriors
4: Ayodhya: The Hindu Nationalist Battle for Hindutva
5: Buddhist Violence in Sri Lanka: Defending the Dhammadipa
6: Defending the Dar al Islam: Jihad in the Nineteenth Century and Today
7: Zion: The Battle to Define the Jewish Nation and State
8: How Religious Violence Ends: Spiritualizing the Battle                                                               Notes                                                                                                                

Also of Interest