Religion as a Source of Evil

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    The starting point is that there is a structural, although not necessary link between religion and two important expressions of religious evil, religious intolerance and violence. The origin of this link lies in the radicalism that is inherent in all religions. Although this radicalism often has very positive effects, it also can lead to evil. Because religious evil is fueled by eschatological antagonism and the enormous utopian energies that are characteristic of religion, it is often qualified as symbolic. ‘Symbolic’ refers to the fundamental disproportion between the excess of the divine as a groundless ground and the finite capacity of every religion to receive it (Ricoeur). Symbolic violence arises when a religious community yields to the temptation of becoming possessive, forcing the inexhaustible divine mystery to adapt to the limited capacities of this community to grasp this mystery. This leads to the exclusion of internal or external dissenters. The final section examines how the ill-fated bond between religion and evil can be broken. It will be examined if and how a redefinition of tolerance, in particular a disconnection between religious truth and the claim to exclusivism and a commitment to inter-confessional hospitality, can contribute to avoiding that religion becomes evil.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)419-431
    Number of pages13
    JournalInternational Journal of Philosophy and Theology
    Issue number4-5
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2017


    • Intolerance
    • symbolic violence
    • eschatological antagonism
    • religious truth
    • exclusivism
    • Ricoeur


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