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Empire of Sacrifice

The Religious Origins of American Violence

Jon Pahl, 0, 0

Publication Year: 2010

“Pahl intends his work as a call to take up the opportunity missed after 9/11, to ‘shape a remarkable global consensus against religious violence.’ This work’s basic paradox is that religions ‘produce violent power’ but exist ultimately to ‘eliminate violence.’ That paradox captures the troubling message but hopeful conclustion to the work.”

Published by: NYU Press

Front matter

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pp. v-vi

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

This book is an experiment. It took shape over decades, well before current events and academic fashion made the study of religion and violence popular. All my previous books have touched on the ways that people of faith in the United States sometimes became entangled with violence, and...

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Introduction Blessed Brutalities

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pp. 1-12

Through some kind of diffusion or infection, the character of sanctity and inviolability—of belonging to another world, one might say—has spread from a few major prohibitions on to every other cultural regulation, law and ordinance...

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1 Rethinking Violence and Religion in America

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pp. 13-34

The genesis of this book, although I did not know it at the time, was a conversation at a Wednesday luncheon in Swift Hall of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago in the early fall of 1988.1 I had just returned from South Dakota where I had attended a powwow in Oglala. The...

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2 Sacrificing Youth

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pp. 35-62

Agents of both modern secular and sacred communities have benefited from relegating “religion” to its appearance in traditional denominations or private practices.1 Secular agents have selectively exploited for their own interests the symbolic power of appeals to transcendence without necessarily embracing the ethical limits and ideological baggage...

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3 Sacrificing Race

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pp. 63-102

Aside from Nietzsche’s insightful but mostly misdirected rantings, the history of slavery as a religious phenomenon has not yet been told.1 That does not mean that there have not been many fine historical studies of religion and slavery in the Atlantic world.2 But as with other...

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4 Sacrificing Gender

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pp. 103-140

In slavery, masters held people in bondage using religious reasoning that worked in tandem with ruthless economic exploitation and brutal force.1 European “Christians” exercised this innocent domination with unique zeal against Africans, but they also used it with other groups, particularly...

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5 Sacrificing Humans

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pp. 141-166

American history contains recurrent patterns, I contend, of people generating and accommodating themselves to religious constructions that have produced, protected, obscured, and justified the material control or domination of land and peoples under unwarranted assertions of innocence.1 I call this logic innocent domination. It has appeared...

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pp. 167-176

After September 11, 2001, citizens of the United States had an opportunity to shape a remarkable global consensus against religious violence. The “blessed brutalities” of suicide bombers might have mobilized Americans to lead a global and interfaith movement to renounce...


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pp. 177-220


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pp. 221-250


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pp. 251-256

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About the Author

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p. 257

Jon Pahl is a professor of the history of Christianity in North America at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He is the cochair of the Religions, Social Conflict...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814767641
E-ISBN-10: 0814767648
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814767627
Print-ISBN-10: 0814767621

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 558991454
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Empire of Sacrifice

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Church history.
  • Violence -- United States.
  • Sacrifice -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Christianity and culture -- United States.
  • Violence -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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