Religion, intolerance, and social identity

Walters, Handri (2010-03)

Thesis (MA (Political Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Over the past few decades the secular world has witnessed an increasing assault, specifically from the monotheistic religious fundamentalist community, on their beliefs and values. The undeniable intolerance shown by the religious fundamentalist community has often translated into violent terrorist attacks against the secular world. The fact that religious beings can resort to such atrocious acts of violence has certainly baffled many onlookers. It surely comes as no surprise that religious fundamentalism is generally viewed as a ''hard-to-understand‟ phenomenon. This literature review will describe the ''hard-to-understand‟ phenomenon that is religious fundamentalism by employing social identity theory. The social identity of religious fundamentalists is generally derived from sacred texts and what they consider to be absolute truths. These presumed absolute truths not only provide ample opportunity for the development of the ''us‟/''them‟ duality, but also provide a platform for an intense intolerance of the ''other‟, also referred to as the out-group. Of course, the ''us‟/''them‟ duality can be created on many social dimensions, but religion has proven to bring quite an extensive, even murderous, intolerance to in- and out-group characterizations. The ever increasing actions of religious fundamentalist groups over the past few decades have certainly illustrated this point with some conviction. The importance of social identity has been recognised in many major traditions of the social sciences, not excluding political science. Social identity forms the basis of any group‟s actions or reactions. Therefore, its significance stretches far beyond simply providing an identity to a social group. Social identity also acts as a preamble to how a social group, in this case religious fundamentalists, chooses to deal with invidious comparisons. By employing social identity in this particular way we can go beyond investigating how religious fundamentalists act and react to the point of understanding why they act and react the way they do. In this study it was found that although a number of options to deal with invidious comparisons are available to social groups, only a few of these options are likely to be pursued by religious fundamentalists in order to remain a relevant and competitive social group within the social hierarchy. This approach will provide important insights into a formerly ''hard-to-understand‟ phenomenon namely religious fundamentalism.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Oor die laaste paar dekades het die sekulêre wêreld 'n toenemende aanslag op sy oortuigings en waardes waargeneem, spesifiek vanaf die monoteïstiese godsdienstige fundamentalistiese gemeenskap. Die onloënbare onverdraagsaamheid wat deur hierdie godsdienstige fundamentalistiese gemeenskap getoon word ontaard dikwels in geweldadige terroriste aanvalle op die sekulêre wêreld. Die feit dat godsdienstige individue hulself begwewe tot sulke wreedaaardige dade van geweld het verseker baie toeskouers verydel. Dis is sekerlik dan nie 'n verrassing dat godsdienstige fundamentalisme gesien word as 'n ''moelik-om-te-begryp‟ fenomeen nie. Hierdie literatuur oorsig sal die ''moelik-om-te-begryp‟ fenomeen wat godsdienstige fundamentalisme is beskryf deur gebruik te maak van die sosiale identiteits teorie. Die sosiale identiteit van godsdienstige fundamentaliste spruit oor die algemeen uit heilige teks en absolute waarhede. Hierdie absolute waarhede bied nie slegs ruim geleenthede vir die ontwikkeling van die ''ons‟/''hulle‟ dualiteit nie, maar bied ook 'n platform vir 'n intense onverdraagsaamheid van die 'ander‟, wat ook verwys word na as die buite-groep. Natuurlik kan die ''ons‟/''hulle‟ dualiteit op grond van baie ander sosiale dimensies ontwikkel word, maar godsdiens het telke male al gedemonstreer dat dit 'n omvattende, selfs moordadige, onverdraagsaamheid na binne- en buite-groep karakterisering bring. Die al ewige toenemende aksies van godsdienstige fundamentalistiese groepe oor die laaste paar dekades illustreer sekerlik hierdie punt met oortuiging. Die belangrikheid van sosiale identiteit word erken deur verskeie tradisies van die sosiale wetenskappe en politieke wetenskap word nie hier uitgesluit nie. Sosiale identiteit vorm die basis van enige groep se aksies en reaksies. Vir hierdie rede strek die betekenisvoheid ver verby die feit dat slegs 'n identiteit aan 'n sosiale groep verskaf word. Sosiale identiteit tree op as 'n voorrede vir die manier waarop 'n sosiale groep, in ons geval godsdienstige fundamentaliste, verkies om onbenydenswaardige vergelykings te hanteer. Deur sosiale identiteit op hierdie besondere manier aan te spreek kan ons verder gaan as om slegs ondersoek in te stel in hoe godsdienstige fundamentaliste optree en reageer tot die punt waar ons kan verstaan hoekom hulle optree en reageer op hierdie spesifieke manier. In hierdie studie is gevind dat alhoewel daar 'n aantal opsies beskikbaar is vir sosiale groepe om onbenydenswaardige vergelykings te hanteer, is daar slegs 'n paar van hierdie opsies wat mees waarskynlik nagestreef sal word deur godsdienstige fundamentaliste ten 'n einde 'n relevante en kompeterende sosiale groep binne die sosial hïerargie te wees. Hierdie benadering sal belangrike insigte bring tot die voormalige 'moeilik-om-te-begryp‟ fenomeen genaamd godsdienstige fundamentalisme.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4175
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