Religious texts are often referred to when religious individuals or groups talk about the morality (or immorality) of using violence. The challenge inherent in referring to such texts lies in their divergence – both the divergence between texts from different religions on the one hand, and the different views found within the same religion or branches of a religion on the other. To draw one, overarching conclusion about the relationship between religion, war, and ethics is well-nigh impossible. Does religion cause war? Yes, sometimes. Does religion promote peace and restrain war? Yes, sometimes. Both – and more – are true. Much depends on the conflict in question, the historical situation, the people and beliefs involved, and – not least important for this book – the interpretation of texts.
So what, then, is the utility and meaning of studying and interpreting sacred texts? What do they mean to us today – as scholars and as human beings, both religious and non-religious?
Speakers: Mahinda Deegalle, Greg Reichberg and Henrik Syse
Comments: Glenn Hughes
Mahinda Deegalle will speak on this issue from the point of view of Teravada Buddhism, the tradition that has influenced large parts of Asia, and which is not least prevalent in Sri Lanka.
Greg Reichberg and Henrik Syse will speak about their upcoming volume – Religion, War and Ethics: A Sourcebook, to be published by Cambridge University Press in late 2013 – and ask what challenges we meet as we study religious texts, from a wide range of traditions, on the use of violence.
Mahinda Deegalle is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religions at Bath Spa University. In 2000, he held the Numata Professorship in Buddhist Studies at McGill University. He is the author of Popularizing Buddhism: Preaching as Performance in Sri Lanka (State University of New York Press, 2006), editor of Dharma to the UK: A Centennial Celebration of Buddhist Legacy (World Buddhist Foundation, 2008), and Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge, 2006), and co-editor of Pali Buddhism (Curzon, 1996).
Gregory Reichberg is a Research Professor and Henrik Syse a Senior Researcher at PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo). They have, together and separately, edited and written numerous books and articles on the ethics of war, including The Ethics of War (Blackwell, 2006).
Glenn Hughes Professor of Philosophy at St. Mary’s University, San Antonio (Texas) will be a commentator. He has, among several other books on religion and politics, written Transcendence and History (University of Missouri Press, 2003).