Religion and Violence
1. Sacred Land
Project summary: Evolutionary scholars have paid little attention to why humans impute sacredness to particular lands. Sacred lands are of course at the heart of violent and deadly conflicts throughout the world, but battles over sacred lands are not a novel feature of modern society. If traditional societies provide a reliable benchmark, territorial conflict over areas viewed as sacred has been widespread for quite some time. Sacralizing land is not limited to traditional peoples or contemporary religious and ethnic groups; many environmentalists also consider land to be sacred. I refer to this tendency to attribute sacredness to land as the "sacred land strategy." In this project I explore the adaptive logic of the sacred land strategy, especially under conditions of conflict. Understanding the consequences and underlying motivations of the sacred land strategy should enhance our ability to offer effective policy recommendations to resolve what are often viewed as intractable conflicts over sacred land.
|2011||Sosis, Richard Why Sacred Lands are not Indivisible: The Cognitive Foundations of Sacralizing Land. Journal of Terrorism Research 2:17-44.|
|2009||The Dynamics of Sacred Land Conflicts.June 2-4, Human Social, Cultural and Behavior Influences Workshop, Istanbul, Turkey|
|2007||The Evolutionary Logic of Sacred Land October 11-13, Religion and Violence Symposium: Evolutionary and Political Perspectives, St. Louis, MO.|
2. Religion and Terrorism
Project summary: Recent work on the evolution of religion is critical for understanding current patterns of terrorism. This project examines the relationship between religion and terrorist activity and clarifies religion's role in causing, motivating, and facilitating terror. Religious and secular terrorist organizations use particular characteristics of the human religious adaptive complex (e.g., communal participation in costly ritual, separation of the sacred and profane, etc.) to inspire group commitment and individual action.
|Forthcoming||Alcorta, Candace S. and Richard Sosis Ritual, Religion, and Violence: an Evolutionary Perspective. Handbook of Religion and Violence, eds. M. Juergensmeyer, M. Kitts, M. Jerryson, pp. 571-596. New York: Oxford University Press.|
|2012||Sosis, Richard, Erika J. Phillips, Candace S. Alcorta Sacrifice and Sacred Values: Evolutionary Perspectives on Religious Terrorism. Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War, eds. T. Shackelford & V. Weeks-Schackelford, pp. 233-253. New York: Oxford University Press.|
|2010||Saragin, R., C. Alcorta, S. Atran, D. Blumstein, G. Dietl, M. Hochberg, D. Johnson, S. Levin, E.Medin, J. Medin, E. Prescott, R. Sosis, T. Taylor, J. Tooby, G. Vermeij Decentralize, Adapt and Cooperate.Nature 465: 292-293.|
|2008||Sosis, Richard and Candace Alcorta Militants
and Martyrs: Evolutionary Perspectives on Religion and Terrorism ,
In Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World, eds. R.
Sagarin and T. Taylor, pp. 105-24, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Darwinian Security Homepage
3. Ritual Coping
Project summary: This project examines the use of magico-religious practices as coping mechanisms. Such practices may reduce anxiety and provide perceptions of control under conditions of high stress and uncertainty. Research has been conducted in Tzfat, Israel during the Second Intifada and the 2006 Lebanon War and focuses on how Israeli women use psalm recitation to help them cope with the stress of chronic terror and war.
|2011||Sosis, Richard and W. Penn Handwerker Psalms and Coping with Uncertainty: Israeli Women’s Responses to the 2006 Lebanon War. American Anthropologist 113:40-55.|
|2008||Sosis, Richard Pigeons, Foxholes, and the Book of Psalms: Evolved Superstitious Responses to Cope with Stress and Uncertainty. In: The Evolution of Religion: Studies, Theories, and Critiques, eds. J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, C. Genet, R. Genet, K. Wyman, pp. 103-9, Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press.|
|2007||Sosis, Richard Psalms for Safety: Magico-Religious Responses to Threats of Terror. Current Anthropology 48:903-911.|