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UW-Eau Claire Professor's New Book Examines
Psychological Motivations Behind Religious Violence

RELEASED: Aug. 14, 2008

Dr. Charlene Burns
Dr. Charlene Burns

EAU CLAIRE — Since 9/11, numerous books have been published that blame religion for religious violence. This summer, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire associate professor of philosophy and religious studies has published a book that instead takes a look at the psychological motivations behind religious violence.

"More Moral Than God: Taking Responsibility for Religious Violence," by UW-Eau Claire's Dr. Charlene Burns and released in July by Rowman & Littlefield, focuses on religious violence as a human creation.

"The book title is meant to convey the point that claims we make about God are always more about our own images and interpretations of teachings than about God in reality," Burns said. "When people claim to know the mind of God and commit acts of violence in the name of their God, what we have more likely done is to project our own hatreds and prejudices onto our images of the divine."

Speaking as if an intangible idea — religion has consciousness and acts independently of humans has become very popular, Burns said.

"The problem is that this thinking displaces the blame," Burns said. "If religion is the cause of violence, then individual people are not really accountable. In the end, no matter the outside pressures — political, economic, geographic — it is individual human beings who make the choices and commit the acts of violence. The psychological and spiritual causes are primary."

Reviewer Kelly Bulkeley of the Graduate Theological Union noted that in "More Moral Than God," Burns carefully surveys the many forms of religiously related violence around the world.

"Using the insights of archetypal psychology, she shows how individual experiences of suffering, injustice and deprivation can prompt these bursts of aggressive rage," Bulkeley wrote.

Reviewer Mark Juergensmeyer, author of "Terror in the Mind of God," said Burns' book takes a unique look at the psychological motivations behind religious violence.

"Charlene Burns illuminates the interplay between our images of God, our individual egos, and our collective selves, and brings to light the degree to which each of us can and must take responsibility for the religious landscape," he wrote.

-30-

KH

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