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How does religion shape the modern battlefield? Ron E. Hassner proposes that religion acts as a force multiplier, both enabling and constraining military operations. This is true not only for religiously radicalized fighters but also for professional soldiers. In the last century, religion has influenced modern militaries in the timing of attacks, the selection of targets for assault, the zeal with which units execute their mission, and the ability of individual soldiers to face the challenge of war. Religious ideas have not provided the reasons why conventional militaries fight, but religious practices have influenced their ability to do so effectively.In Religion on the Battlefield, Hassner focuses on the everyday practice of religion in a military context: the prayers, rituals, fasts, and feasts of the religious practitioners who make up the bulk of the adversaries in, bystanders to, and observers of armed conflicts. To show that religious practices have influenced battlefield decision making, Hassner draws most of his examples from major wars involving Western militaries. They include British soldiers in the trenches of World War I, U.S. pilots in World War II, and U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hassner shows that even modern, rational, and bureaucratized military organizations have taken—and must take—religious practice into account in the conduct of war.
Ron E. Hassner is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of War on Sacred Grounds, also from Cornell, and editor of Religion in the Military.
Table of Contents
1. Why? Religion as a Cause of War 2. When? Sacred Time and War 3. Where? Sacred Space and War 4. Who? Sacred Leaders and War 5. How? Sacred Rituals and War 6. Religion on the Battlefield in Iraq, 2003–2009
What People are Saying About This
"Ron E. Hassner has provided a wealth of new perspectives on a compelling and neglected theme. This book is essential reading for the student of religion and modern war."
Michael C. Horowitz
"In the authoritative and detailed Religion on the Battlefield, Ron E. Hassner shows that rather than simply being a causal variable that makes wars more or less likely, religion is an encompassing factor that influences entire societies and the way they think about war from beginning to end. Hassner's exploration of the rich relationship between religion and violence and his evaluation of sacred time, space, and authority will greatly improve our understanding of both religion and violence."
"Ron Hassner's look at religion’s pervasive role in war is original and tantalizing. His decision to look not at extremist religious groups but at large conventional militaries in secular countries is a bold one. Equally innovative is his stress on ritual, practice, and embodied reality. Religion on the Battlefield promises to bring religion right into the heart of mainstream analysis, where it cannot be ignored."
Monica Duffy Toft
"With the global resurgence of religion and the continuation of warfare within and between states, Ron E. Hassner's book could not have come at a better time. He persuasively shows not just how religion matters on the battlefield, but why, and perhaps even more importantly, why it is incumbent on scholars and policymakers to understand its role in enhancing and constraining military effectiveness."