The 20th century has been marked in a horrifying way by “categorical violence”-a violence directed against people on the basis of their belonging to a certain group. Categorical violence has three distinguishing features: excessiveness, the discourse of purification and a ritual element.
There are two views of the cause of categorical violence which I wish to dispel. One is that it arises from religion. This view is inaccurate for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that most of the atrocities that can be characterized in this way have been produced by ideologically atheist regimes.
The other view, which is socio-biological, claims that categorical violence is atavistic: either it is in our genes and, through the civilizing course of culture, we put it behind us, or it arises in certain religious, cultural or metaphysical forms that we have since left behind us. However, this account addresses neither the persistence of nor the reason for categorical violence. Continue reading On Religion and Violence by Charles Taylor