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📍 Post 1: Write a 50-100 words response to the post below:

Extreme Religious Intergroup Conflict

People follow religion as a guide and often times have issues with people who have different viewpoints. Within being in a group, understanding that a group has its own identity. Religion answers the individuals need for belonging . Conflict may arise when the debate is between religion on intergroup when there is a disagreement between what is true and what is untrue (Seul, 1999). Religion is believed to help to "stabilize" and help to the identity of groups and individuals as some need something to follow.

Within any group, there will be some type of conflict. Whether it is that someone does not agree with what you are saying or if one has an issue with how one is articulating their point. Either way, a conflict is bound to happen. Although not as extreme as some other reasons for conflict, lack of resources is a big deal within some groups. How can a group function without resources. I think of churches that struggle financially and the means that they have to go through in order to keep the doors open. We often times fail to see what happens by the scenes and that the lack of resources ultimately can result in churches closing. Another contributing factor to conflict is identity competition. There is nothing worse than people being in competition with each other when we all have the same purpose and drive within the group.

Being able to listen to one another and really recognizing that people within the same group are all here for the same purpose. Understanding that working as a group is better than working as an individual . Effectively listening and communicating ones point of view may also eliminate the need for identity competition.


Seul, J. R. (1999). ‘Ours is the way of God’: Religion, identity, and intergroup conflict. Journal of Peace Research, 36(5), 553–569.
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journal of peace R E S E A R C H © 1999 Journal of Peace Research vol. 36, no. 5, 1999, pp. 553–569 Sage Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) [0022-3433 (199909) 36:5; 553–569; 009491] ‘Ours is the Way of God’: Religion, Identity, and Intergroup Conflict* JEFFREY R. SEUL Harvard Law School According to social identity theory, identity competition plays a central role in the inception and escalation of intergroup conflict, even when economic and political factors also are at play. Individual and group identity competition is considered a byproduct of individuals’ efforts to satisfy basic human needs, including various psychological needs. Religions often serve these psychological needs more comprehensively and potently than other repositories of cultural meaning that contribute to the construction and maintenance of individual and group identities. Religions frequently supply cosmologies, moral frameworks, institutions, rituals, traditions, and other identity-supporting content that answers to individuals’ needs for psychological stability in the form of a predictable world, a sense of belonging, selfesteem, and even self-actualization. The peculiar ability of religion to serve the human identity impulse thus may partially explain why intergroup conflict so frequently occurs along religious fault lines. Introduction Examples of violent conflict between religious groups – the Balkans, Sudan, East Timor, and Sri Lanka, to name but a few – spring readily to mind. This article offers a partial explanation of the frequent appearance of religion as the primary cultural marker distinguishing groups in conflict. The approach is interdisciplinary. In the first major section, I provide a general explanation of individual and group identity * I thank Cynthia Chataway, Sue Cross, Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSO, Herbert Kelman, David Little, Michael Moffitt, Kathleen Pakos, Tim Seul, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, and the anonymous JPR referees for their helpful comments. Responsibility for the article, however, rests entirely with the author. The author can be reached by e-mail at The quoted material in the title is from a statement made by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, President of the Chechnyan separatists (Specter, 1996). dynamics, and their role in intergroup conflict, from the perspectives of social psychology and psychologically-informed international relations theory. Subsequent sections draw from the disciplines of religious studies and the sociology of religion to demonstrate the ways in which religion powerfully serves individual and group identity needs and to explain how this fact may account for the frequent entanglement of religion with intergroup conflict. A Social–Psychological Perspective on Identity and Identity Conflict Psychologists and other social scientists of diverse orientations have developed a variety of theories regarding the development and functions of individual and group 553 Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 554 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 identity – that is, the more or less ‘enduring aspects’ of a person’s or group’s self-definition (Kelman, 1998: 3). In particular, much social psychological research sheds light on the ways in which individuals’ efforts to establish and maintain secure identities can produce conflict between groups. Individual Identity ‘Individual identity’, as I use it here, refers to the relatively stable elements of an individual’s sense of self. A Framework for Understanding Identity: Why, What, and How Within social psychology, it is common to distinguish between individual and group identity. The two levels of analysis are integrally and reciprocally related, with the purposes and processes of individual identity formation influencing and informing those of group identity formation, and vice versa. I make use of this distinction for analytical purposes, briefly exploring individual and group identity by subjecting each to the three simple interrogatives why, what, and how. With respect to individual identity, I ask: Many theorists link the initial impulse to construct a secure sense of self to the survival instinct of the infant, as did Freud and Mead (Bloom, 1990; Breakwell, 1986). As one develops, and assuming one gains in confidence that physical needs will be met, increasing energy is devoted to the satisfaction of the higher-order needs first systematically identified and discussed by Abraham Maslow (1954/1970). These needs include the need for psychological security in the form of a predictable world, and the need for love (or belonging), self-esteem, and selfactualization. Needs theory has become a cornerstone of much theoretical and applied work in the field of conflict resolution (see Mitchell, 1990). Individuals seek ‘continuity across time and situation’ (Breakwell, 1986: 24) to reduce uncertainty in social affairs (Stein, 1996), which contributes to psychological stability. People generally wish to regard themselves favorably (Eiser & Smith, 1972; Goffman, 1963). Efforts to achieve a sense of connection or belonging, self-esteem and even self-actualization help people establish and maintain positive, secure identities (Bloom, 1990; Breakwell, 1986; Stein, 1996). Failure to establish or maintain a relatively secure identity produces severe psychological discomfort, or even a total personality breakdown, which may be experienced by the individual as a threat to survival (Bloom, 1990). • • • Why do so many individuals strive to develop and maintain a secure sense of self ? What is the content of an individual’s identity? How is individual identity constructed and maintained? Similarly, with respect to group identity, I ask: • • • Why do so many groups strive to positively distinguish themselves from other groups? What is the content of a group’s identity? How is a group’s identity constructed, maintained, and transmitted among its members? This why, what, and how framework serves as an organizing principle throughout my discussion of individual and group identity, on the one hand, and the relationship between religion, identity, and conflict, on the other. • • Why do so many individuals strive to develop and maintain a secure sense of self ? What is the content of an individual’s identity? Each of us carries the psychological equiv- Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, alent of an identity card. The contents of these ‘identity cards’ define one’s identity at a given point in time. The contents consist of one’s values, motives, emotions, feelings, attitudes, thoughts, goals, aspirations, and the like, on the one hand, and one’s group memberships, social influence, social interaction patterns, and roles, on the other (Breakwell, 1986: 16). Some of the contents of one’s identity typically change over time as a result of developmental dynamics and social influences. New experiences often challenge us to reassess the relative valuations of the entries on our identity cards and, indeed, to assess whether particular content should be retained at all. Individuals typically assign positive or negative value to the elements of their identities, and these valuations are subject to revision (Breakwell, 1986). Individual identity is ‘fluid, dynamic, and responsive to its social context’ (Breakwell, 1986: 19). While it may be true that ‘no component [of individual identity] has a constant value’ (Breakwell, 1986: 19), it also is true that individual identity typically is characterized by a relatively high degree of temporal and situational stability. Key elements of one’s identity are likely to be retained over long periods of time, and the relative values of these particular elements often remain reasonably stable even as new elements are added and existing ones are abandoned or devalued (Kelman, 1998). Naturally, some of the content of one’s identity will be much more highly valued than other content – it will be nearer the individual’s core, to what one considers oneself essentially to be. It therefore will be much harder to dispose of or subordinate to other elements in the course of the ongoing evolution of one’s identity. • How is individual identity constructed and maintained? AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T Individuals seek to achieve and maintain positive social identities through various types of social interaction. Kelman (1998) conceives of the patterns of social interaction through which identities are constructed in terms of three different processes of social influence: compliance, identification, and internalization. Compliance occurs when an individual conforms to another’s expectations or demands in order to secure favorable regard or treatment, as when a child obeys a parent, or an adult prisoner her captors, to avoid punishment. Compliance behavior contributes to identity formation to the extent that one progressively incorporates aspects of one’s compliance-induced self-presentation into one’s self-concept. Identification involves adoption of the behavior of another person or a group because association with that person or group helps to satisfy the individual’s need to establish a positive self-concept. Through identification, individuals vicariously participate in others’ pre-established identities, often ‘gain[ing] a sense of power and status that, as individuals, they lack’ (Kelman, 1998: 13). The teenager who joins a gang is one example of this behavior. Finally, internalization occurs when one aligns oneself with others and adopts aspects of their behavior because it is consistent with one’s own values; for example, when an adult abandons his parents’ political party affiliation for a new affiliation that is more consistent with his current opinions and commitments. Each of these processes implies a more meaningful degree of agency than its predecessor. Where internalization occurs, one does not align one’s own identity with that of another person or group primarily because doing so has instrumental value (as is the case with both compliance and identification), but because it flows naturally from one’s own value orientation. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 555 556 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H Group Identity According to social identity theory, our interpersonal relationships, particularly in the context of the groups in which we participate, are central to the project of achieving a secure and positively-valued sense of self. Individuals seek a secure sense of self by ‘striv[ing] to achieve or to maintain positive social identity’ (Tajfel & Turner, 1986: 16). A group is a self-defining collection of individuals. Like an individual, a group can be said to have an identity of its own. That identity is borne and communicated by the group’s members, but it cannot be thought of as a composite of the members’ respective individual identities, any more than an individual’s identity can be conceived of merely as a composite of the identities of the various groups to which one belongs. • Why do so many groups strive to positively distinguish themselves from other groups? Group identity is, in essence, a manifestation of the individual identity impulse. As noted, individuals seek to satisfy their desire for positive evaluation, in part, through their participation in groups. In the process, groups generate collective purposes and goals, the achievement of which is important to the maintenance of group identity and to the group’s survival. In this limited sense we could say that there also is a group-level identity impulse – a collective motivation to serve the purposes and goals on which the members’ individual identities, and the survival of the group, depend. • What is the content of a group’s identity? The group’s identity consists of the members’ shared ‘conception of its enduring characteristics and basic values, its strengths and weaknesses, its hopes and fears, its reputation and conditions of existence, its institutions and traditions, its past history, volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 current purposes, and future prospects’ (Kelman, 1998: 16). The group’s institutions, traditions, and history often find embodiment in writing or other material forms which communicate and preserve the group’s identity independently of the individuals that presently comprise the group. As will be explained subsequently, this is powerfully true with respect to most religious groups. • How is a group’s identity constructed, maintained, and transmitted among its members? Various socialization and mobilization processes are the means by which this content is transmitted to and internalized by group members. These include group-specific variations of Kelman’s three processes of social influence. Like individual identity, group identity is fluid and dynamic. It ‘typically represents a combination of historical realities and deliberate mobilization’ in response to a current event or circumstance (Kelman, 1998: 17). Levels of involvement and emotional commitment may differ widely among the group’s members. Identity and Intergroup Conflict Each group with which a given individual is or is not associated is positively or negatively1 evaluated both by that individual and by other individuals and groups. Whether one regards one’s social identity positively 1 Much of the social identity theory literature suggests that negative evaluation of others is inevitable if one is to succeed in constructing and maintaining a positive identity. Although negative evaluation of others is pervasive, I have difficulty accepting that it is inevitable, particularly with respect to the maintenance of a secure identity among mature adults, and particularly if ‘negative’ connotes prejudice or condemnation, as opposed to mere preference, the absence of a sense of affinity, or forms of disapproval that respect the essential humanity of the individual or group which is evaluated negatively. Achieving a sense of genuine distinctiveness is critical to the construction and maintenance of positive identity, but ‘distinctive’ need not be heavily value laden – at least not in the extreme sense of good versus evil. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, depends, to a significant extent, upon how favorably the group(s) with which one identifies compare to other groups. The process of intergroup comparison produces a competitive dynamic in which groups attempt to enhance their identities relative to other groups. ‘The attempt to achieve a comparatively superior position for the in-group, on the basis of valued dimensions, is the key factor leading to discriminatory intergroup behavior’ (Tajfel & Turner, 1986: 83). When individuals do not regard their social identity positively, they respond to the resulting psychological discomfort with one or more individual- or group-level strategies to establish positive identity, depending upon whether group members perceive alternatives to the existing intergroup situation. Group members typically must believe that their situation vis-a-vis another group can be improved, or there will be no group-level response to the situation (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). Where alternatives to the present situation are perceived by a group’s members, a group-level response is likely.2 The group will respond to its current, inadequate social identity in one of several ways, ranging from efforts to assimilate itself into the relevant out-group, at one extreme, to a direct challenge to the out-group, at the other. The former strategy amounts to a conscious relinquishment or, at a minimum, dilution of group identity. However, each of the other possible responses involves an effort to enhance and strengthen group identity.3 Attempts to enhance group status 2 Where cognitive alternatives to the current intergroup situation are not perceived, individual-level responses to the psychological discomfort associated with negatively evaluated social identity will follow. Where possible, individuals may leave the group. Otherwise, intragroup comparison will intensify (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). 3 These responses include (a) threats or direct challenges to the out-group or its members; (b) recasting the ingroup’s negatively evaluated characteristic in a positive light (e.g. ‘Black is beautiful’); and (c) ‘creation and adoption of new dimensions for intergroup comparison’, such AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T are likely when exit from a group is very difficult or impossible, as is the case when social identity is based to any significant extent upon persistent social constructions (e.g. surrounding the color of one’s skin) or, for many, when it involves religious convictions and affiliations. While relative deprivation is undoubtedly a key factor in much intergroup conflict (Stein, 1996), it appears that incompatible interests in the form of an uneven distribution of material or social resources may lead to intergroup conflict only where the subordinate group views the dominant group as relevant for purposes of social comparison and begins to develop a positive identity in relation to it (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Incompatible interests may be the apparent cause of conflict in many cases, but conflict arguably will not occur in the absence of intergroup identity competition. While there is no reason to believe that intergroup differentiation inevitably leads to conflict, Tajfel & Turner (1986: 23) consider it ‘plausible to hypothesize that, when a group’s action for positive distinctiveness is frustrated, impeded, or in any way actively prevented by an out-group, this will promote overt conflict and hostility between the groups’, and that this may be so even in the absence of incompatible group interests. When intergroup comparison does produce overt conflict, an escalatory dynamic often is evident. Because individual identity is partially dependent upon the integrity of the in-group’s identity, threats to the in-group are experienced as threats to individual identity (Bloom, 1990). Conversely, threats to the identity of individual group members often will be perceived as threats to the group as a whole. Hence, group identity tends to intensify as when ‘the “native peoples” of Canada … refer to their ancient traditions and cultures, in comparison with which the history of the “new Canada” might seem unimpressive’ (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994: 84). Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 557 558 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H during periods of crisis (Stein, 1996). The conflict escalates as each new threat intensifies and agitates the identities of the target group and its members, widening the gulf between the groups (Worchel et al., 1993). This escalatory dynamic, and the continually increasing consolidation and intensification of individual and group identities that it produces, may partially explain the high degree of intractability that seems to characterize so many conflicts. Religion and Identity Having examined the purposes that individual and group identity serve, their content, and the processes by which they are constructed and maintained, I now turn to the relationship between religion and identity. In all their multifarious expressions and dimensions, the world’s religions answer the individual’s need for a sense of locatedness – socially, sometimes geographically, cosmologically, temporally, and metaphysically. Religious meaning systems d ...
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