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Cosmic War and Cosmic Conflict

The enduring image of cosmic war is evidence that the religious imagination is steeped in violence. Biblical bans, Christian Crusades, Islamic jihads, and the warfare of Hindu epics all attest to it. Religiously sanctioned battles may be discerned even in the Buddhist epics of Sri Lanka. The evidence is not only ancient but contemporary. At the turn of the 21st century, it seems as if violence in the name of religion is appearing everywhere. What motivates this? Competing claims to proper conduct or to sacred places drive some of this violence. In other cases, conflict is seen as etched into a turbulent universe, as if the very powers of righteousness were under siege.

Images of great warfare—sometimes conceived in moral terms as the forces of good ...

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