Archive for December, 2007

Religious and apocalyptic background to nuclear policy making

December 31, 2007

Charles Cameron, hipbone at earthlink dot net


I read about Cheryl Rofer’s invitation to the blogosphere of 18 December, suggesting that we should form a “blog-tank” on nuclear policy, on my blog-friend Zenpundit’s blog. My purpose here is to offer as background to that ongoing discussion of nuclear policy, some reminders from the spheres of religion and mythology.

It is my purpose here to suggest that the actions, plans and motives of those who are subject to religious drivers, and in particular drivers of an apocalyptic or “end times” nature, are, by reason of their seeming irrationality and fringe quality, often overlooked by those whose specialties revolve around such things as centrifuges and the enrichment of uranium, short-range missiles and their forward deployment, and so forth — and that a theological understanding of the place of nuclear weapons in the eschatological thinking of radical religionists of a variety of stripes is one of the key desiderata in an effort to come to grips with the realities of proliferation and peace.

Part 1 presents a view from religious studies, and describes the impact of doctrines of scriptural inerrancy on geopolitics, and explores the present context: it is introductory. Part 2 details some of the scriptures, teachings and fatwas which figure in popular consideration of nuclear weapons cross-culturally, with specific reference to the three Abrahamic faiths: it contains the meat of the matter. In some respects, however, Part 3 goes even deeper into the religious context, addressing the archetypal imagery of war, sacrifice, and purifying fire in recorded reactions to the Trinity test at Alamogordo, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, drawing on folklore, mythology and both Christian and Hindu traditions. Part 4 closes the presentation with two brief quotes from Carl Jung.

I: The view from religious studies

Theology used to be considered “the Queen of the Sciences” back in the day when “the sciences” were the recognized bodies of knowledge in general, and arguably she lost her claim to that title at least in part as a result of Galileo’s discussion of the matter in his 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany. It shouldn’t entirely surprise us, however, that something which had for centuries occupied front and center in our concerns and thinking and was then dropped like a bad penny should return again, if for no other reason then by virtue of Freud’s often repeated comment about “the return of the repressed”.

We are most easily surprised, perhaps, by that which we have spurned.


To continue reading this document, which runs approximately 7,000 words, please open either the Word document Religious background to nuclear policy making [Word], or the .pdf file, Religious background to nuclear policy making [Adobe Acrobat].