Religious and apocalyptic background to nuclear policy making

Charles Cameron, hipbone at earthlink dot net

Precis:

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].

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4 Responses to “Religious and apocalyptic background to nuclear policy making”

  1. The Glittering Eye » Blog Archive » The Nuclear Weapons Policy of the End Times Says:

    […] Cameron at Forensic Theology has posted a contribution to the ongoing discussion of nuclear weapons policy. It’s a […]

  2. hipbone Says:

    I shall be doing a proper revision of this paper shortly, but in the meanwhile have corrected one error — I referred to a dragon with ten heads, and have corrected that to read ten horns. Caveat lector.

  3. Friday 020081024 | Critt Jarvis Says:

    […] I was thinking about eschatology in the context of paradigm, world view (see Charles Cameron, Religious and apocalyptic background to nuclear policy making). Today I’m wondering about “glass half-full/ glass half-empty” thinking, […]

  4. Kristie Johnson Says:

    Dear Mr. Cameron,
    I ran into your article resently on the web and was surprised to see that you referred to my book,
    Mystery Babylon, the Great Defender of Israel. While I was flattered that you referred to my work, I was disheartened to see that you referred to it as one that suggested that Saddam Hussein could be the Antichrist.
    That is of course ridiculous. I began working on my book in the early 1970’s and had no knowledge of Hussein at the time. I do not even hint that he is the Antichrist. As a matter of fact, I noted in my book the prophecies which predicted his destruction both in the book of Daniel and Jeremiah. Actually, if you ever read my book you will find that is does not hold to any of the tired and worn out formulas of the other authors you sited. I would hope that you would read it sometime and tell me what you think of what it really says. By the way, the true candidates for the antichrist are many, But the one who is fulfilling the prophecies of the “little horn” is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    Thank you for your attention.
    God bless you, sir.

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