In God’s name: practising unconditional love to death


  • Eileen Barker London School of Economics


Authority, Power (Religion), Religious movements, Popular, Cults, Social control, Terrorism, Violence, Leadership, Religious


In this article the author considers some of the ways in which those with religious authority might exercise their power by persuading believers to perform actions that they (the believers) would not have dreamed of performing had not justifications been presented to them in the name of religion. There are, of course, reasons other than religion – love and money, to take but two obvious examples – that lead people to do things that they would not otherwise have done, but religion would seem to add that extra something (for good or evil) that can inspire people to believe and act with an added fervour, an extra commitment, and an extra disregard for other consider­ations. If we really believe that it is God who wants us to do something then we are more likely to do it (or at least feel more guilty if we do not do it) than if George or Tony or even our guru asks us to do it – unless we believe that our guru is God, or is the only one with a direct hotline to Him (or Her). We may even be prepared (in both the active and the passive senses of the word) to kill ourselves and others for what we have come to believe is ‘the cause’, as happened in a situation described in this article.

How to Cite

Barker, E. (2006). In God’s name: practising unconditional love to death. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 19.