Why people become terrorists

Via Bruce Schneier:

young people adrift in a globalized world find their own way to ISIS, looking to don a social identity that gives their lives significance. Groups of dissatisfied young adult friends around the world ­ often with little knowledge of Islam but yearning for lives of profound meaning and glory ­ typically choose to become volunteers in the Islamic State army in Syria and Iraq, Atran contends. Many of these individuals connect via the internet and social media to form a global community of alienated youth seeking heroic sacrifice, he proposes.

Preliminary experimental evidence suggests that not only global terrorism, but also festering state and ethnic conflicts, revolutions and even human rights movements — think of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s — depend on what Atran refers to as devoted actors. These individuals, he argues, will sacrifice themselves, their families and anyone or anything else when a volatile mix of conditions are in play. First, devoted actors adopt values they regard as sacred and nonnegotiable, to be defended at all costs. Then, when they join a like-minded group of nonkin that feels like a family ­ a band of brothers ­ a collective sense of invincibility and special destiny overwhelms feelings of individuality. As members of a tightly bound group that perceives its sacred values under attack, devoted actors will kill and die for each other.

He says it applies to the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s. Why shouldn’t it also be applicable to present day politics in the U.S.? Perhaps the Black Lives Matter movement and the police shootings?

Interesting. Very, very, interesting.

6 thoughts on “Why people become terrorists

  1. Young men have always sought adventure. That’s why the various services see little problem in recruiting the ranks. The lure of the rattle of musketry reaches even we old men who knew it as a youth. Oh, to be twenty years old again, with war everywhere on the globe. I know where I’d be.

  2. No offense Bruce, but you’re ignorant of how this planet works. People fight to harm because evil is real.People fight to prosper because God is real. King was a preacher!!!!!!!!!!! And a good one, a true believer who was killed (probably by the state) because true power comes from the LORD almighty and what gov can suffer that. To equate the two is to admit that you are a true believer in Orwell’s ’84.

    Writers like this are a menace to right understanding.

  3. “Groups of dissatisfied young adult friends around the world ­ often with little knowledge of Islam but yearning for lives of profound meaning and glory­ typically choose to become volunteers in the Islamic State army[.]”
    I think this search for meaning and meaningfulness is something that people go through in their late teens and into their twenties. Some take up the political religion, others more traditional religions, and they become the fruit of that religion. The more young men study Judaism, almost any of Christianity’s many flavors, Buddism, and Hinduism, the less they become soldiers for God (with notable exceptions 900 years ago). The exception is Islam, which has the plain language of the holy book to contend with before it can be considered a religion of peace. I know there are verses in Exodus, Joshua, and the like where God said to kill everyone in a village, but He never commanded the Israelites to continue to be a conquering army, or the Christians, either. Conversion was not an issue for the Jews, and for the Christians it was generally seen as something that happened of one’s free will (except for apparently the Aztec, who had to have the desire for human sacrifice removed, root and branch, even if that was exaggerated).

  4. Groups of dissatisfied young adult friends around the world ­ often with little knowledge of Islam but yearning for lives of profound meaning and glory ­ typically choose to become volunteers in the Islamic State army.
    Islam is the only religion in the world that every time someone studies the direct words of the religion’s founder and the holy writings of that religion that person becomes more violent, more murderous, and less peaceable than those who study any other religion (with a small, Small, SMALL exception for whom not even a significant minority of the clergy preach support from the pulpit.

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