Whether during the Crusades or the ongoing Syrian conflict, religion has been used for centuries as justification for war.
UT is welcoming back its Distinguished Lecture Series – which had copious amounts of success last year – and kicked off the series, titled "The Sacred and the Secular: Conflict and the Creation of a Moral World," with Philippe Buc, Ph.D, on Sept. 9.
Jay Rubenstein, Ph.D, and associate professor of history with a focus on the first crusades, sought out Buc to visit UT as the year's first guest speaker.
Buc, a distinguished religious historian and author of books concerning religious impact on past and present violence, spoke to students in an effort to shed light on the typically touchy topic. Buc, who received his education in France as well as the U.S., was a professor of medieval European history at Stanford from 1990-2011, and is now universität-professor at the University of Vienna.
With a growing population of people who question the logic behind world wars, Buc's lecture, "Wars to End All War: Apocalypse and Conflict in Medieval Europe and Beyond," focused on the history of religious tensions as the origin of mass slaughtering.
"The scope of his ideas is pretty incredible," said Nathan Reeves, a first year masters student in the musicology program. "He's connecting thousands and thousands of years of Christian history and the method by which he does it is pretty convincing. I really liked his idea of how this one exegesis, this one interpretation of the Bible, has led to countless religious wars. I think that I'm definitely going to have to read his whole book when it comes out."
By citing and referencing areas of scripture – along with other scholars' and historians' research – Buc's ultimate goal was to rationalize beliefs, which help to justify extreme violence or hatred for a group of people in the name of Christianity.
"You have to be an amazing scholar to handle what he's handling and to put it into a meaningful synthesis," Erin Darby, Ph.D, and assistant professor in religious studies, said. "We are very lucky to have someone like (Rubenstein) who can bring in speakers like this."
Although certain regions are well-known for extreme religious demonstrations, Buc said that a history of religious vengeance exists worldwide.
"There is something strange about the imaginary universal scope of struggles fought against small groups of pagans by small groups of Christians," Buc said. "Yet, it is still in our imagination. We wage world wars with world-historical meaning."
Buc also stated that through interpretation, certain religious groups believe mercy will disappear in an apocalyptic setting. The belief that the world will end in violence, Buc said, has given way to extremely violent patterns of behavior.
"Mass cleansing was the order of the day in moments believed to be apocalyptic," he said.
Buc's lecture left some students questioning what the future holds in regards to the issue.
"Where does the hate end?" Reeves asked. "Does America have to go through all the steps that Western Europe went through already just to get where it is now? Are we going to eventually become an agnostic society like they are? I suppose it's just funny what people choose to see."
The next lecture of the series will take place Monday, Sept. 16, at 3:30 p.m. in the UC Auditorium in room 329. For more information about this series visit http://uthumanitiesctr.utk.edu/this_years_visiting_scholars.