Convergence and Religious Terrorism in America   [open pdf - 390KB]

"Religious terrorism, as most recently highlighted by the horrendous 9/11 attacks, is not a new phenomenon. It is not restricted to any one particular religion or belief system, nor is it reserved as a weapon against foreign lands. Domestic religious terrorism is just as prevalent throughout history and is brought about by certain converging factors at particularly susceptible times within the society, such as economic difficulties, new or modified technologies, and social uncertainties. Under these conditions, a charismatic leader with an appealing ideology and access to sufficient resources may become a very powerful threat to society, pitting the secular against the divine. This type of convergence may result in altogether new religious movements, or the unexpected growth of fringe groups that, until they act, are not even identified. Examining the historical convergences of the Reformation, First and Second Great Awakenings, and the trends of modern domestic society, we find that the threads which hold these movements together remain consistent throughout history. Enabled by the rapid growth of technology, these groups have unprecedented potential power. A group that decides to become offensive or use weapons of mass destruction, such as Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, may pose an unacceptable risk to our country."

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