Faithful Terror: Aum Shinrikyo's 'Holy War' and Its Implications for the Study of Contemporary Religious Terrorism


Annual Benson Saler Address in Religious Studies

November 17, 2005

Using the case of the Tokyo subway attack as a reference point, Ian Reader, professor of religious studies at Lancaster University in the U.K., explored critical elements in the relationship between religion and terrorism, and examined the reasons why perpetrators of such atrocities can regard themselves as religious actors when committing violence against civilian populations. The use in 1995 of chemical weapons on the Tokyo subway by the Japanese apocalyptic new religion, Aum Shinrikyô, was a watershed event in the modern history of religious terrorism. While the Aum case bears significant differences from more recent atrocities such as those attributed to Al Qaeda, it also manifests a number of themes that have been replicated in later, Islamic-based, terrorist acts, and indicates a number of themes that recur in the context of religiously-oriented terrorism.

This event was hosted by the departments of Anthropology and East Asian Studies and was cosponsored by the Slifka Program in Intercommunal Coexistence.