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Best Papers on the Sacrificial Theory of Warfare
Part I: Atran - Feldman
An idea that we’ve promoted through the Library of Social Science Newsletter is the theory that the will to sacrifice lies at the essence of warfare. Societies produce death (and commemorate death)—in order to validate a sacred ideal.

Carolyn Marvin and Richard Koenigsberg have provided the fullest development of this theory. However, for an idea to become part of (social) reality, it requires support or confirmation by others who have written about this idea—and provided documentation.

Library of Social Science has searched far and wide to identify the best papers presenting the sacrificial theory of warfare. In this Newsletter—and those to follow—we will present them. Please click through the links below and read these papers. We hope you will develop this important idea.

Are we missing any writings that should be promoted through the LSS Newsletter? This is the best place to convey significant research. We reach 35,000 scholars, professionals and students. Our readers would love to hear about your own publications—or those of your colleagues—on this topic.

Please take your time reviewing the list of items below.
Then click through to read any document.
Atran, Scott
For Cause and Comrade: Devoted Actors and Willingness to Fight (Paper)
  “This report provides initial evidence that 'devoted actors' who are unconditionally committed to a sacred cause, willingly make costly sacrifices—including fighting and dying.”
Reframing Sacred Values (Paper)
  “People believe that devotion to essential or core values—such as the welfare of their family and country, or their commitment to religion, honor, and justice—are absolute and inviolable.”
Azzam, Shiekh Abdullah
Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations (Lecture)
  “History does not write its lines except with blood. Glory does not build its loft edifice except with skulls. Honour and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses.”
Baird, J. W.
To Die For Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Pantheon (Book Excerpts)
  “During the Great War, propagandists and poets alike joined hands in exalting the blood sacrifice of the youth of Germany, thus transforming carnage into ethereal national revelation.”
Brænder, Morton
Justifying the Ultimate Sacrifice: Civil and Military Religion in Frontline Blogs (Dissertation)
Justifying the Ultimate Sacrifice: Civil and Military Religion in Frontline Blogs (Excerpts)
  All participants in a sacrifice, including the victims, must regard the death for the sacrificial cause as purposeful; they must agree with the sacrificial ideology. If not, the latent function of the sacrifice is in danger of being revealed. Should that happen, the sacrificial ideology cannot prevail.
Bryson, Michael
Dismemberment and Community: Sacrifice and the Communal Body in the Hebrew Scriptures
  The formation of community is inextricably bound up with violence in the Hebrew scriptures. The first murderer becomes the first city-founder. The first unified action by the tribes of Israel—the first not in response to an external threat—results from the dismembering of a woman’s body.
Delaney, Carol
Sacrificial Heroics: The Story of Abraham and its Use in the Justification of War (Paper)
  The faithful man is one whose faith in an abstract, transcendent concept takes precedence over his earthly emotional ties to his child. The unwritten message is that to be faithful, fathers ought to be willing to sacrifice their sons if God, or a surrogate transcendent authority such as the state, demands. If Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, so much more so should ordinary fathers be willing.
Denton-Borhaug, Kelly
Review Essay of Stanley Hauerwas's Book War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity
  The sacrificial metaphor at the heart of citizenship, and inextricably tied to war, has incredible power, all the more so because most citizens are unconscious of its active impact in our lives. Most citizens are blithely unaware of the contradiction between their assumptions regarding “the separation of church and state”—and the deeply religious sacrificial war-culture that so profoundly shapes their understandings of citizenship and the nation.
  U.S. War Culture, Sacrifice & Salvation (Video)
    Lecture given at The 1st Annual IntelliGen Conference on Religion & Violence, April 11, 2015 at Moravian Theological Seminary.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke
Identity, the State and Sacrifice
  The Sovereign may bear a masculinized 'face' but the nation itself is feminized, a mother, a sweetheart, a lover. One can rightly speak, as Anderson does, of "political love, a love that retains the fraternal dimensions of medieval caritas,” but incorporates as well a maternalized loyalty symbolized domestically. The nation is home and home is mother. No more than one chooses one's parents does one choose one's country, and this adds even greater force to the nature of political love. We fall in love early through language, "encountered at mother’s knees and parted with only at the grave,” and through this language "pasts are restored, fellowships are imagined, and futures dreamed."
Feldman, Yael S.
Dying for the Motherland: Orthodox Christianity and the Invention of “Isaac” as a Jewish Military Hero
  The willingness to die for one's country, be it a fatherland or motherland, seems to derive from a much older human 'habit' or 'reflex'— the universal need to secure one's well-being by appeasing the gods, or their human representatives. This appeasement began as a gift giving, or—at times of special duress—by giving up life itself, whether of oneself or of one's loved ones.