Published September 20, 2017 | Version v1
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Attachment Theory and Religious Violence: Theorizing Adult Religious Psychopathology

  • 1. Western Sydney University


This paper explores the ways in which attachment disruptions might increase the risk of adult religious psychopathology by drawing parallels between the possible symbolisms lying behind religious violence and the concept of attachment. It is first argued that the relationship between a religious believer and a religious figure can be explained as an attachment experience. Secondly, it is proposed that when a religious attachment figure becomes a target of slander, or an action is perpetrated to disrupt the bond with such a figure, the religious believer may be predisposed to defensive, adaptive reactions, in the form of protest, despair, or detachment, to protect their attachment bond and resolve the disruptions that threaten their religious attachment identity. Support for this theoretical proposition was obtained through discourse analyses of three case examples (Charlie Hebdo vs al-Qaeda, Boko Haram vs the Nigerian government, and Pastor Terry Jones vs Islamic radicalisation), which position attachment theory as an alternative explanatory framework for conceptualising religious violence as a form of religious attachment psychopathology—aimed at safeguarding the affectional bond with a religious figure from whom one may have developed a sense of identity and safe haven.



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