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July 17, 2006


An obvious thought: How often are these two words -- "sectarian" and "violence" -- paired. (It's "sectarian bloodletting" on the front page of the New York Times today.) The Oxford Compact Dictionary defines "sectarian" as:

concerning or deriving from a sect or sects. 2 carried out on the grounds of membership of a sect or other group.

The dictionary then gives this example of usage:

sectarian killings

Are there any "sects" that are not based on religion? What if they dropped the euphemism and simply wrote "religious violence"?

How often are the words "nonsectarian" and "violence" paired?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at July 17, 2006 9:05 AM


And sectarian is used in the same venue as secular which means the opposite. "Religious violence" is just so hard to get out of their mouths.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 17, 2006 12:22 PM

Something to think about:

"sectarian violence" - 3,680,000 hits
"secular violence" - 1,120 hits

A ratio of 3,286 to 1

Posted by: Todd Sayre at July 17, 2006 1:50 PM

"Sectarian violence" is more specific than "religious violence".

Posted by: Kristian Z at July 18, 2006 1:00 PM

You must be assuming that all religions are not sects or groups.

We can play with words, but Mitch's truth here is right on, it is precisely for religious reasons that religious violence is called sectarian violence, to obfuscate how group-centric and anti-social these superstitious and ancient tribal religions (sects) are.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 18, 2006 1:18 PM

To me it seems "sectarian" is only used for violence between followers of different demoninations of the same religion, not between followers of different religions. That's why I suggest that "sectarian violence" is more specific than "religious violence".

I'd like to agree with you, and I wouldn't put it beyond the religious establishment to try to protect the word "religious" from such associations, but I don't see that as happening in this case.

Posted by: Kristian Z at July 18, 2006 5:19 PM

I think you're right here. Mostly. Yet the fighting today is mainly between two branches of the "House of Abraham". To me the superstitious based belief systems are all sects of the same genome affliction. They're ain't no cure for the summertime blues! Or as said in my favorite line from any movie--Jon Voight in "Runaway Train" when told he is an animal responds, "No, worse, human!"

The total lack of any mention of the underlying religious hatred in the wars we cannot escape makes me jumpy.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 19, 2006 8:35 AM

"religious violence" - 376,000 hits
"nonreligious violence" OR "non religious violence" - 16 hits

A ratio of 23,500 to 1

"interreligious violence" OR "interreligion violence" - 1300 hits
"intrareligious violence" OR "intrareligion violence" - 59 hits

A ratio of 22 to 1

Yeah, it's a word game. Google hits do not translate perfectly into real world incidents.

terrorism - 318,000,000 hits
drowning - 28,500,000 hits

A ratio of 11 to 1

I don't think there really are 11 times more deaths in the world due to terrorism than drowning. And I don't think the data shows that. The data indicates maybe that people were 11 times more afraid of terrorism than drowning or people find terrorism 11 times more interesting than drowning.

I don't have the tools necessary to say whether the religious are more prone to violence or the irreligious less prone to violence. But the data seems to show far more concern about violence with an explicitly religious component than without.

"atheistic violence" - 82 hits
"agnostic violence" - 7 hits

Posted by: Todd Sayre at July 19, 2006 12:05 PM

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