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Prof. Dyson explores the ambiguous relationship between "Religion and Terrors", arguing that religion has resources for helping us address and overcome various forms of terror, but also the potential for creating or contributing to conditions of terror. He reflects at length on the conditions of terror both within the United States and abroad. Prof. Dyson also discusses the events of September 11th. However, he maintains that "we have made a critical conceptual error by making 9/11 the referent for other forms of terror". It is true, he argued, that on 9/11 many Americans understood for the first time what it means to be subject to arbitrary acts of violence. But, he insists, we must come to recognize that this experience of terror has been and continues to be the "condition under which most people live every day of their lives". The majority of Prof. Dyson's lecture deals with the ways in which certain groups within our society—-such as racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians—-have been continually subject to acts of terror and how certain religious beliefs, practices and institutions within America have been complicit in, and sometimes responsible for, these acts. He insists that although it is important to reflect on the events of 9/11, we must also face up to the long history of other forms of terror within America. Unlike 9/11, these forms of terror have become so institutionalized and so "routinized" within American society that they are often rendered invisible. By demonstrating how patterns of mobility, the distribution of power, and the use of punishment have created conditions of terror within the United States, Prof. Dyson offered us a more complex definition of 'terror'.
Dyson, Michael Eric, "Religions and Terrors" (2003). Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics. Paper 1.
Date Posted: 10 November 2005