Religious Texts of Terror


The contentious relationship between violence and religious texts has long been a topic of debate within religious studies. Sacred texts, including the Bible, contain traditions that appear at times to condone multiple forms of objective and systemic violence, including murder, war, genocide, rape, incest, domestic violence, human sacrifice, ethnic cleansing, slavery and sex slavery. Other texts (written, oral and digital) that emerge from religious traditions throughout history and up to the present day may draw on religious doctrine to defend or even encourage various acts of violence towards particular groups and individuals, based on their race, religious beliefs, gender, or sexuality.

In this course, we will focus specifically on “texts of terror” that are found in the Bible. Students will trace the historical, cultural and religious roots of these biblical texts, analysing the particular historical and cultural locations from which they emerged. They will also consider their ongoing significance and influence within contemporary cultures at global and local levels. Do these texts continue to have political and cultural authority, even within secular contexts? What impact do they still have in contemporary political and societal debates, around issues relating to gender, sexuality, race, and religious intolerance? And how do we engage critically and ethically with these texts within our own contemporary contexts?

The course will therefore allow students to develop their skills in textual analysis and critical thinking, as they learn to evaluate complex relationships between the Bible and multiple forms of violence using a number of theoretical approaches, including historical, postcolonial, feminist, and queer theories. Topics covered in the course may include gender violence and religious texts, heresy and hell, witch hunts both old and new, the use of the Bible to justify racism and colonialism, religious homophobia and transphobia in sacred texts and social media, religious persecution, and anti-Semitism.

By the end of the course, students will:

  • Have developed an understanding of the complex ways that multiple forms of violence are articulated and understood within a number of biblical texts, traditions and religious communities throughout history
  • Be able to have an informed discussion about contemporary issues surrounding the significance of violence within biblical texts, and how these are addressed by contemporary religious and secular communities
  • Have learned to analyse texts using a number of different methodological and theoretical approaches
  • Have become familiar with some significant scholarly literature around this topic and be able to engage with it in an informed and critical way
  • Have learned some of the skills required in academic writing and the process of composing a well-argued, well-written and engaging essay

The course allows students the opportunity to develop the following capabilities of the BA graduate profile:

Disciplinary knowledge and practice

  • An ability to display knowledge and understanding about the significance of their chosen field of study (religion and violence), and to apply this knowledge through their analysis of selected religious texts
  • An ability to define, contextualise and address questions within this field of study through interdisciplinary enquiry

Critical thinking

  • An ability to identify and evaluate premises and contexts of knowledge claims within the religious texts being studied
  • An ability to formulate questions based on gathering and evaluating information from multiple primary and secondary sources and diverse perspectives
  • An ability to construct reasoned, reflexive arguments and interpretations using valid evidence to justify claims and conclusions

Solution seeking

  • An ability to define the central issues raised by "texts of terror", with regard to their significance, ethical implications and real-world impact, using skills in textual and cultural analysis

Communication and Engagement

  • An ability to communicate clearly, engagingly and persuasively in both written and oral form to audiences comprised of both academics and their peers

Independence and integrity, social responsibility

  • An ability to analyse religious texts of terror with integrity and an understanding of the ethical responsibility connected to their analysis
  • An awareness of the rights and responsibilities of the religious studies scholar, as they work towards the role of critic and conscience beyond the classroom and into wider society



Coursework only

For full course information see the Availability 2024

Not taught in 2024




THEOREL 301: 15 points


30 points at Stage II from the BA Schedule