Skip to main content

Terror and the Screen


The Cambridge Companion to Religion and TerrorismChapter summary

In this chapter, I do not try to provide an historical overview of all terror and all violence as it appears on our screens in relation to religion in the tightest sense. But I do want to seriously problematise how we approach such a subject in light of the work of the recent methodologies developed by thinkers like Fitzgerald, Cavanaugh, and Sloterdijk. That is, I seek to examine terrorism and violence in relation to themes I have discussed elsewhere as regards the state, and identify some key problems that emerge in the crossover between reality and narrative as they relate to terror and religion. I show here that terror depicted on our screens in narrative structures reinforces wider mythic understandings of our worldview and the processes by which we conceive of its defence and act to defend it. The ‘crossover’ point, I will argue, highlights some very dubious political agendas and demonstrates that the relationship between terror, politics, and religion can never be clear-cut within a modernistic milieu that seeks to confuse narratival and mythic conceptions of the other with ‘our’ reality – and then obfuscate further that confusion through extremely tight definitions of religion. To demonstrate this in a limited but hopefully effective way, I have chosen to focus on a small number of very popular recent examples of terror which are, I believe, extremely telling examples. These include the Hollywood films, Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper, and the popular television series 24.

You might also like: