Talking to the Enemy

Religion, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists

By Scott Atran
(Ecco Press, Paperback, 9780061344916, 558pp.)

Publication Date: November 2011

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An illuminating work of religious and cultural anthropology, Talking to the Enemy traces terrorisms root causes in human evolution and history, touching on the nature of faith, the origins of society, the limits of reason, and the power of moral values.

Through rigorous fieldwork and nuanced investigation, Scott Atran reminds us that terrorists are social beings influenced by the interpersonal bonds, connections, and values familiar to us all. When individuals combine notions of the homeland, a family of friends, and a band of brothers with the zeal of belief, they are capable of amazing things, both good and bad: the ancient Jewish resistance to Rome; the revolutionary founding of America; the formation of Al-Qaeda and the resulting fear by so many of so few.

A brilliant study of the social and psychological mechanisms that lead to terrorism, Talking to the Enemy rejects popular misconceptions about suicide bombers, radical Islam, and the relationship between religion and war. Atrans surprising and insightful conclusions show how our tolerance of faith enables extremists to flourish and why atheism and science education have little effect, while providing a path for deradicalization. A timely and provocative work, Talking to the Enemy offers solutions to help us to identify terrorists today, prevent the creation of future terrorists, and ultimately make the world a safer place for everyone.

About the Author
Scott Atran is a director of research in anthropology at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, France. He is also a research associate and visiting professor in psychology and public policy at the University of Michigan, a Presidential Scholar in sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and cofounder of ARTIS Research and Risk Modeling. His books include In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion.
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