God’s Rage: Muslim Representations of hiv/aids as a Divine Punishment from the Perspective of the Cognitive Science of Religion

in Numen
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

Research from a number of disciplines indicates that the interpretation of hiv/aids as a divine punishment for illicit sexual practices dominates both a contemporary intra-Muslim public religious discourse and perceptions of the disease among Muslims. This dominance persists despite the existence of alternative theological interpretations, and despite seemingly contradictory empirical evidence. The present article develops a hypothesis on why this is the case and poses it against existing attempts at explanations. The theoretical basis for this hypothesis is elaborated with the help of findings from within the cognitive science of religion, and particularly the notion of an “epidemiology of representations.” According to the hypothesis, a combination of general psychological and cognitive factors and specific contextual factors provide the notion of hiv/aids as a divine punishment, with a selective advantage in certain social contexts over both theological alternatives and non-religious understandings of the disease. The article finally puts forward some predictions that may be tested empirically in further research.

Numen

International Review for the History of Religions

Sections

References

Abu-MoghliFatihehNabolsiManarKhalafInaamSulimanWafika “Islamic Religious Leaders’ Knowledge and Attitudes towards AIDS and their Perception of People Living with HIV/AIDS: A Qualitative Study.” Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences 2010 24 4 655 662

Abu-ZahraNadia “Adultery and Fornication.” Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an 2012 accessed 17 April 2012 Leiden Brill Online URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-the-quran/adultery-and-fornication-com_00004

AhmedAbdul Kayum “Positive Muslims: A Critical Analysis of Muslim AIDS Activism in Relation to Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Cape Town.” 2003 Cape Town University of Western Cape Master’s thesis

AnsariDavid A.GaestelAllyn “Senegalese Religious Leaders’ Perceptions of HIV/AIDS and Implications for Challenging Stigma and Discrimination.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 2010 12 6 633 648

AtighetchiDariusch Islamic Bioethics: Problems and Perspectives 2007 Dordrecht Springer

AtranScott In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion 2002 Oxford Oxford University Press

BadahdahAbdallah M. “Stigmatization of Persons with HIV/AIDS in Saudi Arabia.” Journal of Transcultural Nursing 2010 21 4 386 392

BadriMalik The AIDS Crisis: An Islamic Socio-Cultural Perspective 1997 Kuala Lumpur International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization

BadriMalik EsackFaridChiddySarah “The AIDS Crisis: An Islamic Perspective.” Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice 2009 Oxford Oneworld 29 42

BangstadSindre EsackFaridChiddySarah “AIDS and the ‘Wrath of God.’ ” Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice 2009 Oxford Oneworld 43 58

BarrettJustin L. Why Would Anyone Believe in God? 2004 Walnut Creek, Calif. AltaMira Press

BarrettJustin L.KeilFrank C. “Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism and God Concepts.” Cognitive Psychology 1996 31 1 219 247

BarrettJustin L.NyhofMelanie A. “Spreading Non-natural Concepts: The Role of Intuitive Conceptual Structures in Memory and Transmission of Cultural Materials.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 2001 1 1 69 100

BaumardNicolasChevallierCoralie “What Goes Around Comes Around: The Evolutionary Roots of the Belief in Immanent Justice.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 2012 12 67 80

BavikatteKabir Sanjay EsackFaridChiddySarah “Muslims, AIDS, and Justice: Beyond Personal Indictment.” Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice 2009 Oxford Oneworld 186 195

BearmanPeri J.BianquisThierryBosworthClifford E.van DonzelEmeri J.HeinrichWolfhart P. “Liwat.” Encyclopaedia of Islam 2012 [1983] accessed 17 April 2012 2nd ed. Leiden Brill Online. URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/liwat-sim_4677

BeckerFelicitasGeisslerWenzel AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa 2009 Leiden Brill

BeckmanNadine BeckerFelicitasGeisslerWenzel “AIDS and the Power of God: Narratives of Decline and Coping Strategies in Zanzibar.” AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa 2009 Leiden Brill 119 154

BeringJesse M. “The Existential Theory of Mind.” Review of General Psychology 2002 6 1 3 24

BoyerPascal Religion Explained: The Human Instincts that Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors 2002 London Vintage

BoyerPascalRambleCharles “Cognitive Templates for Religious Concepts: Cross-Cultural Evidence for Recall of Counter-Intuitive Representations.” Cognitive Science 2001 25 4 535 564

Carra de VauxBernardSchachtJosephGoichonAmélie Marie “Hadd.” Encyclopaedia of Islam 2012 [1965] accessed 17 April 2012 2nd ed. Leiden Brill Online. URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/hadd-sim_2586

CharnleySimone Speaking Up: Muslim Views on HIV and AIDS 2007 Bangkok Asian Muslim Action Network

CobbMaisha J.de ChabertJ. T. “HIV/AIDS and Care Provider Attributions: Who’s to Blame?” AIDS Care 2002 14 4 545 548

EsackFarid Muslims Responding to AIDS. Mapping Muslim Organizational and Religious Responses 2007 Observatory Positive Muslims

FrancescaErsilia “AIDS in Contemporary Islamic Ethical Literature.” Medicine and Law 2002 21 381 394

FrolovDmitry V. “Freedom and Predestination.” Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an 2012 accessed 17 April 2012 Leiden Brill Online. URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-the-quran/freedom-and-predestination-sim_00163

GardetLouis “al-Kadaʾ wa ʾl-kadar.” Encyclopaedia of Islam 2012 [1974] accessed 17 April 2012 2nd ed. Leiden Brill Online. URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/al-kada-wa-l-kadar-com_0407

GenrichGillian L.BrathwaiteBrader A. “Response of Religious Groups to HIV/AIDS as a Sexually Transmitted Infection in Trinidad.” BioMed Central Public Health 2005 5 121

GrayKurtWegnerDaniel M. “Blaming God for Our Pain: Human Suffering and the Divine Mind.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 2010 14 1 7 16

GuthrieStewart E. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion 1993 New York Oxford University Press

HamdySherine F. “Islam, Fatalism, and Medical Intervention: Lessons from Egypt on the Cultivation of Forbearance (sabr ) and Reliance on God (tawakkul).” Anthropological Quarterly 2009 82 1 173 196

HeiderFritz The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations 1958 New York Wiley

JohnsonClaire V.M.KellySteve W.BishopPaul “Measuring the Mnemonic Advantage of Counter-intuitive and Counter-schematic Concepts.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 2010 10 1–2 109 121

JohnsonDominic D. P. “God’s Punishment and Public Goods.” Human Nature 2005 16 4 410 446

KelleyLaura M.EberstadtNicholas Behind the Veil of a Public Health Crisis: HIV/AIDS in the Muslim World 2005 Seattle National Bureau of Asian Research

KugleScott Siraj al-HaqqChiddySarah EsackFaridChiddySarah “AIDS, Muslims, and Homosexuality.” Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity and Justice 2009 Oxford Oneworld 137 153

LupferMichael B.BrockKarla F.DePaolaStephen J. “The Use of Secular and Religious Attributions to Explain Everyday Behavior.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1992 31 4 486 503

MadaniTariq A. “Sexually Transmitted Infections in Saudi Arabia.” BioMed Central Infectious Diseases 2006 6 3

MartinRichard C. “Anthropomorphism.” Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an 2001 accessed 17 April 2012 Leiden Brill online. URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-the-quran/anthropomorphism-com_00012

MaulanaAisha OmarKrumeichAnjaVan Den BorneBart “Short Report — Emerging Discourse: Islamic Teaching in HIV Prevention in Kenya.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 2009 11 5 559 569

McCauleyRobert N.LawsonE. Thomas Bringing Ritual to Mind: Psychological Foundations of Cultural Forms 2002 New York Cambridge University Press

MuturiNancyAnSoontae “HIV/AIDS Stigma and Religiosity among African American Women.” Journal of Health Communication 2010 15 4 388 401

ObermeyerCarla Makhlouf “HIV in the Middle East.” British Medical Journal 2006 333 851 854

OgdenJessicaNybladeLaura Common at its Core: HIV-Related Stigma Across Contexts 2005 Washington, D.C. International Center for Research on Women

PetersRudolph “The Islamization of Criminal Law: A Comparative Analysis.” Die Welt des Islams 1994 34 2 246 274

PetersRudolph “Zina or Zinaʾ.” Encyclopaedia of Islam 2012 [2002] accessed 17 April 2012 2nd ed Leiden Brill Online. URL: http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/zina-or-zina-sim_8168

PEW Research Center “Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah: Most Embrace a Role for Islam in Politics.” 2010 accessed 17 April 2012 URL: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah

Positive Muslims HIV, AIDS and Islam. Reflections based on Compassion, Responsibility and Justice 2004 Cape Town Positive Muslims

ProudfootWayneShaverPhillip “Attribution Theory and the Psychology of Religion.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1975 14 4 317 330

PryorJohn B.ReederGlenn D.YeadonChristopherHesson-McInnisMatthew “A Dual-Process Model of Reactions to Perceived Stigma.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2004 87 4 436 452

SachedinaAbdulaziz A. Islamic Biomedical Ethics Principles and Application 2009 Oxford Oxford University Press

SchlossJeffrey P.MurrayMichael J. “Evolutionary Accounts of Belief in Supernatural Punishment: A Critical Review.” Religion, Brain & Behavior 2011 1 1 46 99

SloneD. Jason Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t 2004 Oxford Oxford University Press

SperberDan Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach 1996 Cambridge Blackwell Publishers

SpilkaBernardSchmidtGreg “General Attribution Theory for the Psychology of Religion: The Influence of Event-Character on Attributions to God.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1983 22 4 326 339

SpilkaBernardSchmidtGregShaverPhillipKirkpatrickLee “A General Attribution Theory for the Psychology of Religion.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1985 24 1 1 20

StillerJamesDunbarRobin I. M. “Perspective-taking and Memory Capacity Predict Social Network Size.” Social Networks 2007 29 1 93 104

SvenssonJonas BeckerFelicitasGeisslerWenzel “ ‘Muslims Have Instructions”: HIV/AIDS, Modernity and Islamic Religious Education in Kisumu, Kenya.’ ” AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa 2009 Leiden Brill 189 219

TremlinTodd Minds and Gods: The Cognitive Foundations of Religion 2006 Oxford Oxford University Press

UcheagaDorothy N.HartwigKari A. “Religious Leaders’ Response to AIDS in Nigeria.” Global Public Health 2010 5 6 611 625

UNICEF, World Conference of Religions for Peace, and UNAIDS What Religious Leaders Can Do about HIV/AIDS: Action for Children and Young People 2003 New York UNICEF

WadudAmina Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam 2006 Oxford Oneworld

WastiSharada P.RandallJulianSimkhadaPadamvan TeijlingenEdwin “In What Way do Nepalese Cultural Factors Affect Adherence to Antiretroviral Treatment in Nepal?” Health Science Journal 2011 5 1 37 47

WattW. Montgomery Free Will and Predestination in Early Islam 1948 London Luzac

WeeksMatthewLupferMichael B. “Religious Attributions and Proximity of Influence: An Investigation of Direct Interventions and Distal Explanations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 2000 39 3 348 362

WhitehouseHarvey Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission 2004 Walnut Creek, Calif. AltaMira Press

VikørKnut S. Between God and the Sultan: A History of Islamic Law 2005 Oxford Oxford University Press

ZouJamesYamanakaYvonneMuzeJohnWattMelissaOstermannJanThielmanNathan “Religion and HIV in Tanzania: Influence of Religious Beliefs on HIV Stigma, Disclosure, and Treatment Attitudes.” BioMed Central Public Health 2009 9 1 75

2

Here, “theology” is used in a wide sense to denote any “discourse on God,” i.e., any reflective representation of divine agency and intentionality, more or less elaborated. As such, it contrasts with a wider notion of religious beliefs, which also includes non-reflectively generated representations, a topic that will be further elaborated on in this article.

6

For a comparative overview, see Peters 1994.

Information

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 20 20 11
Full Text Views 7 7 6
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0