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Thread: Thesis on Religion and Conflict, Please Help!

  1. #1 Thesis on Religion and Conflict, Please Help! 
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    Hello everyone,

    I'm new to the forum and wanting to get some insight/advice on my masters thesis topic. I'm studying International Relations in Europe and I'm writing my thesis on how within democratic nations, religious countries will experience more conflict (both internal and external) than irreligious countries.

    The problem is my professor is COMPLETELY against it. I knew I wanted to write about this since before my masters program began so I am really at a loss. My professor doubts any link between religion and conflict exists and that religion is too problematic to talk about. I am asked repeatedly why I have such strong feelings about religion (when I don't believe I do, the paper should be descriptive, not my opinion) and that it may be too controversial. This is extremely frustrating as I am using established data and have shown him my work that justifies my topic. Using data on the how religious nations are and comparing it with data on peace I have reached a pearson correlation of .82. I want to continue my research but due to his constant criticisms am far from motivated.

    Please tell me honestly, is this relationship worth studying? I don't believe I am being dogmatic in being "against" religion, I am merely showing that the data says religious countries are more inclined to war. Is there a problem with my thesis topic other than it perhaps being controversial?

    As a side note I don't believe this would be a problem in the US as I've written far more "controversial" papers there and received very high marks for them. Maybe it is just my school here but it feels like you can't say anything here, everything feels like a rehashing of old opinions.

    Any and all feedback is very much appreciated, especially if you have studied statistics or political science.


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  3. #2  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjirstin View Post
    religious countries will experience more conflict (both internal and external) than irreligious countries.
    I wish I knew of a genuine irreligious country in Europe so could you be more specific. Scandinavian countries are more likely to be less religious and therefore more peaceful, but this changes with time. They don't build churches any more but they certainly build mosques and this is a ticking time bomb.


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    Political correctness can delve heavily into the shades of gray.
    The thing is, it's not just the religious people you have to worry about pissing off. Many non-believers, agnostics and even heathens will get their hackles raised over the very suggestion that religion is a fear mongering, violence condoning, anti-scientific understanding, anti-education mass of primitive delusion.
    Just the very mention that religion may play a role in the absurd behaviors of people following the absurd beliefs is enough to start a flame war.

    Which is why I wear fire retardant clothes, extend both middle fingers ┌∩┐(◣_◢)┌∩┐ and say what I want to say, no matter which crowd gets offended.
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    Kjirstin
    my advice
    find a different academic advisor
    then follow your passion-----
    caveat: You may be setting yourself up for one huge waste of time trying to be objective about something whose origins is almost purely subjective.
    I suspect that unifying behind "religion" for the purpose of conflict is no different than unifying behind clanishness, ethnicity, language or nationality, or even sports teams. Those who wish conflict will always find a "rallying cry" even if it's foundations are really silly.

    (I'm a bit of a babylon 5 fan) In one of their episodes, a species would reach into a container and randomly pull out either a green or a purple sash, then the greens and purples would fight, sometimes to the death, for supremacy of purple or green.
    Silly?

    whatever you decide
    I wish you the best of luck.
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    Post number 3: sculptor likes this.

    That's odd. Usually you get irritable with me when I have a go with silly superstitions.

    Let me guess, it wasn't what I said; it was the waaay I said it.
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    maybe a little of both?
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    My only caveat (as with most types of serious studies), is to make sure you identify if there are correlations and which ones, that is, OTHER factors that are piggy-back-ridding on the topic, in this case Religion, and might mislead one to believe that is it Religion(or whatever main subject) itself that is the factor.


    other considerations;
    If a religious region A has petrol and/or is of geo-strategic importance (land/sea choke point, between empires etc), it just might be more subjected to conflicts than religious (or non religious) region B without geo-strategic location or resources.
    If a religious region A is surrounded by many rival nations, it just might be more subjected to conflicts than religious (or non religious) region B located on an island.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    Let me guess, it wasn't what I said; it was the waaay I said it.
    ...............................................
    That's a tad fab, Dad.
    Spoken like a dude with a 'tude.
    Yes, you said it like a 'tard
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjirstin View Post
    Hello everyone,

    I'm new to the forum and wanting to get some insight/advice on my masters thesis topic. I'm studying International Relations in Europe and I'm writing my thesis on how within democratic nations, religious countries will experience more conflict (both internal and external) than irreligious countries.

    The problem is my professor is COMPLETELY against it. I knew I wanted to write about this since before my masters program began so I am really at a loss. My professor doubts any link between religion and conflict exists and that religion is too problematic to talk about. I am asked repeatedly why I have such strong feelings about religion (when I don't believe I do, the paper should be descriptive, not my opinion) and that it may be too controversial. This is extremely frustrating as I am using established data and have shown him my work that justifies my topic. Using data on the how religious nations are and comparing it with data on peace I have reached a pearson correlation of .82. I want to continue my research but due to his constant criticisms am far from motivated.

    Please tell me honestly, is this relationship worth studying? I don't believe I am being dogmatic in being "against" religion, I am merely showing that the data says religious countries are more inclined to war. Is there a problem with my thesis topic other than it perhaps being controversial?

    As a side note I don't believe this would be a problem in the US as I've written far more "controversial" papers there and received very high marks for them. Maybe it is just my school here but it feels like you can't say anything here, everything feels like a rehashing of old opinions.

    Any and all feedback is very much appreciated, especially if you have studied statistics or political science.
    Can you tell us more about what period you are looking at and how you measure "religious", and "democratic"?

    Are you attempting to improve on Democratic Peace theory, or the idea that democracies rarely fight each other although democracies do fight non-democratic nations?

    I am wondering if there is any bias in the study. This is mainly because religion is such a "hot button" topic for many people. I agree with your professor that there is no link between religion and group violence overall. My perspective as an "unbiased theist" however makes me believe the opposite perspective from what you are proposing, because of the violence perpetuated by political atheism in the 20th Century. Thus, if I was looking at the topic, I would likely make the parameters include every example of non-religious violence to support my unbiased position.

    You should realize that most people on science forums don't read a lot of international relations (IR), so we are a little slow.

    Unfortunately, I don't know of a good IR forum. If you know of one, let us know. The last one I posted on got shut down.

    The last review I read on the "causes of war" was a book chapter written by Jack Levy. However, I have not read anything new about Democratic Peace Theory.

    So if you are a scholar on that, perhaps you can bring us up to speed.
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  11. #10  
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    My advice is at least come at it from a creative angle. A good paper should not just be a boring repetition of the last 2000 papers before it that all approached the same topic from the same perspective, and arrived at the same conclusions that half the population already believes.

    An interesting angle, for example, would be to look at the correlation from reverse. Look and see if there might be other reasons for those countries to be violent. Perhaps they became religious because they are violent, instead of the other way around? Religious leaders love to show up where there is a conflict, because people flock to them for leadership and guidance and comfort. They can give order to a disordered world - which is of course less necessary if the world around them already has plenty of order.

    You could look at the issue geographically, for example. A country that is surrounded on all sides by other countries, or smaller than its neighbors, or located on a critical trade route, may have had to defend itself against invasion throughout most of its history. (Scandanavian countries were never really prime targets for invasion.)

    You could look at their ethnic composition. Heterogeneous populations are more likely to experience ethnic conflicts than homogeneous populations.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjirstin View Post
    Hello everyone,

    I'm new to the forum and wanting to get some insight/advice on my masters thesis topic. I'm studying International Relations in Europe and I'm writing my thesis on how within democratic nations, religious countries will experience more conflict (both internal and external) than irreligious countries.

    The problem is my professor is COMPLETELY against it. I knew I wanted to write about this since before my masters program began so I am really at a loss. My professor doubts any link between religion and conflict exists and that religion is too problematic to talk about. I am asked repeatedly why I have such strong feelings about religion (when I don't believe I do, the paper should be descriptive, not my opinion) and that it may be too controversial. This is extremely frustrating as I am using established data and have shown him my work that justifies my topic. Using data on the how religious nations are and comparing it with data on peace I have reached a pearson correlation of .82. I want to continue my research but due to his constant criticisms am far from motivated.

    Please tell me honestly, is this relationship worth studying? I don't believe I am being dogmatic in being "against" religion, I am merely showing that the data says religious countries are more inclined to war. Is there a problem with my thesis topic other than it perhaps being controversial?

    As a side note I don't believe this would be a problem in the US as I've written far more "controversial" papers there and received very high marks for them. Maybe it is just my school here but it feels like you can't say anything here, everything feels like a rehashing of old opinions.

    Any and all feedback is very much appreciated, especially if you have studied statistics or political science.
    I don't claim any special expertise in this field but it does strike me that you are starting from an assumed conclusion, i.e. that there is a correlation between religious belief and conflict. This is not only highly questionable but it seems, to me at any rate, practically impossible in human history to find any clear examples of atheistic or overwhelmingly agnostic cultures, to contrast with the religious ones.

    So I can see your supervisor may well view this subject as inherently tendentious and one on which it is practically impossible to do good quality , that is, objective, research. I don't think it will be a question of avoiding "controversy", except in the sense that something that may attract ridicule in many quarters might be said to be controversial. It's probably this your supervisor wants to protect you from.

    But perhaps we can help further if you can sketch out briefly HOW you intend to quantify the degree of religious adherence in a society and HOW you would quantify the tendency towards conflict? I presume you must have given this some thought before proposing the topic - and in fact I see you refer to "data" supporting your contention. What data would this be?
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    We're not here to supervise the topic and the data collection - again. That's supposed to be a task for the professionals.

    If you're looking for support that could really help you, I'd suggest contacting the corresponding authors on papers you've looked at in your research or others who work in this area. If you're using UN or CIA types of international public data collections or their national correlates, it might be a bit harder to track down someone to help you. But it might be worth a try if the researchers can't help.
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    This will be a pragmatic comment but if your advisor is against it than you should probably find another subject unless you have some OTHER reason to question his competence. They probably has some good ideas, most grad departments have tons of ideas they have more time than professors + grad students to pursue.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; May 18th, 2013 at 06:31 PM.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    I don't claim any special expertise in this field but it does strike me that you are starting from an assumed conclusion, i.e. that there is a correlation between religious belief and conflict. This is not only highly questionable but it seems, to me at any rate, practically impossible in human history to find any clear examples of atheistic or overwhelmingly agnostic cultures, to contrast with the religious ones.
    The OP claims to have sufficient evidence/research to have established that there is a correlation. I don't know how accurate their evidence is or isn't, but I'm just saying that if they want to go that direction and they have the evidence to do it, they would do well to take an original approach.

    I think unoriginal papers don't make much of an impact.
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