Evangelicals, Islamists and the globalization of apocalyptic discourse

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After 9/11, it has become increasingly obvious that strongly held religious convictions about the end of the world cannot be dismissed as the predictable consequences of deprivation, as several generations of social scientists once claimed. Instead, it has become clear that these kinds of ideas, having a life of their own, may establish discourses which may have extraordinary capacity to cross nations, cultures and even religions, encouraging passive withdrawal from the political world as well as inspiring vicious and sometimes violent attempts at its subjugation, underwriting the ‘war on terror’ as well as inspiring some of those intent on the destruction of the United States. This article describes one of Ireland’s most successful intellectual exports – a very specific system of thinking about the end of the world known as ‘dispensational premillennialism.’ And the article will move from county Wicklow in the early nineteenth century, through the troubled decades of American modernity, to arrive, perhaps unexpectedly, in the company of the soldiers of radical jihad. The article will describe the globalisation of a discourse which was developed among the most privileged classes of early nineteenth-century Ireland to explain and justify their attempt to withdraw from the world, and which has more recently been used to explain and justify sometimes violent political interventions by both prominent Western politicians and some of the most marginalised and desperate inhabitants of our broken twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-11
JournalJournal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2014


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