chapter  18
15 Pages

Are Supernatural Beliefs Commitment Devices for Intergroup Conict?

A rguably the most important political event of the albeit still young twenty-–rst century was a case of intergroup conict in which supernatural beliefs played a pivotal role. The attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the foiled attack by the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, was motivated by intergroup con-ict but was made possible in no small part because the perpetrators had beliefs about the afterlife. While we do not attempt here to sort out the many causal antecedents of this attack, which are undoubtedly complex (see also Chapters 2, 10, and 16 in this volume), we do propose an explanation for the broader phenomenon: why people entertain supernatural beliefs and their relationship to intergroup conict.