I have been reading the work of Rene Girard now for a quarter century and have been applying the insights of the mimetic theory to the Bible and Christian theology for all that time. Girard is not a theologian but he has provided us with an anthropology, a way of understanding the human and human culture that explains so much of the data from so many sciences that its insights have become conclusive for me (or at least as conclusive as one can admit to in our postmodern world).
In mimetic theory, both religion and culture originate from the same place: the generative mimetic scapegoating mechanism (as Robert Hamerton-Kelly so aptly named it). As humans evolved and became more and more violent, in order to stop groups from total collapse, humans learned to turn their collective hostilities onto a single victim, thus temporarily securing ‘peace’ through cannibalistic cooperation. This cooperation is the ground for culture and the ritualizing of this mechanism is the ground of religion.
Religion is widely criticized, vilified and condemned in the world today. It is easy to see why. The interface between religion and war, politics, money and power (in other words, human culture), leaves us feeling uneasy or angry, frightened or dystopian. From ISIS in the Mid-East to the flag waving rallies of American Christianity, all around the world we see the ever present specter of a god who devours humanity, of a god who hates the other. We start and fight wars for this god, we behead others for this god, we send others to concentration and labor camps in the name of this god and we have secularized this god in the form of the modern nation-state. There is only one god in this world and its name is Violence and Death.