How to explain barbarity 1: Absolute Power - Ruling Religion - War Volker von Prittwitz (November 28, 2015)
The Islamic State appears to be nothing but a terroristic organization, determined by the logic of war, emphasizing cruel, dehumanized violence and terror. Indeed, it should not be overlooked that this cruel organization practically operates not only in the logic of war (of friend or foe), but first and foremost in the logic of power: Anything is mainly assessed and dealt with in terms of  power for the organization - leading to throughout strategical policies, brutal ways of instrumentalizing, and strategical terror against any phenomenon that seems to be deviant or resistant. Even religion is rigorously used as a means of expanding the organizations’ power - by forming homogenity and making young people sacrifice their lives as suicide attackers or fighters for going to paradise. That rigorous instrumentalization exhibits a lack of any normative bond - a typical feature of energetic criminals; in so far the IS is a big criminal gang. Indeed, instrumentalization requires structures and persons that can be practically instrumentalized. Hence we have to investigate how far and in what respects religion and other spheres are open for being instrumentalized through actors like IS or even match with that instrumentalizing. Looking at religion from a European point of view, a systematic linkage between religion and IS seems to be out of reach. Since religion as we know operates with claims apart such as accountability before God, protection for the poor, morality and justice, peace and moral values - influenced also by historical processes of adaptation to civil norms and procedures. Against this background religious representatives usually disclaim any coherence between religion and Islamic terrorism and find much assent with this disclaiming.     Looking systematically at what religion is, we detect, however, some  fundamental matchings between structures of religion, particularly monotheist religion, and the logic of absolute power: 1) Any religion is based on the idea of one and the only transcendent truth. Although sometimes there is  religious arguing, that truth cannot be empirically or otherwise rationally checked (hence not be falsified). 2) That transcendency is usually not been assessed as weakening religious legitimation; in the contrary, it even heightens religious claims of legitimation (because religion is alleged to result from a transcendent, in that sense higher, source). According to this asymmetric legitimation (not checkable, but even higher legitimated by transcendency), religions exhibit distinctly authoritarian structures - sharply differentiating between the religious elite (Rabbis, bishops, priests, mullahs) and normal believers without any power. 3) Any religion operates with authoritatively fixed texts and rites, at least informal traditions that have been passed on through generations, often through hundreds or thousands of years - a fundamental way of complexity reduction that enormously hampers innovation. 4) Religions usually strive after symbolic and socio-cultural prevalence; they often cumulate economic assets, and they usually try to get  political power. 
5) Particularly the Abrahamian religions (Jews, Christianity, Moslems) passed through historic periods of absolutistic power and violent suppression of other believers and non- believers. Although religions usually proclaim to be peaceful and to foster piece, the logic of war does not  principally conflict with structures of religion. Since homogenous religious groups tend to consider other religions and non- believers to be heretics outside of and against the own truth of faith - a possible link to the pattern of friend or foe, the core pattern of the logic of war. Hence it is no surprise that in history religions have often been significant sources of war by proclaiming the suppression and annihilation of other groups and by proclaiming holly wars; even in the 21st century, certain streams of Islam and Jewish extremists vindicate violence and war to  foster the expansion or defense of their religious truths. The militant character of religions had often  devastating consequences  - also in Europe. Thus the 30 Years’ War from 1618 to 1648, stoked by a mixture of religious and power conflicts,  devastated Central Europe with long lasting impacts. The population almost halved - until a complete annihilation in many local areas; the economic standards of the pre-war period were partly re-achieved only more than one century later. That occurence worked as a fundamental historic lesson for Europe, particularly for Central and Northern Europe. Indeed, the religious schism between Catholics and Protestants still produced some hatred and violence particularly in Western Europe  - see the cruel persecution and mass exodus of the Huguenots by the middle of the 18th century; after the 30 Years’ War, however, no other religiously motivated war took place in Europe, and since the French Revolution from 1789 the idea of a free practice of religion within state rule stepweise spread in whole Europe. Meanwhile the freedom of religion, understood both as free choice and practice of any religion and as freedom from any religious constraint are an established content of any modern constitution - a basic element of peace and welfare. Starting from Europe and the United States, the positive linkage of basic freedoms such as the freedom of religion with increasing welfare became known also in Turkey and Arabic countries finding its expression in some institutional reforms such as the Turkish Laizism. With the increasing disposition of huge oil reserves, however, some Islamic countries, particularly Iran (Schiitic) and Saudi-Arabia (Sunnite/Wahhabite) started to proclaim and to disseminate the pre-modern pattern of one ruling religion. That pattern is basic for the ideology of the Islamic State, that came up since the first decade of the 21st century and got meanwhile power not only in the Middle-East region, but also in some North African areas and even (by terrorism) in Europe.    Altogether we se reciprocal linkages between the concepts of absolute power, ruling religion, and war - fundamental basics of IS.