Religions promise identity, meaning, orientation to the life of a group of individuals, responding to their need for redemption from guilt, for deliverance from anguish, fears, worry and the evils of existence and for attainment of a (future or transcendent) condition of peace, bliss, or quietness, in which even death is overcome. On the other hand, they claim that their followers follow certain rules of behaviour (commands and prohibitions) and perform certain cultural or ritual acts. They are however characterised, like all human realities, by a series of ambiguities, the most striking of which seems to be their relation to physical and psychic violence, as well as to the fears and anguish of men, which often constitute the cause or the consequence of violence. This essay focuses on the centrality of anguish in the experience of the divine, on the importance of fear in the creation of hierarchical distance between divine and human, and in the imposition by the community of ethical and religious norms. In so doing, it reveals new insights, into the presence of violence in initiation and passage rites, in ritual sacrifices, in various forms of punishment and penitence, in anchorite asceticism, and in conducting holy wars.

Keywords: Religion; Violence; Anguish; Fear; Holy War.