Megan McBride, Ph.D.

Tufts University

Country: United States (Rhode Island)

About Me:

Megan K. McBride is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a Research Analyst specializing in terrorism with a DC-area non-profit research and analysis organization. Her research focuses on the relationship between religion, politics, violence, and terrorism; and her areas of expertise include terrorism, radicalization, religious and ideological violence, and theory of religion. Previously she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, and a Middle East intelligence analyst with the National Security Agency. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Brown University, an M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University, an M.A. in Liberal Arts from the Great Books program at St. John’s College, and a B.A. in Psychology from Drew University.

Research Interests

Religion & Politics


Religion & Violence

Religion & Terrorism

ISIS, AQ, Etc.

Counterterrorism And Counterinsurgency


Disengagement And Deradicalization


Journal Articles:

(2019) Unforced Errors: ISIS, the Baath Party, and the Reconciliation of the Religious and the Secular, Politics Religion and Ideology

The need to bridge the perceived gap between religious and secular allies—individuals or movements incorrectly understood to be in tension with one another—presents a serious challenge for those attempting to understand such collaborations. Dominant efforts to reconcile the two have, moreover, been problematically inadequate. This article—taking religious ISIS and the secular Baath Party as its example—begins by identifying and critiquing the dominant strategies that analysts have employed to explain such collaborations: secularization (of ISIS), conversion (of the Baath Party), and minimization (of religion and ideology altogether). It argues that each of these approaches relies on distorting and misrepresenting the very movements under analysis and thus precludes an accurate understanding of what is happening. It then charts a constructive path forward by adapting political theorist William Connolly’s work on resonance machines. An approach informed by Connolly makes it possible to retain ISIS’s religiosity and the Baath Party’s secularism; highlights the reality that putatively incompatible movements may be united by a shared ethos that amplifies their respective ideologies; and sheds new light on the implicit messaging that may tempt recruits to join such movements.

(2011) The Logic of Terrorism: Existential Anxiety, the Search for Meaning, and Terrorist Ideologies, Terrorism and Political Violence

Drawing from the work of political theorists, theologians, anthropologists, journalists, philosophers, and contemporary psychologists studying Terror Management Theory (TMT), it becomes possible to see that the concepts of existentialism and ideology may be useful for modern thinkers attempting to understand a problem such as terrorism. Integrating work from these fields makes it possible to see that terrorism may be driven by an existential-terroristic feedback loop: a cycle in which people support or engage in terrorism to alleviate existential anxiety but ultimately find this anxiety exacerbated in the wake of the violence they create or sanction. The loop is closed when this exacerbated anxiety compels them to reaffirm their support of, or participation in, terrorist violence. If this model is valid, then effectively addressing the problem of terrorism requires joining existing U.S. policies with policies that address ideologies. Specifically, policies must aspire to a) mitigate existential anxiety, b) provide a compelling counter-narrative, c) address environmental factors conducive to radicalization, d) prevent the formation of radicalized groups, and e) deradicalize existing ideologues.