Survey: Most Americans say it's wrong to celebrate bin Laden's death
Students at West Virginia University in Morgantown celebrate after hearing the news of Osama bin Laden's death.
May 11th, 2011
03:38 PM ET

Survey: Most Americans say it's wrong to celebrate bin Laden's death

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Those who cheered outside the White House and Ground Zero on the night Osama bin Laden was killed may have been in the minority.

A survey released Wednesday showed 62% of Americans agree it is immoral to celebrate the death of another human being, "no matter how bad that person was."

When asked separately if a passage from Proverbs 24:17 - "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall" - applies to how Americans should react to the death of Osama bin Laden, 60% of Americans agreed.

My Take: Poll reveals a disposable Jesus

"There's widespread agreement across religion and party lines about how Americans should act in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden," said Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research Institute, which designed and conducted the survey in partnership with Religion News Service.

The survey also found "fairly big disagreement and division over the morality and the effectiveness of torture and harsh interrogation methods," Jones said.

When asked if they agreed that using torture could "never be justified" to get information from suspected terrorists, 49% of those surveyed agreed and 43% disagreed.

"We've been watching these numbers on torture for a while now," Jones said. "They've been fairly consistent for the last few years that the country is fairly evenly divided. The partisan division is really big here, and there are a few religious differences.

"Democrats, maybe not surprisingly, are much more likely to say torture is never justified than Republicans. Younger Americans are much more likely than older Americans to say that torture can never be justified."

According to the survey, 60% of Democrats agreed that torture can never be justified, while 53% of Republicans disagreed.

"One thing we try to do is gauge public opinion but also gauge it in the religious context," Jones said.

To that end they also asked survey respondents if they thought God had a special role for America in human history; 51% answered yes.

Asked if they believed "Osama bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins in hell," 65% said yes.

The May 5-8 survey was conducted by telephone with 1,007 Americans age 18 and older by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Opinion Research Corporation. The overall margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Islam • United States

soundoff (438 Responses)
  1. myklds

    I scanned the entire blog but posts I've made just 12 hours ago are nowhere to be found. Deleted?

    Why? Mr. Prothero, having proplems with your bloated ego that you couldn't tolerate a little critcicsm?

    You're such a shame!

    May 13, 2011 at 5:29 am |
  2. J Ahmed

    Either way, OBL is dead, and yes he will pay for his crimes in hell. Cheering in the streets, well everyone has the right to do whatever they feel, its a free country...and that we, citizens of the USA deserve the right. We shouldn't hate on "arabs" as many of them have felt the heart ache of many crimes against them to. Its not about our religion, we can be christian, muslim, jewish, anything – its the point if we feel we are a good person at heart. Its no one to judge, no one but god himself. People cheer for many reasons, some good – some bad – but who am I to say what is good or bad? No, I'm a simple college student... its god himself who knows what is right, wrong, true or not. But Love and Peace will always be what I look for, I wish people could care about each other – see that peace is the passage to eternal life. And if you don't agree, then I pray for you, and hope that someday you just see that ignorance is just a part of life...we all do it...but finding peace in the mind and heart will always put a smile on your face....god bless everyone...lets hope all this fighting stops...one day I hope =)

    May 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Muneef


      May 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  3. Muneef

    It is a natural reaction that has happened for people to cry,laugh and celebrate the death of a person that they were made to live with their fears of for the past 20 years... Natural reaction as this was seen and experienced before in different countries such as Palestinians when celebrated the sudden fall of "Arael Sharon" (PM) of Israel.....or the Israelies when learned of the death of the late "Yasser Arafat".... We are only humans and not machines and cannot hide expressing our emotions and it is logical that you will not cry a death of an enemy nor will you celebrate the death of a friend...!
    Some might have over celebrated thinking that this will be the total end of a treat or a nightmare they have lived with for 20 years...but what they never might thought oit is that an end of an old chapter means a begining of a new chapter that only God knows how it is going to be for you and us since as Muslims we have had our own suffering from these acts of violence and terrors...

    May 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  4. RightturnClyde

    Nothing wrong with celebrating how the law caught up with a wanted felon and he refused to be arrested .... no is there? Bonnie & Clyde .. Jesse James .. Cole Younger .. Dahmler .. Richard Speck .. the Boston Strangler .. Jack the Ripper .. Son of Sam .. the Zodiak killer ..THE GREEN RIVER killer we are always glad when one is no longer a threat .. and Osama was worse than ALL of them together. He was not finished. But now he is.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  5. Richard Fusilier

    B.Laden's death was a revenge. Ex Nazis are still prosecuted. Why is there any dignity or consideration extended to La Quada or ex members of Taliban. They are par with Nazis. Why ever extend Visa priveleges to these "Kali" type killers? and haters of so called Infidels?

    May 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  6. JustJeff

    I just think of all those folks who jumped from the WTC because it was a better option than burning to death. Osama bin Laden was responsible for that. He got what was coming to him. Enough said.

    May 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  7. Muneef

    God the Creator is One and the Only One but men of Faiths & Doctrines have each made their God the way they want it to be and they want to believe even if was against logic they will manufacture a logic for it to suit it....just as does the scientists do to beautify a concept that they are not firm with yet... 

    May 12, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  8. Muneef

    Islam no Killer...Islam is not the Work of the devil or evil.

    Islam will not die by the death of any body, Islam did not die by the death of Muhammed (S.A.W)...(Submission) will Domin Earth by time to come.... Islam starts with (Taking refuge of God from the work of devil & evil);

    [7:196] "GOD is my only Lord and Master; the One who revealed this scripture. He protects the righteous.

    [7:197] "As for the idols you set up beside Him, they cannot help you, nor can they help themselves."

    [7:198] When you invite them to the guidance, they do not hear. And you see them looking at you, but they do not see.

    [7:199] You shall resort to pardon, advocate tolerance, and disregard the ignorant.

    [7:200] When the devil whispers to you any whisper, seek refuge in GOD; He is Hearer, Omniscient.

    [7:201] Those who are righteous, whenever the devil approaches them with an idea, they remember, whereupon they become seers.

    [7:202] Their brethren ceaselessly entice them to go astray.

    [7:203] If you do not produce a miracle that they demand, they say, "Why not ask for it?" Say, "I simply follow what is revealed to me from my Lord." These are enlightenments from your Lord, and guidance, and mercy for people who believe.

    [7:204] When the Quran is recited, you shall listen to it and take heed, that you may attain mercy.

    [7:205] You shall remember your Lord within yourself, publicly, privately, and quietly, day and night; do not be unaware.

    [7:206] Those at your Lord are never too proud to worship Him; they glorify Him and fall prostrate before Him.

    May 12, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  9. bwydeman

    2 Samuel 3:32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner's tomb. All the people wept also.
    Job 31:29 "If I have rejoiced at my enemy's misfortune or gloated over the trouble that came to him–
    Psalm 35:15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing.
    Psalm 35:19 Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.
    Proverbs 17:5 He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
    Proverbs 24:18 or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.
    Obadiah 1:12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.
    Micah 7:8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.

    Because of this gloating about the death of bin Laden this will motivate and anger terrorist to attack harder and become more deadly. America must be very careful because any thing can happen.

    May 12, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  10. ysc

    which is worse? to celebrate a man's death? or to make fun of it? letterman, leno, conan, ferguson, kimmel, and fallon were all doing the latter, cracking jokes all week about OBL's death on nationwide TV. and their audiences roared with laughter. but i hear no one frowning on any of them.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • vasechek

      that's different. those guys are money-makers – it's a matter of business for them. no morals can be allowed to stand in the way of that

      May 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  11. Adelina

    Americans are sissy... they should feel guilty about drinking and using foul language more.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  12. Adelina

    Christians never rejoice over another man's destruction or damnation. I was happy that a mass murderer got a standard justice(physical death equivalent to execution). Proverbs 24:17 applies to a personal enemy, not to an international terrorists who'd destroy millions of lives if possible. Bin Laden knew USA was after him and he had time to repent about what he had done all his life. Man is responsible for his conduct.

    May 12, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  13. LisaBrennan

    Who cares what Obama thinks about Islam or religions, you moron? It is about actions. I am a vet, lost someone on 9/11 and I offer up to all you face color-coding buffoons and righteous small-minded people, we would not even be having this post fest if it was not for Greed. From Day 1 until this moment, it has always been about greed and righteousness. I am humbled by some of the posting such as Allen and Alexandra and a few more. The rest of you have lost or sold your souls.

    May 12, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  14. Alexandra

    Funny how the very folks who are the most adamant that the Bible is the literal word of God and not open to interpretation are also the most likely to disregard the most basic of Jesus' exhortations to his followers.

    May 12, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  15. Reality

    I did not make a toast or raise the American flag when I heard the news but I have to believe that as I, most global citizens rejoiced in their hearts that bin Laden finally paid for his crimes against humanity. Three cheers and three beers to the US Navy Seals and all the support troops military and civilian who carried out the execution!!

    I am not a fan of Mr. Obama but he got this one right!!! His leadership will make other terrorists have many a sleepless night. Hopefully, he gets the guts someday to say what he really thinks about religions especially Islam.----–

    May 12, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  16. jon

    What Is honourable about killing unarmed men ?- why couldn't you arrest someone with an army garrison just next door....

    May 12, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • vasechek

      jon, they were apparently unsure what they would find there. didn't know for sure who was in there or what kind of resistance they'd meet or if the garrison next door wouldn't meet them with bullets and aa fire.
      the sf guys were brave to go into the lion's den and they dealt with everything that went down quickly and efficiently. in the end their job was apparently easier than expected. more reason not to pi$$ in your boots in celebration: not a whole lot to be proud of in hindsight. if anything makes me doubt our politicians and intelligence community for not taking care of this or applying appropriate pressure on our so-called allies years ago

      May 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • jon

      Yes – but sf guys have "discretion" – like police – there is "time" to decide whether to shoot – if unarmed and Not shooting the question Can be asked – better to tie them up for questioning ..... there is Lots of scope for this outcome surely

      May 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • vasechek

      I can agree with that, but both you and I can only guess at what really happened there. I am not going to convict the seals of murder based on the evidence we've been shown. consider, also, that police and the military do operate under conditions that are quite different, and hence their tactics and training are quite different also. The military faces significantly more danger and therefore is much quicker on the trigger. No, I can't hold it against the seals that they didn't take him alive. that probably wasn't what OBL wanted, either.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • jon

      i can think that force is appllied in what is called "necessary force" – an effort is made to give the oppurtunity for surrender – if they can....w ith the sf we may indeed get a "cover story".....

      May 13, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  17. EM

    Of *course* they're in the minority (the screamers, cheering the death). The average American is a good person. And has a sense of decency. And does not go screaming out on the streets in protest to be seen on CNN. Only morons do that.

    May 12, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  18. sylvia saenz


    May 11, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  19. Name

    slightly off-topic, but looking at the number of people on here flaunting their ignorance of statistics and how surveys work, I am wondering yet again what being taught in our schools? Oh, right, creationism.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Jim

      No, creationism is rarely taught, but the kids do get a healthy dose of Global Warming, with little reference to facts or to mathematical models that really work. They also get LOTS of doses of slanted statistics of dubious (or zero) validity on various points of history.

      May 12, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  20. Buffoon

    Yeah, it's wrong to celebrate but I'd do it again anytime – kinda like beating off! 🙂

    May 11, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.