July 25th, 2011
11:13 AM ET

Is 'Christian fundamentalist' label correct for Norway terror suspect?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Given initial suspicions that Friday's bombing and mass shooting in Norway were carried out by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda, the way police ended up describing the suspect behind the attacks came as a big surprise even to many security experts: The alleged attacker was called a "Christian fundamentalist."

But experts on European politics and religion say that the Christian fundamentalist label could overstate the extent to which the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik - who has told authorities that he carried out the attacks - was motivated by religion, and the extent to which he is tied to a broader religious movement.

"It is true that he sees himself as a crusader and some sort of Templar knight," said Marcus Buck, a political science professor at Norway's University of Tromso, referring to an online manifesto that Breivik appears to have authored and which draws inspiration from medieval Christian crusaders.

My Take: Norway attacks shows terrorism isn't just Islamic

"But he doesn't seem to have any insight into Christian theology or any ideas of how the Christian faith should play any role in Norwegian or European society," Buck wrote in an email message. "His links to Christianity are much more based on being against Islam and what he perceives of as 'cultural Marxism.'"

From what the 1,500-page manifesto says, Breivik appears to have been motivated more by an extreme loathing of European multiculturalism that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world, and of the European Union's growing powers, than by Christianity.

"My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight," to his political views, said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. "It is a signifier of Western culture and values, which is what they pretend to defend."

"I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian," Romarheim said in reference to what appear to be Breivik's views.

The manifesto is religion-obsessed in that it rants for long stretches against Muslims and their growing presence in Europe.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

It calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism and execute "cultural Marxists." The manifesto includes a link to a video asserting that the majority of Europe's population will be Muslim by 2050 "unless we manage to defeat the ruling Multiculturalist Alliance."

The author of the document identifies himself as Breivik, but CNN could not independently verify that he wrote the document, and Norwegian authorities would not confirm that the man in their custody wrote the manifesto, saying it was part of their investigation

Opposition to booming Muslim immigration to Europe, exacerbated by high birth rates in the Muslim community, has become a mainstay of Europe's burgeoning far-right, helping right-wing parties gain seats in parliaments across the continent.

But those right-wing movements are mostly secular. Europe's hard right does not have deep ties to Christianity in the way that the United States' conservative movement is entwined with evangelical Christianity and other theologically conservative religious movements.

A far-right comeback in Europe

Recently adopted European laws aimed at curbing Islam's public visibility, including France's new burqa ban and Switzerland ban on minarets - towers that a part of mosques - were secular causes, not ones championed by Christian interests. Many Christian groups oppose such bans.

"The bulk of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not against Muslims as such, but is a secular rejection of how some Muslims allegedly want to place Islam at the center of society," Buck said. "It is more anti-religious than anti-Muslim."

Breivik's apparent manifesto, by contrast, cites biblical verses to justify violence for political ends.

"Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve," it says. "It's God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time."

"The biggest threat to Europe is the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist political doctrine of 'extreme egalitarian emotionalism,'" the manifesto goes on. "This type of political stance involves destroying Christendom, the Church, our European cultures and identities and opening up our borders to Islamic colonization."

The video that's linked to in the manifesto also includes some religious language: "Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Experts on religion in Europe said those faith-infused views are likely peculiar to the suspected gunman and do not appear reflect wider religious movements, even as they echoes grievances of Europe's right-wing political groups.

"He was a flaky extremist who might as well have claimed to be fighting for the honor of Hogwarts as for the cause of Christ," said Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies global religion and politics, describing the suspected Norway attacker. "He did not represent a religious movement. ... People should not follow that Christian fundamentalist red herring."

At the same time, Breivik told investigators during interviews that he belongs to an international order, The Knights Templar, according to Norwegian newspaper VG, which cited unnamed sources.

He described the organization as an armed Christian order, fighting to rid the West of Islamic suppression, the newspaper said. He also told investigators he had been in contact with like-minded individuals and said he counts himself as a representative of this order, it said.

For many in Norway, the potential implications of the suspected killer's religion are still settling in.

"This is the first time we've heard of Christianity/religion as a driving force behind right-wing extremism," Buck said. "The mainstream right-wing movements in the Nordic countries (very small and disorganized groups in Norway) would generally point to the Old Norse beliefs, if anything."

"Norwegian, Nordic and European society," he said, "were totally unprepared for a violent attack from someone who calls himself Christian."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Norway • Terrorism

soundoff (1,640 Responses)
  1. Moby49

    He is a Christian terrorist. No different than Bin Laden, a Muslim terrorist. Deserves exactly the same fate, death and burial at sea.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Elleyn

      Every Christian leader must now put out a written apology so that we know ALL christians aren't following the violence and commands given to them from the bible.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  2. Shaun

    HE IS CHRISTIAN TERRORIST.......................

    July 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  3. h2020000000

    If the guy really believed he was a Christian and believed in Jesus, then he was a Christian. Just because he did something terribly bad, does not change anything.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • sonas76

      How many people sitting in U.S. prisons can say the same thing? Probably quite a few.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • h2020000000

      Probably quite a few? How do you know that? In 1997 Federal Bureau of Prisons released:

      Christians make up about 80% of the American population AND prison population.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • sonas76

      I'd say 80% is quite a few...are you saying that out of the 80%, the Christians are only the 'wite collar' criminals who 'didn't hurt anyone'?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • h2020000000

      I am reporting statistics from a government study. It is just a survey of who in prison claimed what religion they associated with at that time. I did not make up this statistic. This was pulled from a government study.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • h2020000000

      Who cares if they did not hurt anyone, that doesn't mean that they aren't guilty of something else. It is just one of many instances that demonstrates that religion does not help in determining moral character.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  4. TheAlaskaCurmudgeon

    So if you are in any way tied to Islam and are involved in a terrorist attack, you are automatically a "Muslim fundamentalist," but if your orientation is Christian fundamentalist and you are a terrorist, then you're a lone nut and there are other factors at play. In fact, despite clearly calling yourself a "Christian," you actually aren't one, you're a Norse crusader.

    Got it. Thanks for clearing up any misunderstanding on my part.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • john

      Every 15 years or so, a radical white guy goes crazy and kills many people (and they don't hop on table tops while shooting everyone yelling "Jesus Christ all power to him"!!) Wow!, everyone always forgets that muslims kill THEIR OWN and others everyday around the world as they loudly say "Allah is the Greatest". They hide behind baby carriages, mosques, school buses, etc, EVERYDAY!!!. Truly, where is the outcry from muslims at the everyday murders around the world from there own! (Sorry, the USA can only be blamed so long for your troubles). I believe, as a christian, that anyone who kills an innocent person/child should be hunted down and brought to trial... hang Breivik now! (oops, sorry... noose mob on the loose). We christians would hunt the streets looking for such a low life! ...whether so called christian or muslim or jew. Not so with the muslim community.
      A Chinese man goes into a kindergarten school (in China) and kills most of them with a knife (sorry you libs, they have great gun control in China, so they use knives instead). The point is...its a human nature thing!!!!, and right now the radical islam terrorists are the biggest problem! Get over it!
      Islamic fundamentalist = expect others in your own faith to not stand up and hunt down the evil doers in your religion, followed with blaming all problems on USA instead of Fascist, Dictator, Socialist leaders! Cower in fear instead of standing up to what is right. Almost all in Islamic fundamentalist yell " allahu akbar!" when killing little children on buses.
      Christian fundamentalist = ALWAYS hunt down those who kill in the name of Christianity. NEVER, I repeat NEVER, has any so called "Christian" yelled "Christ is Great!!" in killing others.
      Common sense... it is long gone in media and general humanity.
      Ideologs always come in all forms...we are always surprised everyday when something new happens. To compare the atrocities around the world everyday to one incident is childish and not very common sensed. You picked one "christian" compared to many muslim/Islam "radicals" (political correct)whom almost EVERYDAY blow children and innocent people during weddings and funerals, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, and yell "allahu akbar" in almost all attacks. I tell you what, let me know when the ratio of Islamic killings, while they yell "Allahu Akbar"!!!!,even comes close to a 1 in 100,000 ratio of christians yelling "Christ is all Mighty!" when they kill...

      July 26, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  5. Methusalem

    A Christian fundamentalist is exactly like Jesus, a Muslim fundamentalist is exactly like Mohammad.

    We are in the last days, and Christians know exactly what is going on. The dark forces might change their tactics every other day, but it's the same old tactic, they will never succeed winning the war against The Holy Spirit.

    Jesus has made it very clear that He, and only He, is the only way into heaven, and that no one will come to His Father unless they come directly through Him.

    It is clear by now that all of these other false religious systems in the world today are being run by demons, and each one of these areas are major stronghold areas, with some of Satan’s best and smartest demons running all of these false religious systems.

    Let's look at some of the major false religious systems still in operation in the world today, with each one of them being run by demonic spirits who specialize in each one of these demonic systems:

    -Jehovah’s Witnesses
    -Christian Science
    -Hare Krishna
    -Unification Church
    -The Children of God
    -The Forum
    -The Way International

    The father of each of the above religions was a murderer and were sinners, but Jesus Christ never was. In today's PC world this must be extreme and controversial, but that's the truth, the only truth. You can do nothing about it – except seek for it and repent.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • PulTab

      You forgot Pastafarianism!

      July 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You left out a few " false religious systems still in operation in the world today, with each one of them being run by demonic spirits who specialize in each one of these demonic systems:

      The various branches of christianity... for starters...

      The thing that they all have in common is that they all promote ancient fairy tales as reality.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  6. Bubba10

    Close the Xtian gathering places and schools where they train the next generation of terrorists.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  7. Brian

    Christianity is full of professional apologists. The author of this little essay is one of them. It's amazing how these people can twist things to hide their lack of credibility.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  8. RossTrex

    So CNN posts this article all the while trumpeting on every glossy picture of this guy Christian Fundamentalist... Then to top it off they run an article from a Muslim Chaplain from New York that says blame terrorists for terrorism not Muslims....... CNN are you brain dead.... do you read the news that you post everyday or are you so stuck in the Multicultural Agruement and support of Islam that you cannot see what is happening in the world and how many Islamic attacks we have EVERY DAY. NUTS!

    July 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      So - are you a Knights Templar member?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Elleyn

      Of course he is exactly what he says he is, a christian. Christians commit crimes and sins every day. When you read a post from a "christian" denying the terrorist was one, remember Judus..

      July 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  9. Jo Jo

    A lot of hypocrites here today. A Muslim does it and the religion gets blamed, the Koran is talked about as a book that inspires terror and Muslims are questioned as to why they do not condemn (even though they do) the terrorists. Peter Kind holds hearings about Islamic terrorists etc. A Christian does the same thing or worse and what happens.. suddenly, there are all kinds of excuses. He's not really a Christian. He's mentally ill, he does not understand true Christianity, heck, some people here are even blaming Muslims for what this guy did. A terrorist is a terrorist period! We can agree not to label people based on their warped belief or twisting the words of their Holy Book to suit their fancy, but we must be consistent when we play the blame game.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  10. Okay Christians, Let's All Cop Out Together Again (and again and again): "He Isn't A Real Christian)

    I do love reading the excuse and apologetics and word-twisting our good Christians are sharing with us today. Never mind all those wars and all that oppressions and bloodshed that we did for centuries and centuries; this bloodshed is not really Christian. Really. Really it isn't.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • john carter of mars

      You apparently do not know that Christianity is a religion of peace.... just like Islam.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Brynja

      Exactly. He is a REAL christian. The mainstream christians just dont want to SEE that they are exactly the same as any muslim. They are under some deluded idea that christianity means peace.. the same as any muslim is. In addition, if any christian REALLY followed the teachings of their vile evil bible.. they would be killing people left and right. This guy was more of a true christian than most.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Serp

      Jesus Christ on a stick, the absurdity knows no bounds. This dude is as much a Christian Fundamentalist as the Islamic Fundamentalists are. Nobody that actually follows either religion is going to go around bombing and killing innocents, as murder is one of the greater sins (if not the greatest) in both idealogies.

      But the media, and the dumb marks that follow them religiously, are convinced Islam is coming to destroy everything while their poor Christian selves are totally oppressed and powerless, despite all common sense to the contrary. One dude is spamming these boards asking if "has anybody noticed that when it's a guy shooting and saying Allahuakbar the media won't say what religion that person is?" People actually believe this drivel and repeat it constantly.

      All of these religiions are the same and a total ripoff of ancient Greek mythology. The Old Testament especially could be right out of The Odyssey or The Iliad, with some minor modifications. Same writing style and emphasis on animal sacrifices and barbaric punishments for everything. The New Testament and the Quran remove most of that really early influence but are still an extension.

      I don't really believe in a right or wrong or moral code. Everyone just does whatever the hell they want and later just blatantly lies or otherwise justifies why they are right and the other side is wrong. It makes absolutely no difference how you get there, but whichever side wins and is more powerful is going to be "right" later on.

      Humanity is an absolute farce.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Jeannie L

    I am so tired of people claiming to be Christian that kill and maime and do this kind of thing. True Christians follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and he didnt kill or maime anyone. True Christianity teaches love and compassion and mercy. Not this deceptive garbage! This man is NOT a Christian according to the bible!

    July 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Anders

      Unless you are gay right, or a non believer or anything you don't believe is "Christian" ?? Then you don't have love or compassion?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Lets Ignore the Ugly Parts

      So the Old Testament just isn't relevant, then?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Let's see the wikipedia entry on the spanish inquisition? Anti-Christian propaganda? Could never happen again? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition

      July 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  12. AJ

    The term "christian fundamentalist" does not apply to this murderer, because his actions are not rooted in the fundamental texts of christianity. he may have quoted old testament scriptures, but any calls to violence by those scruptures have been thoroughly abrogated by the teaching of JC and modern christianity. I am not religious, I think its all ignorance and evil, but to call him christian fundamentalist is simply inaccurate. However, referring to islamic terrorists as fundamentalists is accurate, because the islamic scriptures specifically call the muslims to wage war against the non-believers until sharia is the law of the land and no religion comes before islam and allah, and when muslim wages violence against non-believers, they are taking part in fundamental aspects of the religion that the majority of the followers of that religion ("moderates" as we call them") don't take part in because they are less religiously devoted. The peaceful verses of islam, which mohammed wrote while in medina, have all been abrogated by the violent verses he started writing after he left medina and began raiding jewish caravans and slaughtering tribes of non-believers.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Agnostic Theism

      That all depends on what version & translation of religious texts (bost KKKristian and MOOslum).I it did not come from God directly to you, it ain't real.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Serp

      Have you ever actually read the Bible? Or the Quran?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  13. Mitch

    He sounds exactly like Al-Qaida or any other Muslim terrorist to me: using a shallow view of their own religion to enforce their social/political views.

    Is he a reflection of mainstream Christianity? No. Then again, Bin Laden was not a reflection of mainstream Islam either.

    Zealots and murderers are all the same, regardless of their religious views. Indeed, their religion is usually little more than just a smokescreen by which they attract dim-witted followers. Muslim terrorists have killed many more innocent Muslims than Christians or Jews (or Hindus or Buddhists or whatever), just like this loser attacked his own fellow citizens.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • BillInLA

      At the risk of seeming like a religious zealot:


      July 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  14. Kanoodle

    He seems to have a lot in common with the Tea Party

    July 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • SWBeth

      He seems to have "what" exactly in common with the Tea Party? The "Tea Party" hasn't killed anyone or blown up buildings? Your statement is unhelpful and uninsightful and takes the lazy way out of contributing to the discussion.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Christopher Milelr

      You seem to have a lot in common with the Democratic (Marxist) Party. Unable to think past a third grade level.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • john carter of mars

      You're right. They have't killed or blown anyone up.... yet.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • T

      Reminds me of NY's Pete King!

      July 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Wilson Baird

    It's a lie! You don't see real Christians bombing anything, and yes, you see right wing extremists killing and bombing and yes, you see much more Islamics extremists killing and bombing in the name of Ala! I think CNN has been orchestrating a smear campaign against Christians and are trying to protect and give the benefit of doubt to Muslins more than what would be fare. For sure, not Muslins are terrorists, but unfortunately great numbers are (see the killing of 8 years old boy in Afghan this week) and you has been blind to this proportions and have been seized every single thing to blame Christians even if does not fit. I think as a Christian I will stop watching CNN because it's bias!

    July 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • BillInLA

      It's perhaps a sign of bias on my part, but when I see a post in English as broken as yours, I assume stupidity.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • BillInLA

      Also, you write: "You don't see real Christians bombing anything..."

      So all our our own military people who drop terror from the sky in wars the Bush Administration fomented for whatever purposes are what - atheists?

      Have you considered the possibility that you really don't have any of this figured out?

      July 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • indiawilkes

      Cnn won't miss you.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Terre

      You can't just pretend that the OT doesn't exist. Nowhere in the NT does it say that the OT was false and that that it is not longer valid.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  16. Akahn

    Again another Christian extremist group killing and murdering for their religion. This is why religion goes to far, you get brain washed people that stop at nothing to kill maim and destroy for their 'god'. This is far from the first time Christianity has killed ruthlessly in the past and they are no better then Muslim extremists or any other cult. It is funny how the Christian right don't want to be associated with him, but have no problem associating all Muslims with Osama Bin Laden. Hypocrisy beyond words...

    July 25, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • BillInLA

      Not to make a very fine point of it, but this "group" so far consists of one nut case.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • ck1721

      Big difference between "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Christianity preaches love-even if misguided "Christians" don't follow that) vs Islam, which has a primary goal of instilling ist's religion into the government of the entire world. The Quran states that until this happens, there will not be peace. Not all Muslims are equated to OBL, but their religion has the same goals

      July 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  17. Terry

    There will always be CRAZY NUT BAGS out there (Should be in a mental Hospital). And then there are your muslim terroist that think that Allah wants them to kill Americans and that everything is a holy war. The results are the same, innocent people get killed.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  18. tepeters

    Absolutely it is correct to use the terms or more simply 'Christianism' because in its way of thinking it is like Islamism. In both cases it is a corruption of the beliefs of both religions, where a conservative interpretation of those religions is paired with violent politicalization and intolerance for any other belief system. In general it can be called religionism because the phenomena also exists in other beliefs including Judaism and Hinduism. It is a fanatical and morally evil delusion of one's superiority as a chosen person or persons.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      I agree.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  19. nofed

    Hmm lets see. He was dressed as a Mason. His ideals seem to be Atheist, confused. There was terror drill day before in Norway same place... Same time in the week Homeland security issued that white middle class Christians are terror threats. Norway stood up to usa on libya. Looks like its maybe label it a false flag operation would correct term for this... SIMAS Surveillance Detection Units.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Brynja

      Atheist? No I dont think so. Atheists do not use religion as their excuse. Atheists dont think in any way like this amoral killer. Where as even the christian in this piece said and I quote ""My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight," to his political views, " That IS what chrisitanity does and is. Its an evil. Period.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Luke 19:27

      July 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Who's Confused


      In what way at all did his ideals seem to be "Atheist"? Targeting members of one religion and killing in the name of another... that's not very atheist. It seems that you're the one who's confused.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  20. Chris N

    He is as near a Fundimentalist Christian as Hitler is to Mother Teresa

    July 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Terre

      Both Hitler and Teresa were catholics.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:38 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.