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. Christian

    My Religion is not the way to Heaven. Your Religion is not the way to eternity. Jesus is.
    Religion is like Plates serving food. Concertrate less on silverware ( its origin, style, price, fashion...) and enjoy the Food.
    There's a battle going on within each one of us. A battle between Good vs Evil...right vs wrong.
    The one you Feed the most Always Wins.
    Fight a good warfare.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  2. Marty

    On page 676, of his screed, Breivik states that he is not religious...

    "Although not a religious person myself"

    And he says it again on page 681...

    "As a non-religious person"

    July 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  3. Nadir

    He is a Christian Terrorist. He has used terror to terrorize people with his evil thoughts and actions. The way he terrorized innocent children at ground zero was brutal and we shall spare no resources tracking down his supporters. Either you are with us or against us in fighting these christanists. We will remember Norway. We shall defeat the axis of christian evil by organizing a jihad against the evil-doers. That youth camp is sacred ground. We will never allow a church or chapel near there. It would be disrespectful.
    ps: see how it feels now?

    July 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Donodron

      Precisely, because all the christians in all the christian terrorist training camps funded by religiously conservative billionaires in oppressive countries are loudly celebrating this attack and stating their support for it all over the internet and the christian tv channels. Furthermore, millions of christian children are being taught that this attack was noble and right in their religiously funded and run ultraconservative schools.
      P.S. See how the comparison doesn't fit?

      July 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  4. Christian

    Here is a simple litmus test: What if the multicultural battle is about christian immigrants from say Africa or Latin America:
    Will we still think its about religion?
    Religion was here before Christ did...As a matter of fact, Jesus of Nazareth suffered greatly in the hands of Religious zealots, so to basically equate everything wrong with my trigger happy terroristically conservative neighbor
    with a certain faiths mantra is simply simple options that requires simple mind. Simply.
    Im Not Religious, I just Love the Lord ๐Ÿ™‚

    July 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  5. KC

    You have to laugh at the constant feeble attempts of deflecting blame from the Muslim terror by trying to invent violence by Christians. These are some very weak minds at work.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  6. BadChristians

    It is shameful what Christians do to others...We need to ban all Christians from public places, no more Churches near Ground Zero at all. Think of how terrible the world would be if we let Christians have a say:) oh ya, we did, it was called the dark ages...

    July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Dan

      Christianity was around before the dark ages. Western Europe fell into darness because the empire collapsed, not because of Christianity. You clearly know nothing about history,

      July 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • pritiblond

      The dark ages did not occur because of Christianity, but rather an apostasy from Christianity. The main early apostate religion was called Catholocism. It evolved into 30,000 off-shoots of apostate christianity....todays Christian world.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Dan

      pritiblond... 30,000? LOL...You're joking, right. How are you counting these denominations? Give me a break.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • thefurious

      You know, its interesting. Humanity wants to be angry at someone, cast blame towards someone else. I hear all the time that the "Christians" of the Crusades killed many people and how Christians today cant talk when it comes to atrocities Muslims have made. But the thing is, the "Christians" of the Crusades were completely different from the Christians of today. The Crusaders were actually Catholic, not protestant Christian. They also lived in a society where Religion dominated government, society, laws, etc... To say the government was wrong, was to say the Church was wrong, that God himself was wrong. Which, is archaic thinking. This is how Islam works. Christians today, however, specifically speaking of protestants, follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  7. AvdBerg

    A number of people that have written to respond to this article have spoken of the interpretation of the Bible, which is the number one problem in this present world as the Bible itself teaches us that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Only few people (Matthew 7:14) are able to understand the Bible and as long as mankind remains separated from God, the Word of God will remain a mystery.

    Mankind in his natural state is unable to understand the Bible and unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).

    There is a natural body and a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). The only thing that separates the Natural body from the Spiritual body is the Baptism of Repentance (Mark 1:4). To repent means: to change spirits and to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan, whose spirit mankind is of (Luke 9:55), unto God (Acts 26:18). This is not an interpretation. Many people search the Bible for in them they think they have eternal life, but when we bring them the Scriptures they donโ€™t believe us (John 5:38,39). Confused? There is no need to be confused any longer. For a better understanding of the mystery of God we invite you to read all the pages and articles of our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    So, before mankind will be able to understand the Word of God, mankind requires to be converted and transformed by God (not by any religion) and only then mankind is able to understand the Bible, as it is God (John 1:1).

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).

    July 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • St. Mike

      What a moron.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  8. caron speas

    All these denials that christian fundamentalism is responsible are by christian funndamentalists. They have a real hard time looking at themselves because they are so busy condemning everyone else. Yes, christian fundamentalists are just as bad as islamic fundamentalists. Thie hatred is renouned and some of them committ acts of violence. Same zealotry.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Donodron

      Here's one difference: what "Christian fundamentalists" do you see celebrating these deaths? Compare that to the reaction to the London subway bombing or the death of Karzai recently.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Dan

      Donodron....Couldn't have said it better myself.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Nadir

      I did see christians celebrating on the streets. Dont believe me? I saw it myself on Al-Jazeera and on Al-Arabia. There were even celebration fireworks in christian east Timur. I saw that myself on Al-Osama News network. These Christianists are really living in the stone ages.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  9. cassie

    He is not a Christian in any category. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" has not taken hold in his heart unless he doesn't love himself much either. It's one thing to love your native culture and want to see it preserve and not eclipsed by another. You can't logically, or otherwise, jump from this point of view to destroying large masses of your native population. The man isn't even logical. He's certainly not christian. He's certainly not sane. He's just one semi human mistake which we hope will not be repeated.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • caron speas

      I don't know any real christians - only those that hate and condemn in the name of Jesus Christ. The only reason they don't kill as many or as often as Islamic fundamentalists is because our western society doesn't tolerate like they do in the middle east. Same anger and hatred though.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Dan

      caron...Isn't it funny that you see hatred in people you obviously hate. It's called "projection," dear. You hate and assume the people that you hate are just like you.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  10. Khalid

    If he were a Muslim...

    July 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Andrew M

      he would be acting in accord with the Koran's call for violence against unbelievers.

      IF he were a christian, he would be ignoring the clear teachings of Jesus to love your enemies and to do good to those who persecute you.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  11. becket

    why doesn't the headline read Christian Terrorist??

    July 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  12. supernaut1988

    same b.s. muslims say after islamic attacks.........."hes not a REAL christian" "they arent REAL muslims"
    stop making excuses and just admit your religions are garbage

    July 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Dan

      RTA, he demonstrates no "insight into Christian theology." It's kind of hard to claim he is a Christian, when he knows nothing about the religion.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    Ander Breivik's Facebook page was altered to include the descriptors 'Christian' and 'Conservative' after he had already been apprehended. Who did this? Well, now we know who governments will be going after!
    Here you may see before and after pictures of his facebook site.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  14. Matthew S

    Would an article like this even exist if it were a Muslim instead of a Christian?

    July 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Khalid


      July 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Donodron

      The unfortunate question is whether anyone would have been surprised if this guy was a Muslim.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  15. judasknows

    this just goes to prove the extent the christains go to to lay blame somewhere else when one of their own kills in the name of their god. you never hear of far-left fundamentalist who plan and kill a mass of people in the name of religion like the republican party does....when the GOP creates in the minds of these monsters in their party that the left is destroying the country they are in fact fanning the fire of these freaks

    July 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Donodron

      Nope, far left fundamentalists commit violence in the name of the environment. No label can avoid fringe members.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Shaundavid

      Um, hate to point this out to you, but this guy was from Norway! They don't have the GOP in Norway, nor is the Nordic "conservative" party ideologically identical to the American "conservative" party.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Dan

      And what fires are you fanning with your hate? How blind can you possibly be not to see that you are doing the very thing that you accuse others of? Amazing.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  16. Truth

    this guy is basically a neo con (pro Israel, anti muslim and immigration, conservative, christian where it fits him.. only thing different is he's not anti-gay). So maybe he should have just came to US and ran for president, he'd have a good chance ๐Ÿ˜€

    July 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • grey, atlanta

      Except he could never run for president because he was not born in the US. Is this your ignorance or laziness?

      July 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • ShaunDavid

      grey, Atlanta- nice work. Still not sure why he would stand a good chance, as Truth says, even if he was a natural born citizen. Truth? More like Troll.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Shire

      grey, atlanta, truth is just making a point, get over yourself

      July 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  17. KBinMN

    Let's have a little perspective. How many Christian fundamentalist terror training camps are there as opposed to Muslim terror training camps? Yes every couple of decades some non-muslim goes off the deep end for whatever reason as opposed to nearly weekly Muslim terror attacks, bombings, etc.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • FatSean

      How many Muslim nations boycott, embargo, bomb, invade and occupy Christian nations? But look at Christian USA bombing Pakistan, occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, etc...

      Muslim, Christian, it's all the same hate-filled judgmental and ignorant made-up nonsense.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  18. Mihai

    i dont think this madman is a cristian fundamentalist (that more of a lable to sell papers and turn heads , a bit of news terrorism if i may ) I would argue he is a extrem right wing fanatic for the fact he didnt atacked muslims or people of diffrent religion or race , he tageted the political class .

    July 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  19. Salvatore Pietromonaco

    I'm an atheist who thinks that not all terrorist attacks are based on religious belief, but are instead the acts of mass murderers/serial killers with delusions of greatness.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  20. Terri

    "My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight," to his political views,
    Isn't that the same as the Muslim Fundies?

    July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • FatSean

      Exactly. Shrill Christians think it's OK when their religion does it.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Ethan

      Nope – not the same at all. It's pretty elementary examination of motivation. Muslim fundamentalist kill BECAUSE of their skewed of ALLAH's commands: to destroy infidels, to advance Islam and to establish Sharia (religious law). That's not made up – its simply pulled from the statements, websites and manifestos of islamic terrorists. This guy says he's killing because he wants to start a civil war to drive out immigrants and multiculturalism from europe. His motivation is nationalistic, his words are nationalistic and his actions are nationalistic. Nationalism and Religion are quite different things.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:15 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.