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. Gavin Ford

    See what happens when you are a myth-believing idiot AND crazy?

    July 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  2. Buddy R

    Anti-theists are fundamentally dishonest people. There is no way anyone could honestly think the man is a Christian if they know anything about the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian.

    The man did not follow the teachings of Christ and therefore can't be called a Christian by any rational honest person. Of course anti-theists abound with their preaching of hate and intolerance of theistic religions on this website.

    The Bible states that anyone who hates or murders is not a Christian. Jesus said his followers (Christians) keep his commandments. Jesus said to love, do good to, and pray for even one's enemies.

    John 14:21 King James Version (KJV)
    21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    1 John 4:20 King James Version (KJV)
    20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

    1 John 3:15 King James Version (KJV)
    15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

    Matthew 5:44 King James Version (KJV)
    44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    Luke 6:46 King James Version (KJV)
    46And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

    July 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Greg

      I am not a dishonest person. Screw you.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  3. Alex

    I am confused by all the religion talks around here.
    Here is what a religious crime is in a nutshell: You commit a crime in the name of a deity.
    If he commits it in the name of his god, then he is committing a religion-inspired crime, if he just happens to be from that religion, it was other motives that drove him, unless stated otherwise.
    Also a note to the Christians in the discussion: Stop saying that he was not a true Christian, there are what? 30,000 official denominations in the USA alone, let alone in the world. If someone believes in Christ, the gospels, etc. then he IS a Christian by definition. Remember? Based on faith and not works and whatnot? Yea.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  4. Geezer

    christian extremism is nothing new. The evangelical parasites are no better than their muslim bretheren.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  5. Reasonable1

    Is it safe to travel to Norway? Are typical/common people in Norway like this? How do they treat a tourist who looks different from them.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  6. Jesus of Nazareth

    For the first time in the history of mankind someone appears to have twisted the words in the bible to justify their own view point.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  7. Rachel Green

    "More Anti-Muslim than Pro Christian?" Judging on this basis is quite laughable. Of course the so called "muslim terrorists" are also more anti-west, anti-US, anti-something. Anyone who uses violence against others is a terrorist. In this case, the terrorist happened to be Christian. Could have been Jewish, Muslim. Doesnot really matter.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  8. Trog

    I think it's funny how the "moderate" Christians start putting distance between this guy and them.
    "...those right-wing movements are mostly secular..." They are employing the old and tired "no true scotsman" fallacy to
    say that "he wasn't really a Christian" yet if he opened up a school and fed the children he would be embraced as a Christian of the finest quality.

    Once again, human morals are being used to evaluate what is and isn't acceptable for religion,
    yet religion always purports to be the source of morality for humaity. Well done on your spin attempt Dan!

    July 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • DMC

      Well said, people are quick to yell 'islamic terrorist' when anyone from the mideast does something terrible, yet, they are so quick to say 'no, no' when people want to use the label 'christian terrorist' - for the EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR. Talk about hypocrisy. Sorry christians, he IS one of yours.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  9. shaundavid

    So are keyboards and people named "Grady". Wasn't even a mention of him knowing anything about Scripture to begin with. Do any bit of research it's obvious that he probably didn't even read a Bible, if he even owned one.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  10. Andy Cook

    This man is not a person who understands what it means to follow Jesus. Neither were the Crusaders, or anyone who would kill innocent people. We grieve for so many hurting people in Norway and pray that real followers of Christ will be able to minister to them in days to come..

    July 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • cliff

      no you know how the muslims feel

      July 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Unbeliever

      I have always found it interesting that Christians think their religion is so peaceful. Most believe that Jesus is God and yet somehow forgive him for the atrocities he orders in the Old Testament. Please tell me how this is done. How is this a religion of peace when the G.I.C. (God In Charge) has to threaten people with eternal torment in order to get them to follow him? Please explain to me how this God of Peace decided that in his love and peaceful ways that the only way to save mankind from it's own sins is to kill himself in the most gruesome of ways? You say this guy is not a true follower of Christ, but I can list far more examples than this guy. I look forward to the day when people finally realize that these are fairy tales just like those of Thor and Zeus. I know that there have been bad atheists who have done evil things, but that's the way of it sometimes. Without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things. It takes religion to get good people to do bad things.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • BRod

      Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who incorrectly thought the world was ending in his lifetime. NOBODY "follows" him – especially Christians.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  11. stevie68a

    christianity wears a cloak of "love", but is very often about hate. Just your usual wolf-in-sheep's-clothing.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • mary43

      Ya Christianity is about hate b/c we stand against sin. That's right if we're for the life of an unborn child we are all about hate. The reason anyone would be against Christianity is b/c you don't want to change your lifestyle. Well guess what, you can live your life anyway you'd like to it's called 'free will.' But honestly, you need to stop the hate against those who don't believe as you do, w/o any morals or values, show some tolerance.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  12. Jesus - Prince of Peace

    NO the Christian label does not fit this murderous lunatic. Why on earth even ask such a silly question other than to stir the pot?

    July 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  13. David M

    He is certainly some kind of 'fundamentalist' nut case, but not Christian. He cannot use Christianity to justify his actions. He may try to use Christianity, but true Christianity does not support, in any way, shape or form, what this guy did. I'm sure some people will use this as an excuse to blame Christianity or religion in general, but in this case it does not work.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Unfrozen Caveman

      Which Christianity? Why is it that 2,000+ years since the birth and writings in this "perfect" book that we all still can't agree on what the message is? Oh, right. Its a fairy tale about a god, just like the 10,000+ gods man has invented and continues to invent.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • David M

      Hey Unfrozen Caveman: Just because we don't agree on it, does not mean it's not true. Whether we like it or not, or agree with it, truth is absolute. It does not require our blessing to be pronounced as truth.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  14. JennyTX

    Isn't religion great???

    July 25, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  15. Albert Martino

    "Christians" do not murder people. Godless people do these things. What someone calls themselves is their business, or used by those with an agenda.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • DMC

      And yet when people defend Islam, and say suicide bombers don't represent Islam, people jump all over it. Guess what? This guy is a Christian and a terrorist, you can't have it both ways.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • mary43

      Right on, it's the unbelievers that murder unborn innocent babies and rip them from one of the safest places on this earth. The mother's womb should be considered sacred and these pigs out there can abort to their hearts content and then say that Christianity is about hate. Go figure, what a warped ignorant world.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  16. Melody

    The fact that this monster mentioned the Tea Party movement in his manifesto scares me. There are plenty of unhinged and uneducated lunatics in that movement and they could end up hurting people just like this monster did.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Dan

      There are plenty of unhinged people in PETA too, Mel. Ever hear of eco-terrorism? Would you think it fair or honest for me to accuse you of something because you vote Dem?Libertariian, etc.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  17. Thersites

    I think the profs are right, this guy is using Christianity as a way to tie himself to Western values which he sees himself defending. Personally I'm wondering how much of a role roid rage has played here. On a better day maybe he'd have settled for writing some Arthurian or Beowulf themed fan fiction, though that's a bit optimistic I guess. I find myself wishing that people like this could feel comfortable expressing themselves in ways that don't involve bullets and bombs.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm |

    Traveling in India right now and watching IBN and NDTV coining the term Hindu terrorism or fundamentalism to appease Muslims!!! It's a dangerous ploy of political correctness and legitimizes terrorists view of religion! But then, India started to go down the drain once the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty started ruling it. Unfortunately, it's the same extreme political correctness that's causing problems in Europe/West- extreme political correctness (read left wing radicalism) only justifies the extreme political incorrectness (read right wing radicalism).

    July 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Thersites

      Political correctness does seem to be getting in the way of honest dialog and the legitimate airing of grievances. I think we need to dial it back a bit.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Dan

      Great point. I know that there are states in India that don't sell pork, even though it's not against Hinduism, because tehy want to appease Muslims (who don't have to eat it if they don't want to).

      July 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  19. David Riker

    In the heidious actions of Anders Behring Breivik, I see a foreshadowing of the Tea Party lunatics now destroying America. I foresee a diabolical coalition of tea baggers, the NRA, white supremacist groups, and the American Nazi Party resorting to Brevik's style of terrorism when and if they don't get their way. They have shown that they are perfectly willing to destroy the American economy through political obstruction an maneuvering. It would only take a short step in their twisted minds to resort to guns, bombs, and mass murder.

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

      One thing I've noticed in the Tea Party is a great deal of unexamined thought. You would think the internet would be enough of a public square to allow people to test the veracity of their theories but that doesn't seem to be the case because there is so much out there. Scant attention is paid to one issue before moving on to the next. I don't think you can get around real discussion with real people, face to face, honest.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Andy Cook

      I'm not a Tea Party activist, but if what we saw in Wisconsin recently is an example, you've got things reversed. Conservatives operated by rules of law, scaled back an out-of-control budget, while union supporting protestors nearly closed the capitol and Democratic officials fled the state in order to block the legal process. Upon real inspection, I think you'd find Tea Party citizens to be the backbone of conservative America. If they have weapons at all, they're more likely to use them to defend you, not attack you.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Dan

      David....And what I see is a lot of peole on the other side screaming about how dangerous the Tea Party is and continually fanning the flames of hatred, all the while claiming that it's the "tea-baggers" that are so full of hatred.

      As to destroying the American Party, both sides of the aisle are refusing to cooperate. The previous Congress should have put this to bed, but knew they were going to lose Congress, so they tried to stick the Repubs with it, who were stupid enough to take the bait.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Dan

      *...knew they were going to lose the House

      July 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • mary43

      Oh yes, that's it. Why do you blame this group when all they want to do is stand against raising taxes and big government. Oooh they are SOOO dangerous. You are an intolerant person who is plain and simple a HATER. Good luck to you.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  20. Gavin Boothroyd

    People who use the word "cultural Marxists" tend to be neo-Nazis. Metapedia, the big pro-Nazi/Fascist wiki, uses that word all the time.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
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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.