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. GaryOwen27

    The Red Neck Right in all its glory.......

    July 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  2. Mike-WA

    Fundamentlist Christianity = "fake Christianity". It is now all about justifying greed, corruption, ignorance and hatred. The wealthy have figured how to manipulate this artifical religion into doing their will.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  3. Andrea M

    It doesn't matter what the religion is, extremists always have killed and always will kill. Be it the crusades or waging jihad, or going for extreme secularism by jailing or making the religious "disappear" in Communist nations. Any time people go off the deep end in their beliefs, they are much more likely to kill.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Robrob


      July 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • uhh..

      i'd call that "extreme secularism" you mentioned nazism or nationalism instead...

      July 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  4. Desperately Seeking Objectivity

    Why just pick on Christians? Breivik is white. In the course of world history, much harm has been done by white people. Breiviks actions prove that the world would be better off without white people. Should we call him a white fundamentalist?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Bazoing

      You have not traveled in the world or you would see that its peoples are, and always have been screwed up!

      July 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Desperately Seeking Objectivity

      Perhaps this forum is not the best place for satire...

      July 25, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  5. Cagary

    Isnt Norway majority atheist now, this guy was probably the only christian left

    July 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Robrob

      Close but no cigar. Norway: Christianity = 84.2%

      July 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Bazoing

      People pole Christian in Norway because they know nothing else and people in Israel pole Judaism for the same reason. It does not mean that they practice any religion. Most people do not.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  6. Michael

    To see through the eyes of Christ-ianity...is to see through and to the core of each man, woman and child. And at the center of that core lies a soul which is longing to be loved....We each have one eternal purpose, and that purpose is to show others that they are beautiful !!!

    July 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Michael

      I don't think corpses are pretty.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  7. Tvan

    Disagree 100% on this description. Everything that this person has written says NOTHING about him using his religion as a background for his deeds. From what I've read, this guy is just a nut job, plain and simple. Yes, he stated his hatred for Muslims and posted how he feels that Europe is being overrun by Islam, but I have yet to read where he used his religion has a base for his bigotry. And I haven't seen anything stating that he is a practicing Christian, Jew, Buddhist, etc...

    July 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Robrob

      OTOH, since the reports regularly describe other bombers as "Muslim" – it only makes sense to call this one "Christian."

      July 25, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  8. wrtr

    hey John, you say "we christians would hunt down such a low life" sorry but where the Christians hunting down all those christian terrorists who blew up abortion clinics or otherwise unapologetically killed doctors? Its not muslims or christians to blame, its fundamentalists of all flavors, who are the enemies of reason, intelligence, peace, and society. The world is nearly 30 percent muslim. If you could generalize about muslims being violent, obviously there would be much more slaughter in the world today. You can't. Its the funamentalists. America is a relatively peaceful society compared to much of the world and there are other places where the christian mobs are just as violent as anyone out there. Its fundamentalism of all types that is the enemy. Its what psychologists have referrred to as "totalist" thinking- that the world is black anbd white, right/wrong, that "we" are superior to "them" and that to disagree with "us" is a sin and therefore people who are not with us are against us, and therefore there lives are not real and therfore expendable. Totalist thinking is responsible for all genocides, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and of course all of the religious-themed massacres that are a blight on the face of intelligence. it exists in both muslim fundamentalists, and christians from Glennbeckistan.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Bill C

      Utter nonsense. Evangelical Christians are taught to love and to spread the good news of the Gospel. Your description is pure hyperbole.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • john

      The last I heard, all abortion clinic bombers were caught and not seeking refuge in "christian" homes. "All" those christian bombers? Wow! Tell me how many abortion bombers there have been?! Christian mobs just as violent?, come on !!?, where is this? I keep up with CNN everyday, and would of surely heard of this killing "christian" mobs by now. Use some common sense, and get off the bashing of religion. Its a human nature thing. Right now, we are dealing with a HUGE muslim terrorist threat, not the one abortion clinic bomber every 5 years or so!!. And I'm not generalizing, "Much more slaughter"?! by muslims? Get to a newstand bro! Its everyday. And referring to psychologists as your main reference, I'm sure your pied-pipered anti-religion sect of this blog agrees with their advice, since they performed so many lobotomies on totally sane individuals. There lives are not real and expendable? And of course you don't believe in the unborn rights, or are they "expendable"? We understand your belief system now, when you mention Glen Beck, a person who has broke no laws, speaks freely as our founders envisioned, has a different opinion then you!, and has the guts to speak out. Let me know when you want our country to only have your beliefs. Oh, sorry, that would be every country that now kills those who disagree with the elites beliefs!!!

      July 26, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  9. Muneef

    Did any one mention any thing about that this act was related to the issue of the "Oslo Agreements between Israel and Palestinian's...some how twisting arms of the gvt disguised as a Christian fundamental...while doing an inside job for others?

    This issue is bigger than it looks... This issue about Multi culture and religion are the cover up...!? At least this time those in control have used a White European non Muslim...when normally would use any Muslim by birth to do it knowingly or unknowingly to throw accusations on Muslims in general...we have among us many Muslims for the money would sell the whole of Islam handed over on a gold plate...I guess you have among yours who would do the same for personal gain or media fame....how many tried to assassinate presidents or celebrities for media fame....as had the dove church Paster to attract media by declaring his intentions to bring into practice the burning the Quran annually on every 911...!
    My fears now that in US and maybe in Europe weapons are easy accessed to then many will be looking to gain media fame as a patriot towards the European ancestry race,christianity and crusaders...

    July 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Robrob

      Further evidence that people who believe in conspiracies are kooks.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Muneef

      That was in the news Arabic news you think people are shortsighted as you are...while you should be really asking your self who are the masters of conspiracies....for a moment take your head out off your backside and think.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  10. Michael

    Many are called but few choose to listen...A christian is a soul which lives for peace at any cost. They are pacifists and loving. Only Jesus himself can label a christian, not even the soul itself can entertain such presumptions. There are many who proclaim themselves to be christian, let the fruits of their labor bare witness to their truth. A mother teresa, a shining example of jesus love, a humble saint who cared for the children...i suppose she was a christian ? Only jesus can say !!!

    July 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Thinkingman

      ...just as there are many radical terrorists who call themselves Muslim, but who do not follow the peaceful teachings of Islam. Are there calls to violence in the Koran? Undoubtedly, but try reading Deuteronomy 13, and explain how it differs from what anti-Muslims claim are the Koran's evil teachings. Too many people think the Bible is solely about love and peace, and think the Koran is solely about hating non-Muslims.

      Truth is that both religions have some teachings of peace and some calls to violence against unbelievers. Those who fail to understand that and accept it are the ones who become violent and commit these terrible acts in the name of a religion they do not truly know.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  11. Alverant

    It's amazing at how quickly we see the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy. A christian made the religion look bad by being a terrorist, ergo he wasn't a "real" christian ™. Grow up! Quit pretending that christianity is about love and peace and look at what it's done. Think about all the people who suffered at the hands of christians. Think about those millions christians slaughtered for not worshiping the "right" way. Think of the billions they have oppressed because "the Bible said so". Think about the people still living today who are treated like less than human because those who think the bible is a good source of morals says others are innately evil and incapable of being good.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • pumpernickel1988

      Think about how great the world would be if people stopped acting like christians and started acting like Christ.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Robrob

      Well put.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  12. B

    The big problem is trying to legislate faith and tie it to a system of governance. By definitions religions require FAITH, which doesn't always make sense. I think that those of us who are christians need to keep it in mind that this is not home, that this is a journey to our home (1 Peter 1). Represent Christ, but remember the modality that he operated in: L O V E. People came to him to listen, they were drawn by his life and message, he didn't shove it down their throats. This world is messed up don't count on it feeling like home and don't be surprised when people treat you like a wackadoo. Also, don't forget to pray for Norway.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  13. mitch

    What it comes down to no matter the religion or belief, its the religious people that are the most intolerant. Its either their way or no way despite how it conflicts with their actual teachings

    July 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      I was in Kentucky when I realised that some of the contractors did not want to work with me. I am brown, ant they were baptist..

      July 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • greg

      Yeah. Religious people like Pol Pot, Josef Stalin, Bill Maher, Kim Jong-il, and Mao Zedong.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • mitch

      I'm not saying they are the ONLY ones but without a doubt they are the most extreme

      July 25, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  14. Robrob

    Can't say if he was a "fundamentalist" or not but he certainly was a Christian. A lot of people seem to take offense at that label but he wasn't a Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, or Hindu was he?

    July 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      No it was a christian terrorist..

      July 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Fred

      How do you with "certainty" he was a Christian? You don't. A very minimal amount of info has been released. You should not rush to judgement anymore than the media should not have rushed to judgement initially that this was an attack by radical muslims. Just b/c he's not a muslim, jew, or buddhist doesn't automatically make him something else..that's ridiculous.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • pumpernickel1988

      He wasn't a Christian either. If a green bird calls itself blue, it doesn't make it so. He's no more a Christian that than Charles Manson.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Robrob

      Picking and choosing your definitions of "Christian" tells us a lot more about your POV than you think. He was a Christian of the Catholic sect. Feel free to explain how you think he was a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc...

      July 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Fred

      Rob, nobody knows what he is other than a crackpot. You're convinced he's a Christian when you don't truly know...that says something about your POV

      July 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  15. jon

    The state media declares this to be a religious thing and you all fall for it like sheep. Have you even read his manifesto? Nothing at all to do with religion. He railed against the liberal government of Norway for liberalism, and their policies. He targeted a government building and a pro palestine rally at the camp by liberals. This was politically motivated

    July 25, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Robrob

      He's Christian. Deal with it.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  16. cubik

    You are giving this man too much credit.
    His philosophy is crackpot, the more I hear about B.S. like "egalitarian emotionalism" I come to the conclusion he is one thing most of all: insane.
    This is all extremely sad. Evidently what humans may think is honorable and righteous behavior might in fact be absolutely criminal.
    It also goes to show a little that just because someone is "culturally" a christian, and says so himself, he might not conform to any christianity worthy of the name, and the same probably goes for many islamic terrorists.
    Maybe this will help to change the ideology by which "isalmic terrorism" is approached too.
    Just please don't give Mr.Breivik a platform to elaborate on his crackpot ideas, that's all he wants after all:
    Just imagine... the guy killed 86 people, just to get attention.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  17. Beatrice

    CNN wants to paint all religions bad except for the filthy immoral secularism. Dirty business of humans as usual.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Robrob

      CNN didn't "paint" any religion "bad" – the Christian mass murderer did. Did you forget that part?

      July 25, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Alverant

      Any sane person would take "filthy, immoral" secularism over the "holier than thou" theocracy any day. Fact is secularism has moved humanity forward. If it wasn't for secularism, you wouldn't have the internet to slander it. Humans do the utmost evil when they know they have divine approval of their actions.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • pumpernickel1988

      @Alverant....humans do the utmost evil when they convince themselves there is nothing divine.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  18. Kat

    The religion of love, Crusades love, strikes again.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  19. 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!

    July 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  20. Beatrice

    Humans do the utmost evil when he regards himself as a god. Self-worshippers are the real terrorists. Media like CNN only makes money if anyone does crazy terrors.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
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.