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. tom

    I do not yet know enough details of this but the article smacks of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy

    July 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      The article REEKS of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. If the guy believes Jesus of Nazareth was divine, then he's a Christian. Saying that he didn't know his theology very well is a ridiculously obvious dodge. MOST Christians don't know their theology too well.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Scott

      Your response reeks of straw man attempting to throw the actions of this deranged man onto the shoulders of Christians. No true Christian would do this because it goes against the teachings of Christianity/Jesus – love your enemies, etc. To call oneself a Christian means that you follow the teachings of Jesus. This man obviously did not. It's like someone who calls themselves a vegan but goes to the steakhouse and eats a prime rib every Saturday night – they are not a vegan. The No True Scotsman fallacy doesn't apply here, because the word "Christian" implies behavior, not just affiliation.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    Sympathy to the Norwegians. What a tragedy!

    A wicked murder has killed lovable people. Damned!

    It is a scandal to call the murder of Oslo Christian.

    This man is a murder, but no Christian.

    We Europeans have become so stupid by the influence of the pope that we think mere baptism would be all about a Christian life. We see baptism like a label, which someone receives as infant. After baptism you wear the label Christian independent from your behaviour.

    We think like this: Main thing someone is baptized. How he behaves in daily life will not jeopardize his status as Christian.

    The truth about baptism:

    Of course baptism is the gateway to Christian life, but it is no ticket to heaven. At sacramental baptism one solely receives the power to live a good life. Every day one must remember his baptism, where he received the power of Christ's death and resurrection, and live the good life by faith in Christ. Faith is a daily exercise, which leads us to love our neighbour.

    Love is the fruit of faith. Christianity means love (but not naivity!)

    Murder is the opposite of love and thus a murder cannot have any faith. Faith would lead him to love.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Despite such frightening actions of insane people, it must be possible to have a objective perception of the Islam.

      Only because a wicked murder was anti-Islamic, nobody should require reasonable people not to critizise the Islam.

      It must be allowed to assess the Islam objectively without any hate or wickedness.

      I love my Muslim neighbour, according to Christ's command, but his religion I must reject firmly.

      Islam is a bad religion (Islam has caused infinite sorrow for the whole mankind that is proven by history).

      July 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  3. R

    When it is suggested to consider something true without any evidence, it is probably lead to this kind of violence. Because these kinds of things cannot be resolved through rational dialog. Here is the difference between religious mind and scientific mind. Religious mind consider something true and stay away or destroy any evidence that prove otherwise. Scientific mind is, being open for knowledge. May be god exists and everything written in scriptures is true. However, consider it wrong till we find any evidence or some logical base for same. Also, "God exists because, I ate solid and f@rt is in gas form and we do not have explanation for that." this kind of logic is not called logic.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  4. morris2196

    This man’s actions and statements differ greatly from the teachings of Jesus.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • A Malik

      Al-Qaeda's" actions and statements also differ greatly from the teachings of" Jesus ( revered by Muslims as one of their five greatest prophets) and that of Prophet Mohammed! But will any one believe us?

      July 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  5. KEB

    Political or religious agenda... does that even matter? The two are bleeding together more and more every day. My religion (Unitarian Universalist) had a minor shooting in a Knoxville church back in 2008. It was targeted due to liberal beliefs. The shooter also had a manifesto, and fully intended to keep killing people until the police killed him.

    This isn't new. This one is just bigger than we're used to.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • David Stone

      There will always be nuts who go out and kill others. Whether it is jeffery dahmer, or some other nut who thinks he is doing it for God, there will always be nutjobs doing crazy things. The important thing to note here, is that he is NOT part of a Christian organization that plans and condones mass murders, such as islamic terrorists like Al Queda members.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • KEB

      Actually, the important thing to note is that people are dead over a pointless cause. I don't care if it was one person or 10,000 who made it happen. Several families lost their loved ones – many of them children.

      Christianity has been used as an excuse to commit mass murder in the past – by a large organization. Several other religions have the same black spot on their teachings. It's a part of the history of the world. Please don't ignore that.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  6. Colin

    I hope, if anything good can come from this barbaric act, it is that the Scandinavians realize what a poison religion is on the human mind and continue their march away from the medieval dogma that religion is toward the refreshing light of human secularism.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Equisrider

      That did not work to well for the 100 million killed under the banner of secular communism.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Tom

      Haven't we been there before? It was called paganism.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  7. forwardbias

    There are sick people in this world who would use anything to kill people with any excuse. Dexter uses excuse of serving justice, Military makes excuse of serving country, and these fanatics (Laden, Mcveigh etc) make excuse of serving religion. As soon as the denizens of the world understands this, the true pathetic face of the sicks would be exposed and they would no longer find their purported satisfaction..

    July 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  8. Wow

    I don't see a fundementalist Christian group coming along side and taking responsibiltiy for this persons actions. This could very well happen in the near future, but I doubt it. If it does happen, those people need to tracked down and jailed for life at a minimum. This statement is coming from a Christian. It appears Anders had a pretty messed up view of what a Christian is and what he actually is. He is one messed up person whose grip on reality is tenuous at best.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • David Stone

      He wasn't part of any Christian group, because there is no Christian organization that exists. You can't get a group of Christians together that will condone a bombing like this in the name of God. I'm a bit shocked more don't get this.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @David Stone
      Becuase you're wrong, sir.
      There are many Christian terrorist organizations.
      Some include:Tthe Manmasi National Christian Army and the National Liberation Front of Tripura, who force Hindus to convert at gun point.
      The Army of God and other groups who kill doctors.
      Whitesupremacist Christian terrorist groups like the Aryan Nations, Aryan Republican Army, Phineas Priesthood, and The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord.
      There was the Hutaree, Defensive Action, The Freeman Community, Concerned Christians, Lambs of Christ all in the Unites States.
      Then there's the Lord's Resistance Army in Uguanda, as well as the Iron Guard and Lancieri in Romania.....
      LOTS of Christian terrorists out there.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Scott

      Doc, Doc, Doc, Christian means that you have 1. Accepted Jesus as your personal savior and 2. you follow his teachings. Your attempt to throw the label "Christian" on those groups falls flat, because they do not follow his teachings. I can run around calling myself a vegan, but the second I eat a whole bucket of chicken at KFC because it's what I thought I had to do, I cease to be a vegan.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  9. Mimi

    Just like when Senator Giffords was shot, all the media labeled the shooter as a Christian something or other, to learn later that he is just a nut. They will ALWAYS try to blame Christians and hope it sticks (Christians or conservatives, that is)

    July 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • lysander77

      Right, we should be as cautious as we are with labeling every nut with a gun / bomb as a Muslim/Islamic Radical. Oh, right.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Mimi

      We should, indeed!

      July 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Scott

      The radical muslim thing is a red herring. The lone acts of a dangerous nut do not equate to the worldwide organizations like Al Queada. Not all muslims are radical, but you don't see a lot of condemnation of terrorist acts from them. I've yet to meet a Christian who doesn't think this man was a nut. And before you start floating that Scotsman fallacy, that doesn't fly because the word "Christian" requires behavior that lives up to Christ's standards, not just giving yourself the label.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  10. GDI

    I think 'insane monster' is a better label. Anyone purporting to follow ANY religion and does this sort of thing, is neither religious nor sane.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Scott


      July 26, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  11. Diz

    I think it's crazy that people are so blinded by their faith they cannot admit that this man was a part of their religion. (even though he states time and time again that he is- along with Bible verses and quotes) In fact, the man in this story quoted, a Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor, is a conservative Christian author of many books. I don't know how we are supposed to believe that the theories and quotes are not biased from a known follower of the faith who would not want his particular religion to be branded with an extremist.(hey, isn't that supposed to be for MUSLIMS?)- sarcasm- People need to take their heads out of the sand and LOOK AT FACTS.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Equisrider

      I think you have it a little twisted. There people are so confused by thier delusions and insanity that the can twist a peaceful religious message to justify killing

      July 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  12. Buddy R

    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 1:49 pm |
    • tribble10

      Buddy R, I'm sure you can go through some mental excuse for it, but didn't Jesus also say "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me"
      Luke 19:27

      July 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Fred

      You are right, but do you know how many people call themselves Christian and have never heard the quotes you cited?
      Do you know how many who call themselves Christian that did not enter a church this past Sunday?

      There are countless that call themselves Christian and don't have a clue. They could not tell you the difference between the old testament and the new.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • morris2196

      I would add The Golden Rule.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Fred

      You are making stuff up, or you are misinformed. Jesus did NOT make such a statement as recorded in any biblical texts, or anywhere else for that matter.
      If you think so, cite your source.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I think he did cite it: "Luke 19:27"

      July 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • caller

      So you say: 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;

      So I guess those lovely comments that people normally leave here for Muslims are not by Right wing christians/republican terrorists right? What a joke. Christians are either not studying their book or are hypocrites. BTW, I have seen Deutronomy, that makes your argument fade into oblivion!

      Here's a good video to enjoy on YouTube: Search for Christian Talk Show Host Gets Shut Down By Caller. This is the level of chritian intellect. Just using tones and repeat statements to magnify a hollow argument. You'll be rolling on the floor laughing.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • kozak

      Luke 19:27
      Jesus was saying a parable about the end of times when he returns for the second time. But He and other new Testament writes specifically tell not to inflict punishments (since it's the God's job), but to be good to our enemies.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  13. David Stone

    Exactly. Even if he had another nut, or even two help him, he is basically a lone wolf, not part of any Christian terrorist organization. As a matter of fact, I'm still waiting to hear someone name a world wide terrorist organization, you know, something like Al Queda.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Knights Templar

      July 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ... at least according to Breiviek.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  14. realitybites


    "Let's hope were NOT going down that road again............

    I don't want anyone to think I am in support of this sort of thinking b/c I left a word out.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  15. Tony

    Perhaps for moderate muslims in middle eastern countries, it would be good for the west to frame this as christian fundamentalism. Every religion and every race has its own extremists, but peace and prosperity lies with the moderates. If they read about this lunatic and his aims and 'reasons' for doing this attack, perhaps they will better understand why it is in the interest of all peoples and all nations to try to prevent terrorism.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Hear! Hear!

      July 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  16. marcia

    No Christian fundamentalist doesn't fit. But nice try CNN! Start trouble why don't you.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  17. R

    Yes, it does. That is what religious people end up doing. No wonder

    July 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • David Stone

      Big difference here....this was basically a lone wolf nut....people who do things for Al Queda are part of a world wide, well trained, and well funded, religious organization, of many thousands of people who are like minded. What organization was this guy part of that supported this activity? Who are they?

      July 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • kozak

      You seemed to be brainwashed. Before saying nonsense do a little bit of research, and you will find out that atheists killed almost as many people as Muslims.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  18. Rocky

    The proper term for this guy is Christian Terrorist. Most whom are posting their beliefs that what this guy did is different from what Islamic Terrorist do are delusional. The world head of the Council of Churches says that this guy is a blasphemer, which is the proper response. I wish more Muslimi prelates would do the same when one their congregation commits a terrorist act. After hearing all the hatred that preachers attending Rick Perry's prayer cult espouse (Benefiel-The Statue of Liberty is a pagan idol), a religion has to wonder what is being taught from the pulpit.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • kozak

      Given an opportunity, Muslims would establish an Islamic world order, killing all resisting infidels. This is what wast majority of Muslims want, and is supported by the Koran and other "holy" writings. If you think otherwise, you are simply delusional.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  19. wanderingcrow.

    This is exactly the kind of issues i speak off on my blog, http://copperheadrd2.blogspot.com/, getting rid of the old religions , finding your way with the bible or Koran or what ever you believe through spiritual moments , you need no holy man to speak to the creator, he's waiting for you.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  20. realitybites

    I honestly expected this sort of thing to happen in the US before, of all places, Norway. From my understanding, Christianity has really taken a back seat to secularism in Scandinavia, so this guy was a rotten nut in the basket. If anyone has, however seen how Fascism rose in the 1920's and 30's in Europe after the 1st WW, it is highly alarming that this movement is growing in popularity there. Fascists began appealing to desparte and hungry people with strong nationalistic and religious sentiment. They envisioned things they were before when life was "better" and "morality" was the standard before the scapegoats came in and runined everything (Jews, gays, liberals, gypsies, etc.). What they did was slowly infiltrate the political system while their thungs held rallies to whip up the ingnorant and deparate. Those that stood in their way and tried to use reason were whisked away, murdered, branded, beaten, or just decieded to keep quite and hope for the storm (WW2) to pass. Lets hope we're going down that road again, We already had a nasty taste of this in Serbia and the sentiment did not die there. The German Fascists also believed they were part of a knightly order to purify the land.

    July 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Colin

      Excellent post realitybites. Good, very brief Rise of Facsism 101. I would add the influence of a bad economy on the rise of violent political movements. Breivik so far, from his actions and the manifeto weather he wrote it or agreed with it, seems to be an ideological descendant of Vidkun Quisling.

      If he is a christian fundamentalist then it should't have been a surprise. Pretty lousy "experts" if they were surprised. I think many christians are in denial that what many hear every Sunday taken to one of the logical conclusions is to kill infidels who are against god. As soon as I heard the camp was Labor I was sure it was a right winger. Spouting the same rhetoric as in many American churches. I see no substantive differences between John Hagee (who endorsed McCain), Warren, Limbaugh and thousands of others compared to iman Hook Hand in England, the Yemini iman who inspired the Ft. Hood shooter (Major Hassan?), even bin laden himself. All focus on religion to justify the unjustifiable, demonize the Other. I bet the rantings of a christian and muslim if transcribed then edited to be religous neutral (ie no mention of other religions, no allahu akbar or other phrases linked to one sect, no mention of specific current events or taking a side, etc) would have no signifigant differences to tell which was christian and which was muslim.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • kozak

      Breivik is the product of liberalism and Marxism ideology. His motives are, obviously, political. That's why he attacked laborists, which are responsible for massive muslim immigration. His concerns (not methods) are shared by many (probably majority) of Europeans who are witnessing the decline of their civilization.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:04 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.