July 26th, 2011
10:15 AM ET

My Take: Christians should denounce Norway's Christian terrorist

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Ideas matter; thoughts have force. This is an obvious truth. It is why pastors preach, why professors profess, and why pundits do whatever they do.

Yet whenever ideas do things we do not want them to do, as they did in Oslo , Norway on Friday, we try to pretend that ideas are powerless.

For the last two decades, Christian students have told me that Christianity had nothing to do with the Holocaust. After 9/11, many Muslims said that the men who flew those planes into those buildings had nothing to do with Islam. When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, we were told that the crime had nothing to do with our current climate of political hatred.

Unpacking the 'Christian fundamentalist' label for Norway terror suspect?

Now in the wake of the Oslo massacre bloggers and pundits are reassuring us that the crimes of the alleged perpetrator Anders Behring Breivik can be understood simply as the product of a deranged mind. They had nothing to do with his Christian faith or his anti-Islamic ideology. This is wishful thinking of the most dangerous sort.

According to Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, "Breivik is not a Christian." According Ross Douthat, the conservative Catholic columnist at the New York Times, “it’s fair to call Breivik a right-winger” but not a Christian  fundamentalist.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brown at the Guardian is reassuring his readers that “Anders Breivik is not Christian but anti-Islam.”

My Take: Norway attacks show why you can't #blamethemuslims

Brown goes on to describe the various anti-Islam bloggers Breivik read and apparently quoted in a manifesto, only to conclude, “Obviously these people cannot be held responsible for the use to which their ideas were put.”

I don’t find that obvious at all.

I think all of us who place ideas into books or blogs or lectures or sermons should be acutely aware of the use to which our ideas might be put. What is obvious is that those who read or listen to us will take our ideas in directions different from what we intended. But that fact does not absolve us of responsibility when they do.

If you devote your life to spewing anti-Islamic hatred, you should not be surprised if someone comes along and kills in the name of that hatred. In fact, you should expect it.  If you insist as a matter of revelation or dogma that the Jews killed Christ then you should not be surprised if Christians come along and kills Jews in the name of Christ. In fact, you should be surprised if that does not happen.

We live in an age of anger. That anger is fueled by ideas. And the most incendiary ideas are those that call down the force of God or nation (or both) in the service of denouncing those who follow other gods or belong to other nations.

Anders Breivik was obviously politically motivated. The 1,500-page manifesto that has been attributed to him draws on contemporary European and American conservatism in its attacks on Marxism, multiculturalism, secularism, academia and feminism.

But Breivik's motivations were equally, and obviously, religious. His manifesto cites the Atlas Shrugs blog of Pamela Geller, who has made a name for herself in the United States by opposing the Islamic community center near Ground Zero. According to the New York Times this manifesto also quotes Robert Spencer of another anti-Islamic web site, Jihad Watch, 64 times.

But Breivik does not just deny Islam. He affirms Christianity. He describes himself as "100% Christian" in his apparent manifesto. That work says he's a member of the “Knights Templar," which the document refers to as “a Christian ‘culturalist’ military order.”

The manifesto refers repeatedly to martyrdom, calls Breivik the "savior . . . of European Christendom," discusses Quranic views of Jesus and quotes extensively from the Bible.

In fact, in an extended section justifying violence in the name of self-defense (plagiarized, like much in the manifesto, from other websites), it quotes from Exodus, Samuel, Judges, Psalms, Luke, Matthew, Isaiah, Daniel, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians and other biblical books. "God will anoint you with his power to go into battle," the manifesto reads. "God can be a Man of War if He wants to be."

Finally, key dates in the manifesto, including the date for the rampage itself (July 22), are linked to key dates in the history of the Christian crusades. "Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution," a video attributed to Breivik reads, "for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Osama bin Laden was a Muslim terrorist. Yes, he twisted the Quran and the Islamic tradition in directions most Muslims would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in that text and that tradition. So Muslims, as I have long argued, have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against Bin Laden and to look hard at the resources in their tradition that work to promote such evil.

If he did what he has alleged to have done, Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist.

Yes, he twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in Christian thought and Christian history, particularly the history of the medieval Crusades against Muslims, and current efforts to renew that clash.

So Christians have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against him, and to look hard at the resources in the Christian tradition that can be used to such murderous ends.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Crime • Europe • Politics • Violence

soundoff (619 Responses)
  1. Lan

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Thank you for writing it!

    July 27, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  2. Reality

    Steve P,

    Listen up as the following condemnation is echoing across the globe from all good and gracious agnnostics, atheists, secularists, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans:

    Another Timothy McVeigh !!! Hopefully this "nut job" meets the same fate. The sooner the better!!! If Norway does not have a death penalty, then there is always the justified "oops" accident. "While transporting Breivik to prison via an aircraft, the cabin door suddenly opened and he fell 30,000 ft. He did not survive the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. "

    Next topic !!!!!

    July 26, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  3. Tim

    Great argument for why nobody should practice religion.

    July 26, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  4. NotVeryBonnieZeldalinaSmellsLikeSh!tInForestSent

    Bonnie's off her meds again.

    July 26, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Who created Islamphobia and why;


    July 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Antonio

      Best article I've read in Belief.... and thats saying a lot!

      July 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Muneef

      Whom ever drained the USSR in Afghanistan,today is draining the USA...in addition to Iraq...
      While Euro Zone is being drained by Libya war..
      As seems the (NATO) is at it's last moments...at the quick sands...got it self in a mess in fears of the nightmares they have created for them selves...until they became to doubt and fear Muslims or MidEasterns living among their Multi cultured (NATO) countries...

      July 26, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      The communists-phobia now became Islam-phobia.....seems there should always be a phobia of some sort....they can't live with out phobia to keep them awake...
      It is more like bringing cats to chase the mice and when the cats becomes a nuisance they bring dogs to chase it out and so on...!

      July 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Muneef

      Well who ever saw it was for his advantage to creat Islam-phobia against the communists....today is creating a Christian-phobia to confront the Islam-phobia....wonder if all that serves interests of some body...? I mean does it serve the Jews or the Zionists or (Atheists)....?

      July 26, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Muneef

      @@@Well who ever saw it was for his advantage to creat Islam-phobia against the communists....today is creating a Christian-phobia to confront the Islam-phobia....wonder if all that serves interests of some body...? I mean does it serve the Jews or the Zionists or (Atheists)....?

      July 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Muneef

      Who has given him the T-i-tle of Knights_Templar?
      Who other than the Country where the Templar Exist (Israel)...or it's Lords (Zionists)...only they can since we know that the Catholic Church wouldn't after all it was the Catholic Church who ended their legend.....
      This operation is having other fingers behind it that has brainwashed and inspired this man to pull such act...some how feel because Oslo is connected with some agreements between Israelis and Palestinians and those both are heavily connected to the Legend of the "Knights_Templar.....
      Sure such propaganda adopted might be in many of European and American states as to call against multi culture systems and mostly related to Muslims presence in those countries which were called being as Jewish owned lands..! 


      July 27, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • peace

      Knight Templar is not a product of bible. Knight Templar is product of Islam itself that killed every Christian and Jews pilgrim to Jerusalem. Christ never teach to kill. But the quran teach to kill. The world become error because interpretation of arabic language of quran. it is one language but multiple interpretation: to kill and rules woman. While bible is multiple language but single interpretation : to love and peace.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:37 am |
  6. Bonnie

    Other civilizations had everything the pagan Europeans had and even much better, except for the fast-spreading Christianity and the Bible. The Bible made all the difference.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  7. Bonnie

    Secular Westerners only know three items in history: "witch burning," "Crusades" and "inquisition" as if these were everything about the Western Civilization. Christian Europeans and Christian Americans wasted all the philosophy, literature, art, muic, architecture, science, charity, morality, education, civil rights, and political system – everything!

    July 26, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Pagans and atheists didn't need to develop anything because the Christian West developed everything and only needed imports.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  8. Bonnie

    @Aura, witches were few in number and no scientists was killed. Science developed only in Christendom, nowhere else. Bible-reading Christians got killed the most all over the world because the Bible is worth dying for.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Wow

      Bonnie, I am a Christian. I disagree with you that there was no science before Christiandom. Science is very prevalent before Christ. Not sure where you are going with this one.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Bonnie

      @Wow, but not modern science.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Wow

      not following you. The Romans were very much ahead of their time before Christ died. Not sure where you are getting your info from.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Historian

      Unfortunately these comments display an absolute ignorance of history.

      Science was alive and well in the Islamic dynasties: It was the Christian kingdoms that lagged far, far behind in science and medicine.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Bonnie

      I'm a witch. A really UGLY one and my skin sags.

      July 26, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  9. Aura

    I see it is obvious you are either retarded or a troll. Good luck with your illusion. Look up what the crusades was and the witch burnings. Don't tell me those weren't true Christians. While you are at it, look up "No True Scotsmen" on Wikipedia. It's a fallacy and you are displaying it.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Wow

      Aura, are you an Atheist or a witch? Just wondering.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  10. Aura

    ... you know people got burned as witches for bringing up new ideas right? You know, like the whole "Earth is not the center of the universe" idea? You know who did that? Christians.

    Christians have been against science in the beginning because science always ends up proving a strange occurrence has nothing to do with God at all and can be explained with science.

    If you honestly think Christianity helped the west become more civilized then you are too brainwashed beyond hope. If you even understand history in a minimal level you would understand where you are wrong.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  11. Bonnie

    Christians and churches kept rescuing lives all over the world. The world would not have any schools, hospitals, sane governments or ophanages without Christians. Death for losers – it's been the ideology of pagans and atheists. Christians saved billions of humans in its history including now.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Wow

      I really don't get where you are coming from. The Egyptians had medical service, etc. This was many years before Christ. The Jews gave us much science and services also.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  12. Aura

    Really? Explain to me how that works. If you honestly think talking about God will win a war then you are clearly delusional. The only reason why Mongols didn't conquer Europe was because the general leading the siege died while attacking. If you think God is the reason he died then explain to me how God let this happen in the first place. Tell me how God is letting all these bad things like poverty and war happen. And don't try to attribute all the good things to God and bad things as "things just happen."

    July 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Aura, without strong belief systems, civilizations fall to another. The Easterners did stay in the Eastern Europe but they all converted to Christianity because the Christian teaching was superior. Everywhere had the stuff of Greek/Roman myths level. They'd would have been wiped out by whoever had the structured monotheism.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • pfeffernusse

      Funny...the Roman Empire fell right after Christianity was adopted as the official religion.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  13. Aura

    Then you should look at history more. Look at the crusades... you know the thing that was referenced in the manifesto AND in this article? Christians have been killing people in the name of God for hundreds of years.

    Hell, most Christians don't even abide by the bible or have even read it themselves. Don't think atheists didn't read the bible. If you read it thoroughly yourself you wouldn't be a Christian.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • J.W

      Yes I am sure not one single Christian has ever read the Bible.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Wow

      JW, thanks. I am moving on from this blog. Seems like these two are going to babble nonsense.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Rhonda

      A Christian is a person who follows the teachings of Jesus. You do not become a Christian because you were born into a so-called 'Christian nation'. You are not a Christian because you attend church. You are not automatically a Christian because members of your family are 'Christian'. If your life choices are glaringly inconsistent with the teachings of Christ you are not following Him. Christ has been misrepresented throughout history; the Crusades, colonial asperations, political intrigue, native residential schools, etc. Many in the Church acknowledge, confess and seek justice for crimes committed in the name of Christ.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Wow

      A Christian also believes that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again. Without this belief you can not be called a Christian. This is the glory of the Gospels.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • peace

      the bible is written by human but inspired by GOD. The simple message the new testament is to love and peace for Jesus GOD. That's all. You don't need to read whole bible to get into heaven. Just believe, love, and peace. simply and easy.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  14. Bonnie

    All schools in Europe and America were set up to study the Bible. Primitive Westerners would not have logic or scientific thinking if they didn't have the Bible first. They were very fortunate. The structure of the Bible has the most sophisticated system in existence, more than the universe, the creation world does.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • gozer

      Seems like your god had a hard time with science then, given all the science that the bible gets wrong,plus all the contradictions in it.
      Weird god that you've created for yourself there, one that didn't comprehend science.

      July 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  15. Aura

    Actually, Greece and pre-Christian Rome was the peak of western civilization. Your so called Christianity brought the entire west into a dark age that lasted hundreds of years and it took several hundreds more just to recover from it. You know why? Because your religion oppresses free thinking and shackles humanity. Also, there are plenty of references in the Bible that promotes killing people of other religions and even children. Maybe you should read that book you cherish so much and you might actually know what you are talking about. Don't go around preaching to people about your religion when you never bothered to read the book that is the basis of it.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Aura, you are wrong. Europe would have been wiped out either by Mongols or Arabs if it was not Christian.

      July 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Bonnie

      The European common people did not have the Bible until the time of Reformation. Everyone's education for literacy was encouraged in Europe and America to read the Bible. And now secular Westerners are saying all these non-sense.

      July 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Wow

      Wow Aura, If pre Christian Rome and Greece were the highlights of western civilization what did we do to make crucifixon worse? I know the Romans and Greeks never wiped people out like you are saying Christians did. Those Romans were a nice group of people! Good Grief! I have read the Bible, I am questioning whether you have as you are implying. Might I ask the question, why would an Atheist read the Bible? It doesn't make sense for an Atheist to read the Bible, why would they waste their time?

      July 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  16. Bonnie

    What do Europe and America have without the Bible and Judeo-Christian values? Nothing good or worth. If they stayed with the primitive Greek/Roman stuff, they'd be run over by any others for barbarism long time ago. The Bible makes humans deep thinkers, nothing else. After initiation, the rest is automatic. De-christianized civilization runs after immorality.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  17. Rhonda

    The phrase 'Christian terrorist' is an oxymoron, much as would be the case for 'Bible believing atheist' or 'meat eating vegetarian'.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Bonnie

    Secular Westerners never give up equating Christianity with other worthless things though all their good education comes from the Bible and Christian conscience.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  19. Bonnie

    Human religions are there to limit the uncontrollable thirst for evil of mankind. Most major religions are okay to live with if properly educated. But Islam TEACHES destruction of infidels as its MAJOR DOCTRINE and that sets it apart from others. Christianity alone provides love and justice and salvation with the Divine Savior. All other belief systems create victims unfairly and permanently. Atheism the worst.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  20. Bonnie

    Yeah? But we need to remember we would not have this modern, structured sanity without Christianity. If Europe did not have Christianity and access to the Bible, it'd be just the same barbaric women-oppressing civilization of any other. The West has forgotten they were allowed to change other civilizations only because of its far superior Christian tradition.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
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.