By Jason Torpy
Many details have emerged regarding the anti-Muslim rhetoric and subsequent rampage of Anders Breivik. Over 90 people are dead due to his bombing attack and running gunfight in Norway. It is a great European tragedy.
As the world comforts the Norwegian people, we should also step back to ask what happened and how it can be prevented in the future. Media speculation initially pointed to Muslim terrorism. The confessed terrorist turns out to be an anti-Muslim, protectionist Christian. Media reports quickly framed the issue as “political” rather than “religious” terrorism. Some members of the secular community were quick to point out that this is one more instance of religious conflict in the world. No group, religious or secular, needs to take responsibility for this violent terrorist. However, all groups should at least stop to see what parts of their ideology may have corrupted Breivik.
Out of a curiosity, and a desire to shed some light on a tragedy, I studied Breivik’s manifesto entitled 2083: a European Declaration of Independence, which is 1,516 pages long.
First, we should say that he is homicidal terrorist, but it would be too easy to just write him off as crazy. The manifesto is well-cited, well-researched, and coherently (albeit not logically) written. The manifesto covers the oppression of Christians by Muslims, reasons why Christians are justified in any oppression of Muslims, how to carry out a European revolution, and the organization and laws in a new Europe run by the Knights Templar regime. The manifesto ends with a diary and personal discussion with Breivik.
Breivik leaves no confusion as to his chosen religion: “At the age of 15 I chose to be baptized and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church. I consider myself to be 100% Christian. Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man” (page 1403). The manifesto includes nearly 2,500 references to Christ/Christianity to promote a Christian insurgency, to develop a Christian Europe, to wage a Christian crusade, and to establish Christian nations outside Europe. His Knights would be required to take an oath to the Christian religion and Muslims wishing to live in Europe would have to convert and be baptized as Christians.
But WorldNetDaily, a Christian rag, asserted that Breivik was “not religious, has doubts about God’s existence, (and) does not pray.” Breivik does say he is not religious, but he is, as noted above, “100% Christian.” He seems to lament his lack of a personal relationship with Jesus. Any Christian who met him a month ago would say that his baptism, church affiliation, church attendance, church dedication and yes, his prayers, all constitute a very personal relationship. WorldNetDaily says he does not pray, but he talks about his own prayers leading up to the attack (page 1459) and talks at length about his intention to pray during the attack (page 1344). His “doubts” about God’s existence fit badly with his—and I don’t use this term lightly—militant dedication to Christianity.
WorldNetDaily continues to say that Breivik “hails” Charles Darwin. There are exactly six instances of “Darwin” in the entire manifesto, two of which are not Breivik’s words, and one is a citation. The other three refer to social darwinism, not the theory of evolution. We humanists can affirm that social darwinism is a dangerous misapplication of a biological process in a sociological context.
WorldNetDaily quotes Breivik as saying, “It is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings.” Breivik actually credits Christianity for the advance of science, saying, “Science is about uncovering truth, and if you come from a culture which holds that truth is irrelevant, you have a huge handicap. That is why the Scientific Revolution happened in Christian Europe” (page 707). Breivik is actually only concerned with restricting “procreation/birth/fertility,” the death penalty, or foreign aid (page 1137) to ensure the church doesn’t put a pacifist restriction on his new regime.
WorldNetDaily does identify a key theme, that Breivik sees a pacifist bent to the current Catholic and Protestant church leaders. They are correct in that anyone would seem pacifist compared to him. But Breivik turns specifically to the Bible to justify what he sees as “self-defense.” Pages 1327 to 1334 are specifically dedicated to justifying violence using the Bible.
The no-true-Scotsman fallacy is a poor response in this case. Breivik said he is “100% Christian,” but that isn’t really the point. Breivik built his terrorist agenda and world order on Christianity, and Christians should stand up to refute that. WorldNetDaily would be much better served in refuting Breivik’s Biblical justifications for his actions. Where is the Christian assertion that Breivik is being one-sided in his attacks on Islam, or that he goes too far in calling for a “Reconquista” of all lands that have ever been populated by Christians, or a strong statement that the Crusades were a brutal and deplorable time in Christianity and should never be praised or repeated? This is no rambling train of thought; there are arguments to respond to. Christians should denounce the manifesto at the least, and offer substantive rebuttal if possible.
Breivik actually mentions “humanism” in the manifesto, but only with the prefix “suicidal.” In this instance, he considers “humanism” to mean “humanitarianism” and “suicidal humanists” to refer to Europeans who respect the rights of Muslims to practice their religion. The manifesto refers to atheism only to say that atheists are only okay if they act Christian; otherwise, their world view will crumble in the face of stress. He uses the “no atheists in foxholes” line three times to make his point about the importance of his Christian beliefs.
In a detailed review of the manifesto, we humanists will find no great arguments to refute. Breivik rejects the naturalistic/atheistic world view. He rejects pacifist or even non-violent ideologies. He rejects multiculturalism and tolerance among ethnic groups. He promotes social darwinism, which we abhor. Our work is simple, but the Christians should not rest with a simple “no-true-Scotsman” attempt to declare Breivik not be a Christian. His baptism, church membership, personal prayer, self-identification, and 1,500-page manifesto show him to be more devout than almost any Christian. But the real concern is that other Christians might read and adopt this philosophy if church leaders don’t take the time to refute the substance of the arguments from a Christian perspective.
Jason Torpy is treasurer of the American Humanist Association and president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.
A version of this article also appeared in Atheism Examiner.