The decline of political terrorism & the rise of religious terrorism

By Razib Khan | July 23, 2011 11:49 pm

The media has been reporting a lot about Anders Breivik. I’m curious about the tendency of some to label Breivik a “Christian Extremist”. Additionally, there is widespread repetition of the Norwegian official deeming him a “Christian fundamentalist.” I think this is wrong on the specifics, but it also goes toward the general problem of our age where we attempt to fit everything into black-white religious dichotomies. For example, “moderate Muslims” vs. “Islamists.” “Islamic extremists” vs. “Christian extremists.” Because of the salience of notionally religiously motivated Islamic militant movements there has been a shift toward reinterpreting secular nationalist terrorist movements as religious ones. For example, the attempt to frame the Irish Republican Army as Catholic terrorists, or the Tamil Tigers as Hindu terrorists (in reality, both these are nationalist movements, often with a Leftist slant). Or consider the refashioning of Tim McVeigh into a Christian terrorist when he was a lapsed Catholic at best and probably irreligious by the time of his terrorist act. This religionization of all radical movements means that people have a really hard time today digesting the fact that 19th and early 20th century anarchists who committed what seem to be patently suicidal acts were generally atheists, motivated by politics and not religion! Similarly, the shocking raid on Harpers Ferry was executed by a cast of characters of diverse religious views. John Brown was famously Calvinist, but some of his followers, including one of his sons, were free thinkers who did not adhere to religion.

In our age it seems that consumer culture and post-materialism has totally vanquished the power of political religion, and the materialist messianism implicit in liberal nationalism and Marxism is barely recollected. Unfortunately forgetting the shape of the past seems to have coarsened our model of the present world, and I think a conception where religion motivates all extreme action leads to false inferences. If Christianity was the primary motivator of Anders Breivik’s ideology one might presume he would favor the mass immigration of zealous African Christians to Norway to balance the waxing of the Muslim population. Do you think this is a plausible inference? No. Anders Brievik was a conservative nationalist, albeit an evil or crazy or unbalanced one. The attempt to emphasize Brievik’s religious identity seems due to the need to inject parity and balance into the “religious clash” with Anders Brievik himself perceived in his political framework, and which is highlighted by Islamic radicals.

The atheist father of modern terror

But we don’t need to go that far back into the past to see the power of politics as opposed to religion in motivating acts of terror. And we don’t even need to leave what we today often refer to as the “Muslim world“. In the 1970s and 1980s there were a series of hijackings and other terrorist acts, often done in the name of Palestinian nationalism. The innovator who began the shift toward this mode of opposition to the Israeli state was a man of Arab Christian background, George Habash. Habash was a Leftist who was aligned with the Soviet Union, and despite his confessional origins in the Eastern Orthodox community he seems not have been a religious believer by adulthood. The audacious and shocking actions of his PFLP movement served to prod rival Palestinian outfits, Left nationalist movements all, to organize their own terror units. The most famous of these was Black September, which came into the spotlight during the 1972 Munich Olympics. I’m old enough to remember the tail end of this phase of the Age of Terror, and its explicitly nationalist and Leftist connections. Only these deep fundamentals could explain the collaboration between groups as distinctive as Habash’s PFLP and the German Red Army Faction (which was being backed by the GDR, though that was not known at the time).

But this is all talk. As Michelle observes, I love charts. I plotted “Arab Terrorist,” “Islamic Terrorist”, and “Muslim Terrorist” in Google Ngram Viewer. Here are the results:

The secular phase of terrorism in the 1970s is rather clear. More recently you see that the terms “Islamic” and “Muslim” are starting to outpace “Arab” as modifiers. But Ngram is not always accurate after 2000. So I did some independent checks. I looked at these terms in Google Scholar and The New York Times archives, by decade. For the latter the period before 1981 is thrown into an aggregate pool. I log-transformed the y axis, but you can see the reported values on the plots. Yes, I got 0 hits for “Muslim terrorist” in The New York Times before 1981!

These results confirm the impression that the face of terror as a religious face is a relatively recent phenomenon. Less than a generation in fact. The collapse of Arab nationalism as well as the Soviet Union left the secular terror movements with fewer sponsors. Islamism’s rise, and the more prominent role of religion generally in the Middle East, meant that politically motivated terror took on a religious cast. Robert Pape’s work has shown that there’s a surprisingly strong correlation between independent political variables and religiously motivated suicide terrorism. And scholars of religion who take a cognitivist vantage point have also illustrated how religious rationale is often integrated after the fact to scaffold and buttress actions which may have other proximate causes (e.g., Christian libertarian vs. Christian socialism). The human mind is a complex thing, and its incoherence is a structural feature, not an exceptional deviation.

And complexity and texture also apply to terrorists and terrorist movements. When it comes to men such as Anders Breivik, Tim McVeigh, and Nidal Hasan, who are de facto lone wolfs (in that they operationalized their ideology mostly as individuals, even if they felt they were part of a broader movement) there is a tendency toward incomprehension, and to push them into the category of inexplicable evil and insanity. But even insanity perceives its own sense. This is why Gore Vidal cautioned that we shouldn’t view McVeigh as deranged.

When we ascribe purely religious motives toward people that amps up the tendency toward engaging in mysterianism when it comes to terror. Religion is a sensitive topic, and may people ascribe deep and sincere meaning to their religious beliefs. By connecting terror with religion one makes it harder to approach terror from a rational perspective because many resist decomposing and analyzing religion in a reductionist manner as if it was just another thing. In contrast, there are militant atheists who see in religion as the “root of all evil.” The insanity of religious terror makes total sense to them. The root is poisoned after all. But by explaining everything, unfortunately they often explain nothing. Most religious people don’t engage in terror.

And yet the broad family similarities between religious and secular terror remain. There is no hesitation in understanding the sense of Palestinian nationalist error, to the actions of the I.R.A. There are obvious proximate material causes. It is more difficult with religious terror, because terrorists such as Osama bin Laden who operate under the religious guise often elide the material causes of their actions and reframe it as an idealistic and metaphysical conflict. And yet of course we don’t expect Islamic terrorists to attack arguably the most anti-God nation-state on earth, North Korea. Whatever metaphysical disagreement with North Korea they have, these terrorists have more serious material conflicts with a nation where most of the population adheres to a belief in what is notionally the same God of Abraham.

In regards to Anders Breivik there’s a lot of esoteric material coming out. That’s the noise. The reality is that Breivik had some political agenda, which seems to have been warped through a seriously unbalanced lens. In the short term confusing him for a genuinely religiously motivated terrorist, like Eric Rudolph, may seem harmless. But as we distort our map of reality one step at a time, the errors compound, and our coarse models may lead us to false inferences about the arc of the future. That’s more than just abstract.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics, Religion
  • Sam

    “but it also goes toward the general problem of our age where we attempt to fit everything into black-white religious dichotomies.”

    I dislike this too. People from all sides need this basic closure so the next time they’re arguing about whatever violent event/conflict they can say “See! It was because of X ideology that Y did Z!” If you really want to know what he believed then at least have to skim through his manifesto.

    This is from the Personal Facts section:

    Political view: Cultural conservative, revolutionary conservative, Vienna school of thought,
    economically liberal

    Religion: Christian, Protestant but I support a reformation of Protestantism leading to it being

    absorbed by Catholisism. The typical “Protestant Labour Church” has to be deconstructed as its creation was an attempt to abolish the Church

    Religious: I went from moderately to agnostic to moderately religious

    Here’s a tidbit from the self Q&A section:

    Q: Are you a religious man, and should science take priority over the teachings of the Bible?

    A: My parents, being rather secular wanted to give me the choice in regards to religion. At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church. I consider myself to be 100% Christian. However, I strongly object to the current suicidal path of the Catholic Church but especially the Protestant Church. I support a Church that believes in self defence and who are willing to fight for its principles and values, at least resist the efforts put forth to exterminate it gradually. The Catholic and Protestant Church are both cheering their own annihilation considering the fact that they embrace the ongoing inter-faith dialogue and the appeasement of Islam. The current Church elite has shown its suicidal face, as vividly demonstrated last year by the archbishop of Canterbury’s speech contemplating the legitimacy of Shariah in parts of Britain.

    I trust that the future leadership of a European cultural conservative hegemony in Europe will ensure that the current Church leadership are replaced and the systems somewhat reformed. We must have a Church leadership who supports a future Crusade with the intention of liberating the Balkans, Anatolia and creating three Christian states in the Middle East. Efforts should be made to facilitate the de-construction of the Protestant Church whose members should convert back to Catholicism. The Protestant Church had an important role once but its original goals have been accomplished and have contributed to reform the Catholic Church as well. Europe should have a united Church lead by a just and non-suicidal Pope who is willing to fight for the security of his subjects, especially in regards to Islamic atrocities. I fully support that the Church gains more or less monopoly on religion in Europe (government policies, school curriculum etc at least) in addition to granting the Church several concessions which have been taken from them the last decades. As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence
    over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science and it must always continue to be that way.

    Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost aman of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.

  • dbrown

    This is an interesting well thought out post, but Mr. Breivik did consider himself to be a member of the “Knights Templar” . It doesn’t get much more Christan fundamentaist than that.

  • james

    Anders Breivik compared himself to the Knights Templar. So Christianity is clearly the inspiration for his insanity.

    That’s the problem with religion… every individual interprets it in their own way… and religious texts are so vague and contradictory, that you can convince yourself that god wants you to murder people.

    Sure, a lot of Brevik’s racisum comes from the influence of the far right… But it’s his religion that made him deluded enough to actually do what he did.

  • Matt

    Interesting. Your point on how the troubles in Ireland are labelled is precisely the opposite of what Richard Dawkins argues in his book The God Delusion. He argues that what was in essence a religious war (note that latterly, from the 60s on, there were not known to be any Protestant members of the IRA, nor Catholic members of the Ulster Unionists) was deliberately mis-labelled by the British and Irish governments as a nationalist separatist movement. And I have to say, as a resident of the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, that I agree with him (although the original nationalist movement had many Protestant founders). I do agree with your broader point. But shouldn’t you be using the phrase “some of the the media” instead of “we” in your headline paragraph?

  • kcdad

    So, what do you think motivates the “terrorists” to act? Is it politics that put Breivik on that island with automatic weapons slaughtering high school kids? Is there a political payoff?
    WHERE is the payoff? CUI BONO?

  • Handle

    1. There are multiple possible explanations for the Ngrams, are there not? One is that, over the time period, the terminology and mental framing of the writers changed when describing a mostly static kind of thing, and another is that the phenomenon being discussed was dynamic and evolved in the direction described by the new vocabulary.

    My sense of things is that the general shift in the center of gravity of Palestinian militancy in the last 40 years from Fatah to Hamas, and from a Secular-Leftist-Nationalist to an increasingly Jihadist mindset seems to correspond better with the latter scenario.

    But clearly there is a whole space of possible combinations of different degrees of these options, as well as the problem of the degree of “false consciousness”-derived explanations. Did the dominant model of most writers become better or worse or perhaps drift to a different but equally inaccurate place?

    2. Let’s posit three kinds of predominant political-extremist motivational categories; 1. “Mostly Religious, with some supernatural divine element”, 2. “Mostly Ideological, with some secular system of violence-justifying righteousness”, and 3. “Mostly material / optimization of personal and group interests”. Of these categories, 1 and 2 seem much closer to each other than to 3 – and I’m not positive the distinction between them is even meaningful. I don’t imagine that the kind of thing happening in the mind of a Secular Coercive-Utopian is all that much different in its nature than someone pursuing their divine religion’s own version of Sharia.

    We can map how some movements tend to change over time. From it’s origins, modern American Liberalism (including the Abolitionist phase which reflects a rare “out-of-power extremist phase”) probably moved from 1 to 2, losing the divine, but keeping the ethical content. Many Communist / Socialist movements in the word have moved from a genuine 2 to a 3 that merely pays cynical lip service to 2. Palestinian militancy has moved from 3 to 1. Early Protestantism might have been a 3-1 hybrid where 1 won out. It wouldn’t surprise me if movements from 3 to 1 that were eventually successful account for a good amount of the history of religious propagation and expansion.

    At any rate – we certainly don’t want false overemphasis on the religious categories to the exclusion of the others, but neither do we want too little.

    3. The real question is “Why should we care about categorizing the motivation of political militants at all”? From a pragmatic perspective, categories are useful when they are narrowing, descriptive, and predictive. When militant events occur, we want to know why because we want to figure our whether we can prevent them in the future, and if so how and at what cost. We want to know whether we are dealing with an unpredictable and isolated maniac intoxicated on his own thoughts (category A), or whether we are dealing with something like a major potential threat, a large but identifiable enemy population particularly likely to cause more problems for us in the future, or who will assist or tribally sympathize more with those who do than with us (category B).

    When money from Islamic or Catholic “Charities” ends up buying ammunition for Al Qaeda or the IRA then you have a problem of the second kind, and categorization becomes a functional heuristic filter (if an imperfect and defeatable one) for your security agencies. When it’s Eric Rudolf or Scott Roeder, on the other hand, the religious categorization may be perfectly accurate but equally impotent. When Roeder killed Tiller – Eric Holder sent US Marshals to abortion clinics around the country – but except for the reassurance of security theater it made no material improvement because Roeder was another unbalanced lone-wolf.

    4. What Categorizations are also “useful” for, however, is for propaganda and opinion-formation and for deceptively exploiting a catastrophe for ulterior political purposes. Mostly this takes the form of group defamation. But it can also be in the form of manipulative equivocation – trying to move a legitimate focus of popular concern from a continuing B-type problem by claiming some kind of equivalence with the rare occurrence of an A-type event. The categorical origins of A-type behavior can then be publically condemned and suppressed, whereas the B-type invites an naive attitude of grievance redressing and appeasement. This is another reason to not jump too hastily to conclusions of a tendency to over-religiofication of categorization because, when it’s not accurate (as it certainly can be), neither is it necessarily sincere – it’s just slander and chicanery. An effective lie, not a philosophical or logical error.

    5. Bottom Line: It’s probably not too important to care about why Breivik did what he did because the event is too isolated and rare, and because millions of people with similar opinions and who say and publish identical things in the same forums pose no threat of future violence (or, in other words, for all their bluster, the actual expected rate or repeated attempts at this kind of massacre in the next decade is close to zero). But his motivation will be categorized, nevertheless, and certainly falsely and/or erroneously too, for the most petty political reasons.

  • Darkseid
    FF to 1:20 and you’ll see plain evidence for nationalism. a subtle yet important difference that i didn’t notice until this post, thanks.

  • Darkseid
    the initial link is down.
    it sounds racist, maybe it is, but i’d be a cultural conservative well….just one who wouldn’t advocate shooting (their own) people to get the message across. if my society were also this:
    i’d like to keep it that way as Norway is awesome and you’d want to stop any arab influence before it turns into a situation like they have in Paris or Sweden. shooting people will only send people running to the opposite political party, though, so although sometimes violence is the only real way to achieve any results they won’t be the ones he was looking for. the video of the initial approach to the island where the shootings took place is absolutely haunting. i can only imagine how insane it was to watch the events unfold and end up a survivor.
    here’s video of the event if anyone hasn’t seen it:

  • Darkseid
  • Darkseid

    Q: Some people will claim that you are just another Nazi fascist disguised with anti-Muslim rhetoric. Is that true? A: That is ridiculous Marxist propaganda. If that was true, then why am I working on a weekly basis with fellow Indian, Jewish, Chilean intellectuals to preserve true, long term democracy, to ensure that the will of the people is respected? Why do we champion Israel’s cause when no one else is? Why do we propagate a military campaign, a military Crusade to assist our eastern Christians brothers – the Semitic Copts, Maronites, Assyrians? Why would we do this when they are not even considered “white”?

    sorry to make three posts in a row, R, but this is probably the most relevant thing i’ve come across. what do you think? (from his ‘manifesto’)

  • juan

    A friend of mine, who is Scandinavian, immediately saw the attacks as Breivik going after the future leadership class of his political enemies. Both as a direct attack but also to have a chilling impact and discourage future Norwegians from being public members of left-wing political groups.

    We have similar youth political camps here in America. I have left-wing cousins who participate. They go on progressive youth leadership retreats or volunteer stints where it’s half helping some poor people, half political indoctrination. A friend of mine from college was a super left-wing greenie who worked at camps like this in California. She was very open, her goal was to get bright high school kids and brainwash them to be hard-core eco-activists. She even used terms like that. She believed she was part of a great war to save the planet and had to use every technique to create reliable future eco-warriors. She was crazy, but really, really attractive. After 10 years as hard-core eco-radical, she married a rich silicon valley guy and had some kids.

    I assume we have some similar youth camps for young Republicans, but I’ve never known anyone who participated, so maybe not, or maybe just much less. Maybe general Christian retreats and camps serve that function instead.

  • Razib Khan

    i think the term christian nationalist would be fine to describe breivik. but in israel his proper analogy would be moderately religious jews (if at all) who support very nationalist policies in israel (‘religious nationalist’ perhaps). not ‘fundamentalist’ jews.

  • Handle

    @Darkseid: From Breivik’s 775K-words “manifesto” and the other content he produced that is now available online, I think it’s increasingly clear that he has deluded himself into thinking he could accomplish some naive, lone-wolf version of the Focoist tactic implemented with typically low levels of success by such diverse terrorist figures as Che Guevera and Osama Bin Laden.

    The general idea is that one believes that the general “preconditions” for some kind of popular insurrection or political movement exist but that some “vanguards” can and must “spark the powderkeg” by committing some spectacular attack(s), the news of which will be sure to reach (and hopefully, “inspire”) the whole target population.

    I think the notion is particularly attractive to the unhinged and sadistic hero-martyr-fantasy lone-wolf because he can use it to rationalize away his inability to build anything like a real organization. There’s also the question as to whether the unlimited capacity of the internet for personal overexposure tends to make the unstable personality engage in faux-celebrity day-dreaming when they imagine themselves being covered in the mass media and thus pre-produce content tailor-made for it.

  • Matt (another)

    Anders Breivik compared himself to the Knights Templar. So Christianity is clearly the inspiration for his insanity.

    It seems more like a name and imagery that has been appropriated due to the history of armed religious conflict, that can be painted as resistance, against Islam. And knights are cool if you’re the kind of guy to be heavily into World of Warcraft and plans out a rampage with analogies to FPS missions.

    Much like his wider engagement with Christianity, it seems more as an outgrowth of his pan-European Nationalism than any genuine interest. Christianity is part of European history, which the Left is attempting to deconstruct, and so it must be saved (even though he probably hasn’t really had a Road to Damascus reconsideration of his agnosticism). I suppose you could see religion as having an exacerbatory or catalytic role here, but there’s no clear “If not for, then” role that I can see.

  • Tom Bri

    A minor note, I was not sure that Eric Rudolf was a Christian, of any stripe, and the Wikipedia article you linked to is also unclear on this. It is hard to imagine what else might have motivated the attacks on the specific targets he chose, but his own statements don’t seem to validate the idea.

  • Razib Khan

    , but his own statements don’t seem to validate the idea.

    you mean one statement, right? the preference for nietszche? i agree there’s some ambiguity. it would be nice if rudolf said something to clear this issue up, but i’m generally not inclined to assume someone is not a xtian just because of peculiar literary tastes, even if it is anti-christian. i assume paul ryan is a sincere catholic as he says despite his admiration for the anti-christian rand and her anti-christian novels. my personal exp. is that of all atheists nietszche is the one xtians admire the most because he argues forcefully on their terms against their terms (which makes sense, as he comes from a line of pastors).

  • Darkseid

    Handle – yes, that sounds right to me.
    here’s a good NYT overview of all related events if anyone cares:
    i think it’s important that the writer also remembered that the *leaders* of the “Big 3” had all come out against the multi-culture in the past months. could one imagine the President of the U.S. saying such a thing? from either party? political suicide in the US while it’s largely ignored coming out of the main leaders from Europe. interesting….

  • steve hsu

    He’s not a Christian fundamentalist at all. He states in his manifesto that his movement is open to non-Christians, even Odinists!

    I’m with Razib on this — the media needed a way to label him and they did it incorrectly. His beliefs are very complicated — anti Islam, pro Israel, anti racism, pro conservative cultural values, anti immigration, anti multiculturalism.

    He was also a roider!

  • M Burke

    Firstly, the Knights Templar were a CATHOLIC group. No “Christian Fundamentalist” would align themselves with a group of that name, secondly, from his own writing he states:

    “So no, you don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian-atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy”

    This is about as far from “fundamentalist” as one can get.

    When his actions and words are in direct contradiction of the founder of the religion, who said, “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you”, your claim of practicing that religion are null.

    Anyone claiming otherwise is either ignorant or desperate.

  • Razib Khan

    m. burke, i’ve already seem anders b. referred to as a ‘christian fundamentalist neo-nazi,’ despite the fact that it doesn’t seem like he was a christian fundamentalist or a neo-nazi (he was philo-semitic and pro-israel).

    When his actions and words are in direct contradiction of the founder of the religion, who said, “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you”, your claim of practicing that religion are null.

    if you’re going to use that standard most christians are not christians. let’s just refer to them as people who *claim* to be christians? as an atheist i don’t care much, but it’s awkward.

  • Mercy

    That combination of islamophobia + agressive zionism is pretty common among neo-fascist groups though, the BNP for instance made a big deal about being the only party to support Operation Cast Lead. Fascism’s become such a taboo after the holocaust that the actual successors of fascism – the romantic nationalists who think that Marxists have betrayed western civilisation and left it open to barbarianism, so we need to kill the traitors, remove the national enemies and institute an authoritarian state, who think of themselves as rationalists but want to enforce traditional values and religion as a source of strength and order- these people describe themselves as being against fascism, despite thinking more or less the same thing minus the anti-semitism. I think such posturing should be dismissed the same way as american republicans going on about the party of Lincoln.

    It’s people like Breivik who represent the modern face of fascism and who are attractive to less scrupulous business types as counter-revolutionaries (see: the EDL’s backers), not the ridiculous re-enactor types who still hate the jews and venerate hitler. That sort of shit is incompatible with the nationalism that fascism requires, since hitler is accurately regarded as a villain.

  • Clark

    I wonder if this isn’t just part and parcel of the tendency, especially in the US press, to fit everything into a simple narrative of polar opposites. Thus in the 70’s and 80’s it was all USSR vs. America. More nuanced views such as perhaps a heavily marxist but pro-western regime couldn’t fit the narrative. So things had to be cleaned up. Now the narrative is fundamentalist pan-Islam vs. Secular Democracy. So everything has to be put in that dichotomy and it seems like Christian fundamentalist works better than secular anti-Marxist or whatever.

    I had actually, naive person that I was, hoped the Internet would lead to more nuanced discussion and analysis than we typically got in the popular press of the 90’s. Now that the internet is ubiquitous it seems like it’s gotten worse not better. Although there are great places to find nuance if you seek it out.

  • Baldwin

    His views closely line up with the Judeo-Christian (Christian Fundamentalist) mindset of: “Israel must be maintained if Jesus is to come back. No Israel, no second coming.”
    To him killing these people was justified. This is based on the day before the shooting when these children were showing off their hate for Israel.

    The fact that Norway is one of the few countries that has recognized Palestine supports this premise.

    The bombing took place at the oil ministry building which was boycotting Israel.

    This man is an Ultra-Zionist Christian. There is no other label I can place on him

  • The Undiscovered Swede

    From his manifesto:

    “If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”

    “I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person as that would be a lie. I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment.

    “KT is a “cultural Christian” (Christian Identity) military order and NOT a “religious Christian” (Christian fundamentalist) organization. Logic and reason will always take precedence over biblical texts. KT is open for members from all denominations of Christendom, even agnostic and atheist Christians.”

  • Russell

    The problem is it is hard to separate several things that likely have changed and are interrelated. Yes, there is more of a tendency to see these events through a religious lens. But it also may be, as both cause and consequence, that politically motivated terrorists make more use of religious rhetoric and justification. And that there is an increase in popularity of extremist religious rhetoric. It’s not as if the lens is solely interpretive by those apart from the action. It also becomes a part of the action.

  • Liesel

    One of the Eric Rudolph investogators ( I don’t remember who or where I read this, sorry) wrote that he thought Rudolph only targeted aboriton clinics and wrote that his stance against abortion motivated his other bombings because he believed it would gain the sympathy of a segment of the population. That investigator believed Rudolph truly wanted power but was smart and cunning enough to not come out and say that. If this is true, the tactic certainly worked. He still has quite a following in certain quarters.

    His life before that seems to have been one long feud with different federal agencies (the FDA, DEA, IRS, FBI, Forestry service, and of course the J-O-O-S.) His family, freinds and aquaintances describe him as railing against those entities but never discussing abortion at all. He was also not particularly religious before either. Whereas he apparently became enraged at anything involving the fed & Israel. Of course it is still possible a sincere religious conviction was his inspiration, but it seems he too was a political/nationalist actor at heart.

  • ackbark

    Late to the party, clearly.

    But I’d like to point out that Breivik related everything, every part of his ideology and perspective, to religion. Religion is his fundamental reference throughout. His ideal Europe would be ruled by the Pope!

    Even where he says “it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence
    over biblical teachings.”, that doesn’t mean he would regard it as having precedence over the secular authority of the Catholic Imperium, and that is his self-described ‘moderate’ view in religion.

    I think the term for him would be Catholic monarchist.

    (and accommodation of other religions as minorities within an over-arching theocracy seems to be a characteristic ideal of religious mania generally)


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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