Support for torture among the religious

The Pew Research Center surveyed 742 Americans including white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated during the week of April 14-21 and found that 60% of evangelical churchgoers favored torture while only 40% of the unaffiliated agreed with them.

CNN reports:

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Mainline Protestants were the most likely to say torture is never justified, the report says. Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians. Three in 10 mainline protestants say torture is never justified compared to 2 in 10 non-hispanic Roman Catholics and 16% of white evangelicals.

See the full report here and the CNN report here.

Comments (4)

This news is truly alarming, in that it reveals how so many self-professed Christians do not take this fundamental principle of Jesus Christ seriously: "Treat others the way you want to be treated." If you don't really believe in his teachings and ethics, and they are so easily dispensable when they are inconvenient for you, why bother making any pretense of Christian faith and morality? Have you no fear?

Appalling it is, certainly, but to call it alarming would seem to imply that this fact should in any sense be surprising. That Evangelical Protestants are the most (relatively) enthusiastic for torture - methods designed to break the spirit of a human being and render them submissive to authority - should be as startling an observation as that water is wet. Where you been, brother?

However, to refer to our co-religionists as "self-professed Christians" is not helpful (something about making windows into men's souls comes to mind). They, and what they say to the world about our faith, are our responsibility.

The survey is indeed disturbing. To be fair though, we should note that Evangelical leaders are also disturbed by the survey, as this essay by Christianity Today editor, David Neff shows:

Mr. Neff is, also an Episcopalian.

How quickly folks forget that a mere couple centuries past the Church held the market on torture and murder, and still participates, if but vicariously!

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