Christian terrorists and Christian theocracy

The idea of screening refugees by religion and allowing only Christians into the US has been suggested by Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and supported by others, based on the notion that these people would be unlikely to be terrorists. Cruz has been quite explicit on this topic, saying, “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror. If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation”.

Sam Harris endorses Cruz’s views on this, saying:

“Take the personalities of the people on the right out of the equation. Is it crazy to express, as Ted Cruz did, a preference for Christians over Muslims in this process?” Harris asked. “Of course not. What percentage of Christians will be jihadists or want to live under Sharia law? Zero. And this is a massive, in fact the only, concern when talking about security. We know that some percentage of Muslims will be jihadists inevitably… So it is not mere bigotry or mere xenophobia to express that preference. I hope you understand that I am expressing no sympathy at all with Ted Cruz’s politics or with Ted Cruz. But it is totally unhelpful to treat him — though he actually is a religious maniac — like a bigot on this point. This is a quite reasonable concern to voice.”

(It is truly curious how even though Harris describes Cruz as a “religious maniac” and Ben Carson as a “dangerously deluded religious imbecile”, labels that for most people would put them completely beyond the pale, for Harris that is not a problem as long as they take a sufficiently hard line against Muslims. He says that he would vote for Carson over Noam Chomsky every time and there is no reason to think that he does not view Cruz as favorably.)

The second part of the question Harris asks, “What percentage of Christians will be jihadists or want to live under Sharia law?” is of course a rhetorical one and the answer is likely zero since no religious person would want to be bound by the rules of another religion. But by slipping it in in conjunction with the first, he is employing a rhetorical sleight-of-hand by suggesting that it is also obvious that no Christians would want to impose their own theocracy on others. That is patently false.

The idea that there is something about Christianity that makes it impervious to triggering violent actions against others is, of course, nonsense as even a cursory look at history will show, and there have been many articles, such as this one by Stephen D. Foster, Jr. listing the many Christian individuals and groups that have terrorized people just in the US alone.

The Ku Klux Klan, for instance, terrorized the South after the Civil War. They targeted African-Americans, Jews, and Catholics all while professing a Christian ideology. They committed arson, lynchings, murder, rape, and burned crosses. They intimidated anyone who didn’t agree with their ideology and they struck fear in anyone who crossed their path. Their reign of terror continued throughout the 1960s and they are still an active hate group to this day.

Foster lists other cases but somehow these kinds of violent acts by home grown self-described Christians tend to be ascribed to motives other than religious fervor using the ‘No true Scotsman’ argument that people with a tribal mindset haul out to absolve their own group of the actions of one of the members of that group.

But Cruz also ignores one of the most violent groups currently in existence and that is the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda led by Joseph Kony, a group that wants to create a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments, the same thing that some Christians in the US want since they believe those commandments are the basis for their morality and the reason they want to plaster it all over schools and courthouses and other public spaces. Ledio Cakaj writes about the methods of this group and they are truly brutal.

But if the Kony example is brought to the attention of people like Cruz, it will be asserted that Kony and his followers are not ‘true’ Christians, whatever they themselves might claim, because no true Christian would behave that way and that they are either deluded about what Christianity is or using Christianity as a cover to achieve non-Christian goals. This is of course the same reasoning used by many Muslims to distance themselves from the actions of groups like ISIS.

There are many mainstream politicians in the US right now who argue that the US is a Christian nation and should be run on biblical principles. The only things preventing them from achieving their goal are the secular traditions that have emerged since the Renaissance. I have no doubt that if they obtained sufficient power, they would try and impose their will on everyone by force, first by legislating a theocracy and then using state power to enforce it. The problem with Cruz and Harris is that of tribalism, in that they seem to feel comfortable living with the possibility of a Christian theocracy but not a Muslim one.

As Tabby Lavalamp said in a comment to an earlier post, “Harris would rather live in a Christian theocracy than a Muslim theocracy. As long as it’s the right people subjugating women and stoning gay men” because, as laurentweppe added, “Perhaps he believes that the uniformed bullies on a Christian theocracy’s payroll will remain properly deferential to rich white dudes like him instead of thinking “I want that Jew’s stuff/wife/daughters and I’m the guy with the guns and the government-issued badge, so I’ll take what I want“.


  1. deepak shetty says

    The idea that there is something about Christianity that makes it impervious to triggering violent actions against others is, of course, nonsense as even a cursory look at history will show

    And Harris knows this -- He’s even written books on it. And you just need to look at say India or Sri Lanka or Burma to laugh at ridiculous statements like Not all muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are muslim.
    Harris also excludes state sponsored terrorism from his definition of terrorists.(unless it is a Muslim majority)

  2. says

    There’s not just the lie of “not true christians!” but the lie of “doing it fer cheezus!” (e.g. “Bombers of abortion clinics aren’t terrorists, the clinics are murdering babies!”). As always, it’s only “terrorism” or “bad” when done by people you hate and disagree with. When it fits your agenda, lying rationalizing or ignoring the elephant are SOP.

  3. says

    “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.

    The Central Intelligence Agency has lots of christians on staff and they are the worlds preeminent exporters of terror.
    Cruz is an opportunist and a liar; that he says what he does under the cover of Trump’s louder and more obvious lies makes him more dangerous, but no less dishonest.

  4. mockturtlesoup1 says

    Ugh. This is what drives me crazy about my fellow liberals. Are you SERIOUSLY comparing the terrorism and violence being carried out by muslims/muslim groups to that of christianity? There is NO comparison at all! Look up the list of terrorist attacks for 2015, and note who carried them out. Over 95% are carried out by muslims. If you look at the deaths caused by terrorists,o over 99% were killed by muslims. Then look at 2014, 2013, etc. The numbers are the same. And you guys have the audacity to compare this to the KKK? Or the what, less than a dozen or so abortion doctors killed by christians?! You’re comparing sharia law, the honor killings, treatment of women, children, stonings, treatment of non believers, blasphemy laws, mob justice, etc. to christians trying to ban gay marriage?
    Yes, what is going on in Uganda is terrible, but it is virtually the only place that even comes close to comparing to what is going on in the Muslim world.
    For Christ’s sake, it isn’t even NEWS anymore when a muslim group kills a few dozen people in a bombing! Have you seen the videos released by groups like ISIS lately? These attacks ARE going to increase, and ARE moving further and further west, and we all know inflicting in america is their ultimate goal.
    To deny these things, just because there are people who are “racist”/predjudiced/bigoted against muslims, or because you are a liberal and this is not what liberals believe, or (more likely) because republicans/conservative christians DO acknowledge these things and you don’t want to agree with them (or seem bigoted/increase Islamophobia) is intellectually dishonest, and in my opinion harmful.

  5. Mano Singham says


    Where do you get those statistics? Data from the FBI from 1980 to 2005 say that over 90% of terrorist attacks in the US were carried out by non-Muslims. Similarly in the last five years less than 2% of the terrorist attacks in the E. U. were religiously motivated.

    Part of the problem is that ‘terrorism’ is not a well-defined category and is notoriously used to label attacks depending the identity of the perpetrator rather than the nature of the crime.

  6. mockturtlesoup1 says

    Well, obviously I was referring to world wide, not in the u.s. obviously muslims don’t commit the majority of terror attacks in the u.s., as there are very few muslims here.
    But even if we take your numbers, that 10% of terrorist attacks are caused by muslims, that is still far more than the percentage of the population they represented between 1980 and 2005. I am on my phone and thus can’t really provide links, but look up the list of terrorist attacks on wickipedia for 2015 (or any year) and note who is responsible for nearly every one of them. Perhaps more importantly, look at the number of deaths caused by muslim terrorist attacks, vs. non-Muslim attacks. I agree there are problems with with defining what is and what isn’t a terrorist attack, but when 99%of those killed by terrorists (albeit according to wikipedia) did at the hands of muslims, I find it hard to believe there are constant attacks being carried out by buddhists, christians, hindus, atheists, etc. that we just aren’t hearing about, or that aren’t being labeled terrorism. (Though this goes both ways, as many of the terror attacks on record in statistics like you cited include things like gang shootings, and many events where no one even dies or gets hurt.) For example, it doest really make sense in my mind to call a teenage lone mass shooter in the u.s. with severe mental illness, and delusions a terrorist, as they are not part of some larger group, and have no larger political/religious/etc goal, they are usually just insane or delusional and suicidal, or just out for revenge. Someone like Dylan roof would be an exception, as he did have a political goal, and was trying to instill terror/fear, and change the ideals, racial make, etc. of society(which is why his shooting was listed as a terrorist attack.)
    I also can’t help but think you would agree that the problem of sharia law, and the injustices of Muslim societies is far greater than the injustices of Christian societies, even in the same parts of the world. I agree the bible is just as ducked up/immoral as the quran, bu tg like it of not, the vast majority of christians in the world do not follow the old testament. They have no problem eating shrimp, they don’t keep slaves, they don’t stone gays, or adulterers, or kill non-believers (at least nowhere near the as often as muslim societies do.) There is a reason when one hears on the news that 130+ people were killed in paris, or that a bomb killed 50 people in the middle east, or africa, that we all know who is responsible, and very rarely are our assumptions proven wrong. Like I said, when a suicide bomber kills a couple dozen people in the middle east, it doesn’t even make the nightly news any more (or if it does, it is one sentence, or an intro to a larger story.)

  7. says

    “Of course not. What percentage of Christians will be jihadists or want to live under Sharia law? Zero. “

    Reminds me of those shaving cream ads. “Is he thick enough to hold up this husky hiker?”

    Sorry, but Christian terror is actively killing people right now. White terror is. No, it isn’t for Sharia Law. (I’m sorry, how stupid do you have to be to carry the Sam Harris label?) Still looking at the wrong people, and the wrong oppressive systems. (But, you know, those Islamists get all splashy like Michael Bay, the very few who do the effective terror thing that makes everyone cower in corners and ask ineffective agencies to do more of their invasive, destructive, rights-revoking ineffective things at extreme monetary costs as well.) Yep, looked terror in the eye and never blinked. Which is hard to do with your eyes squeezed shut.

  8. says

    The numbers might change significantly if we add in state-sponsored violence. E.g. I doubt very much that the recent hospital bombing was officially labeled as terrorism, but it should be. Likewise, if certain people get their way and actually ban abortion, the deaths caused by that policy will never be considered religiously motivated violence, even though it plainly is.

    I think the main difference between fundies of different stripes are means and opportunities, not moral standards.

  9. John Morales says

    I’m old enough to remember the Serbian rape squads during the Bosnian wars in the former Yugoslavia.

    It was justified on an ethnic cleansing basis, but the reality entailed that the (Christian) Serbs killed the Muslim men and raped the Muslim women. Systematically.

    And it wasn’t that long ago.

    (In ISIL’s case, it’s the religious rather than the ethnic aspect which is emphasised, but in both cases both aspects were inextricably linked)

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    In August 2015, a man in Iowa was charged with terrorism for shooting at an airplane. It did not make a splash in any newspapers beyond the region, and I’m guessing none of you even heard about it. Why? Is it because the suspect is white and of Christian background?

  11. raven says

    In August 2015, a man in Iowa was charged with terrorism for shooting at an airplane.

    A xian man tried to assassinate the President, Obama. He managed to get off a few shots. He is now in prison.

    This made the news but barely and has since been forgotten. Because he is a…xian.

    Dozens of mosques have been fire bombed and/or vandalized. The two terrorist attacks nearest my house were both by xian terrorists.

  12. Excluded Layman says

    As with sexual abuse and vanilla violence, access is always the primary prerequisite. Strangers from a strange land are exceedingly rare, whereas domestic assholes are plentiful. Which are more likely to succeed in planning and executing an attack?

    Here’s a hint: It’s not the ones that have a 15 hour flight to get within operational distance of the target.

  13. says

    mockturtlesoup1: Look up the list of terrorist attacks for 2015, and note who carried them out. Over 95% are carried out by muslims.

    Do you count drone strikes or hospital bombings?

  14. atheistblog says

    And you didn’t mention anti abortion ideology. It is pure and total christian invention, life, soul and bull shit begins at zygote. Right now in US this ideology takes lots of life of women and subjugate women to painful life. Hell with Christianity, a pathetic religion.

  15. atheistblog says

    All those who impose anti abortion ideology are unleashing terror on living human beings, women, and make them to suffer. Those who hold such belief and impose those ideology, should be called, rightfully, as terrorists. christian terrorists.
    India has hindu muslim skirmish for long time, its more about political. They infiltration christianity in past 30 years, particularly with christian money, they trying to impose their faith upon other by influencing the government, and good example is anti-abortion. Hell with christianity and christian terrorists.

  16. brucegee1962 says


    I think the main point that people are trying to make here is that the relative likelihood of committing a terrorist act among different groups is irrelevant. All you need to prove is that the chances of a member of any group being a terrorist are non-zero. After you’ve proved that, it doesn’t make any difference whether the members of any particular group are 10% more likely to commit terrorism, or 2x, or 20x. (Not that we could ever achieve that kind of precise calculation, when the definitions of what constitutes a particular group, and terrorism itself, are so fuzzy, and there are zillions of other factors besides religion that come into play.)

    The larger point is this: once you start granting people different legal status based upon their religion, you have just dived into a rabbit hole that has historically gone pretty darn deep. It’s a hole that America has attempted to avoid so far, and it’s a hole that, as atheists, we should be particularly wary of. Sometimes the slope really is slippery, and this sure looks like one of those times.

  17. says

    Sounds like there may be an ongoing christian terrorist incident right now, at a planned parenthood in colorado. I’m sure there will be calls for the moderate christians to decry it.

  18. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    Or the what, less than a dozen or so abortion doctors killed by christians?!

    How many should we add for today in Colorado? Oh, that’s right, we don’t know because the shooter is still inside Planned Parenthood, and unless shot unknowingly by police, still threatening -- possibly still injuring and killing -- yet more people in the clinic.

    And do we count the 3 cops who were shot as victims of Christian terrorism, or just the doctors?

    I look forward to your informative answers.

  19. says

    Crip Dyke (#23) --

    To no surprise, the media is desperately trying to frame the story in a specific way:

    1) Don’t mention his religious and political motivation, and don’t use the word “white”. This is Jared Laughner, James Kopp and Eric Rudolph all over again. The far right, including the corporate media, will lie, deny and decry the acts of people they incited to violence. WingNutDaily’s response amounts to “So what?”

    2) ALL the focus of the dead is on the “brave cop”. (*) They are intentionally avoiding any mention of the three victims who worked at the clinic. The intent and message is clear: “The victims brought it on themselves!” Those murdered are being blamed for the actions and words of the extremists. Then again, Chicken Noodle News and other rightwing media (e.g. NBC, CBS, ABC) did the same with Steubenville when they talked about “those poor boys” and avoided any mention of the girls that “those poor boys” had raped.

    (* Really? I’ve never seen any. And I used to work with cops on a daily basis.)

  20. asdf says

    Sam Harris is a cowardly intellectual, he is one of those useful idiots that does nothing but give credibility to the powerful empire he sold his soul to (not that a smarmy tool like him would even have one to begin with)

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