Anyone else bothered by the relgious implications being made for this war?

It seems to me both sides are taking a overly righteous religous stance.

In Usama Bin Laden’s camp, you have people who believe what they did was righteous. It’s righteous in the eye’s of their God.

In Bush’s camp, we have almost the same thing. A leader who believes our mission is religiously righteous, or in his words, “going after the evil-do’ers” who threaten our future.

Who’s right?

Why are we introducing the God thing?

Wouldn’t in be better to say we’re seeking retrobution for the WTC attack, rather than make it a war of Gods?

:eek: Excuse me, but I am not sure if I understand you correctly. Are you saying that there is some kind of moral equivelency between the two sides here?

Also, can we have some cites on this “almost the same thing” assertion?

Actually (and some people are going to be surprised to see me say this), I think Bush has gone out of his way to show that this is not a religious thing – he had included a variety of religions in his ceremonies (of course, he never bothers with the damned atheists), etc.

I can point to what happened and call it evil. I would therefore call those who did it “evil-doers” (well, if I used that term in casual conversation, I would). Does that make me religious? No.

There is no moral equivalency.

But that is precisely why it’s so unhelpful to introduce religious rhetoric (and there are worse examples than what the OP cites, though mainly from outside of the Bush administration). The issue is far better discussed in secular terms: as the need to respect human life and the rule of law.

The thing is though, once you strip away the language of “God is on our side,” it becomes much harder to justify what Cnote has called “retribution.” If you’re going to take the secular moral highground, you don’t fight a war to seek retribution; you fight it to defend yourself. Now there is certainly a sense in which the US needs to defend itself against terrorism; which is why I personally wouldn’t discount the use of the military under certain circumstances. But given what we know right now, what has occurred is a terrible, horrible crime. So if we’re going to take the secular moral highground, we need to be seeking justice, not vengeance or retribution. And there are existing institutions for doing that very thing.

It’s good that we don’t seem to rushing headlong into a bombing campaign against helpless civilians (which apart from being tactically counterproductive would suggest that we don’t respect human life). It’s good that, at least for the moment, a more pragmatic kind of defense strategy is being sought. But I agree with the OP that insofar as God is invoked, or insofar as the superiority of the Christian West vs. the Muslim East is invoked (a la Berlusconi), then the moral questions just dissolve into which side you’re on, and we might as well be back in the Crusades when (if you read Western literature) Christians were always good and “pagans” were always bad.

Just saw David B’s post and have to agree; as I said above most of the really troubling religious rhetoric isn’t coming directly from the Bush administration. But it’s still troubling.

Thank you. That was what I was after, the religious rhetoric. Do others have a problem with it?

I do, but I don’t know why. It’s almost like we’re pitting one God against the other, if that makes any sense. And in doing that, we miss the fact that our ultimate goal is to stop terrorism.

I just wonder if we’re not spinning a complicated web on this thing when we really don’t need to.

It’s not a “Bush is bad” or anything like that. It’s simply a question of whether others find problems with the religious rhetoric flying around.

I’m more surprised by that comment than the other one you thought people would call you on. They may call you on it, I don’t know. I really don’t know you. And to be honest with you, I don’t know what your religious beliefs are.

But- How can you call it evil and also say it’s not a religious statement? Or believe that comment doesn’t have religious connotations?

Isn’t that like saying you don’t believe in beer but you sure like Guinness?

bin Laden has couched this fight in religious terms. He and his buddies in the Taleban have also made the direct association between the culture of (their version of Islam) and the culture of the humanistic-historically-Christian Europeans and North Americans. He set the tone. In that context, it is difficult to avoid all mention of religion or culture in any ensuing discussions.

I certainly agree that this Administration has worked very hard to keep the discussion away from both culture and religion (although they should have a few more culturally aware people vetting their pronouncements before they launch any more crusades).

On the other hand, our society is filled with as many provincial, parochial, self-absorbed, ignorant-of-all-others twits as theirs seems to be, so our rhetoric is going to be tainted by the likes of the editors and writers of the National Review, (Senior Editor Richard Brookhiser and Editor Rich Lowry, along with Ann Coulter and others) as well as Falwell, Robertson, and our own Wildest Bill.

I think we need to resist the temptation to which so many idiots have succumbed, to turn this into a cultural war. But I think that the overwhelming majority of the people who need to lead this effort have resisted that temptation.

The religious implications are the very crux of the problem. OBL (may he simmer in bacon fat next door to Pol Pot)hates America not because America is so “Christian” but because America represents the secular humanistic “world”. He is rather a Muslim version of Savanorola.

He is seeking to provoke an Islamic Armageddon. The single most important aspect of our response must be to utterly ignore any religious implications. OBL is a criminal, period, his religious pretensions are nothing more than that, pretensions.

Therefore, it becomes even more important, for tactical rather than moral reasons, the we conduct ourselves with absolute restraint and patience. The very moment American military action involves civlian bystanders, or worse, some Muslim religious symbol, OBL will win converts and recruits, human ammunition in his war on reason and tolerance.

CNN is saying, as I write, that America is preparing to airdrop food to the starving Afghans, in order to win “hearts and minds” (such an unfortunate use of phrase!) To this effort I can only shout “Bravo!” and “Hurrah!”

Nothing could make me more proud than the thought of Americas awesome military power rushing to the aid of the hungry and desperate. And not a single bomb has fallen!

I cannot say “miracle”. But this is damn close!

Just to be clear, since I was far from it earlier, up to and including the title of this thread, I meant religious comments specifically made by George Bush Junior.

To completely paraphrase George’s statements- ‘We are righteous in our pursuit to rid the world of evil-doer’s. Ours is the just cause.’.

Whatever others have to say on this matter, like Falwell and all his cronies, isn’t really the issue here, it’s what the president says on behalf of all Americans.

And in the presidents case, he’s decided to introduce the God thing into the equation.


Why not keep it a cultural thing, i.e., our cultural will pursue to the best of our ability those that are trying to destroy our way of life, especially when they bring it to us, on our soil.

I don’t know, but that seems like a far better statement then introducing the whole God thing.

I’m sorry, but I see no reference to God or the divine in the selections you have quoted from Bush. He seems to be pushing the idea of justice, not divine right.

We do not want this to become a cultural war because we are not at war with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, or any other nation that looks upon itself as Muslim or Arabic or any of the other overlapping definitions into which we would find bin Laden or the Taleban.

Any attempt to artificially limit “culture” to only those traits that define the Taleban or bin Laden will necessarily involve many other groups. (Note that among thew WTC attackers and bin Laden’s lieutenants are Saudis, Egyptians, and Afghanis, yet Saudi Arabia and Egypt have condemned the attacks and have outlawed bin Laden and his associates.)

Why do you want to launch a war against the whole of the Middle East (and Indonesia, the Southern Philipines, and Dearborn, MI)?

It is not cultural. Culture (or cultural misunderstandings) has(have) played a large part in all the actions that have led up to these events. Why in the world would we want to perpetuate that sort of misunderstanding to push the hatred on for another generation?

The only statements referring to God that I have found Bush making were personal. I do not see a “just cause” as a “religious” phrase. What are you calling “religious”?

Errr, does belief in evil immediately connotate belief in a deity? Are there no atheists who believe in justice and in evil?

Cnote, I think you’re reacting against religious rhetoric without recognizing what it is that is most bothersome (in a case like this) about religious rhetoric.

When fundamentalist Americans speak in much the same way as the fundamentalist Taliban what gets lost is any objective assessment of right and wrong. That is, both sides can claim that God is on their side and the dialogue is reduced to an age-old battle between us and them. Once that happens one is no longer discussing and forming one’s opinions in a context of what is actually happening; one has simply determined to credit one’s own side with divinely-sanctioned “right” and the other with divinely-condemned “wrong.”

The thing is, that this kind of us vs. them position can easily be displaced from a religious to a secular context. Secularism itself doesn’t prevent simplistic distinctions between right and wrong (just as religion does not necessarily prevent nuanced distinctions). So, for me, when Bush or anyone else paints the attacks as on attack on “freedom” or “liberty,” I’m just as heartsick as when they are painted as diabolical assaults on a God-annointed American people. The reason isn’t that I don’t think that the US is more free a country than is Afghanistan under the Taliban: I don’t doubt that for a second. The reason is that I don’t believe that Osama and Co. have attacked the US primarily to assault our Western democratic way of life. (Were that so they might have chosen a Belgian disco, a Swiss supermarket, or a public school in Norway rather than what they did choose–the symbols of US financial and military power.)

Although cultural and religious difference is certainly a factor, the terrorists are first and foremost driven by specifically political motives, some of which relate to US policies, some of which relate to their goals in their own backyards. It’s really important to remember that, because if it weren’t the case–if this really were the first sign of an unbridgeable rift between West and East–it would mean that we could not make peace with the entire Islamic world. And that is patently false–not least because here in the United States Muslims can and do co-exist peacefully with their Christian, Jewish and atheist neighbors. It is important to remember how much denunciation there has been of these attacks from within Islam.

So, I think part of the “temptation” Tom asks us to resist must therefore take the form of avoiding simplistic characterizations of any kind; cultural as well as religious.

One point: I’m not especially exercised by “evil,” though I don’t think it should be used too much. The attacks of September 11 were, to my mind, evil, and those who did them were evil-doers. I’ve read that language being used in The Nation, which is as secular and Western a publication as you can find. Though I agree that overusing “evil” will, ultimately, discourage rational reflection.

P.S. elucidator, I too am really proud of the United States dropping food rather than bombs. I might just go out and get myself a flag ;).

What Bush has done in invoking whatever religious rhetoric he has was to try and show to the world that American isn’t a secular, athiestic society like Bin Laden would like to project, but a nation of many religions that coexist peacefully together. That’s an important message to get across to Muslims, because Bin Laden is trying to claim that America is the enemy of Islam itself.

I think the administration’s response has been masterful in its nuances. Bush has managed quite successfully to portray the U.S. as a religious society in which Muslims are an important, welcome part.

Those of us who aren’t particularly religious may not like that characterization, but it is in fact accurate. Americans at least claim to be overwhelmingly religious when polled. But even if it was a minority who were religious, it would still be important to get the idea across to Muslims that we aren’t just a bunch of godless heathens who are openly hostile to their beliefs.

Interesting point, Sam. I never thought of it in that sense.

And I’m not ignoring your post above, Mandelstrom. I think I follow what your saying, but I’m still trying to figure it out exactly what you’re saying.

In the process of doing that, I ran across Sam’s post and was struck by his take on the argument.

I appreciate your thoughtful response, Mandelstrom, I just need a bit to figure it out a bit better before I respond to it.

Fair enough, Cnote. I have a long day in front of my computer ahead of me and will check in from time-to-time. Feel free to ask if there’s some particular part of my post that is perplexing you (I re-read the post and there is quite a lot there).

I guess what I’m trying to say in a nutshell is that there is cultural as well as religious fundamentalism: both entail a narrow-minded and polarized us vs. them kind of thinking. I agree with Sam that the administration is doing a pretty good job of avoiding anti-Muslim sentiments (the “crusade” remarks aside).

However, I do think the administration is indirectly encouraging Americans to buy into the mindset that you, Cnote, seem to have picked up to an extent: that is a) to see Islamic culture (if not necessarily the Muslim religion) as inherently hostile to Western culture and b) to see the terrorists’ acts as primarily motivated Islamic culture or by hatred of Western culture.

In actuality, as I said above, the terrorists have very distinct political motives. These motives involve but are not limited to the role that the US government has played in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, it does not suit the Bush administration (nor would it have suited the Clinton administration) to address them in detail.

Unfortunately, our media, which ought to live up to its reputation as a “free” media, is not doing a much better job of picking up the slack.

Elucidator, not even secular humanists are advocating what you are advocating. If the government do what you suggest and avoid religious implications, then the terrorists are right. There is no way you can ignore the religious aspect. Somehow bin Laden got Islam intertwined with his twisted ambition the same way Hitler used Christianity and paganism to his pervented and extreme ends. Bush has to invoke the Koran, as well as exhort all imams who are against these heinous acts to condemn the terrorists. This war has to be fought with truth, and the most important aspect of this war is the separation between the innocent people of the Islamic faith and all other faiths and the wicked ones who would condemn them to a vicious ‘revenge for the revenge’ cycle of futility.

I’ll also comment that I’m an atheist who sees the terrorists attacks as evil, and those that did them as evildoers. I don’t think the concepts of good and evil are religious ones, the same way that I firmly believe that atheists can have a sense of morality.

I also think that the official US response (including Bush’s statements) has been very responsible at recognizing that the terrorists were evil people who believed in a perverted version of Islam which would be considered evil by the actual dictates of the Qu’ran. Aside from the unfortunate use of the word “crusade”. For a war started entirely due to religion, the US has done nothing to enhance the religious aspect of it, and has, in fact, been very careful to avoid it.

Certainly jackasses such as Jerry Falwell have been less responsible, but no one was really expecting them to suddenly develop an unwarped view of religion.

Ummm…excuse me? The OP didn’t provide cites. I asked for some in my first post, and didn’t get any.

How far outside? If you dig hard enough, you can find kooks willing to say almost anything.

Why do you need a “religious” justification for retribution? Also, who is saying that this is the main purpose of the war? I thought it was being fought to deter future terrorism, something that certainly does not need a “religious” component.

The only justification for this that I can think of is Coulter’s “convert them to Christianity” comment, which was made the day after the attacks. Do you have anything else to justify the above?

A) On what is the above paraphrase based and B) How is it (the statement or the paraphrase) religious?

It depends how you define retribution. Using the Biblical ‘eye for an eye’ might suggest the US should kill 5000 civilians.
Rule of law would involve arresting terrorists and putting them through the legal system (e.g as is happening with Milosovic, who organised the mass murder of civilians in parts of the former Yugoslavia, facing trial in an International Court).
I also think it is historically clear that massive retribution does not deter terrorists - rather that it creates martyrs.

Sadly there is no instant solution to these atrocities. I am impressed by the way Bush has handled things so far. The world is watching, so it is vital to do the right thing.

I believe it would be beneficial to dissociate the terrorist attacts from any religion. Extremists who cloak their sinister objectives with religion can be shown to be in strong conflict with the actions of such terrorists.

Sure. The comments by Brookhiser and Lowry that were published in the very same issue of the National Review as Coulter’s inflammatory statements or the article by Pryce-Jones that appears in the upcoming issue. In fact, a reading of Lowry through numerous on-line articles leaves one with the impression that he believes the U.S. should simply dictate all politics to the entire world simply because “we’re right” (when we aren’t sidetracked by Liberal silliness). Goldberg has also written a facile (and misleading) article dismissing the entire Islamic culture.

I certainly put the “the editors and writers of the National Review” into the category of “provincial, parochial, self-absorbed, ignorant-of-all-others twits.”