Poll: The More Religious Most Likely to Say Torture is Sometimes Justified

In Commentary, Foreign Affairs, human rights, Religion, war on terror on April 30, 2009 by Editor Z

CNN reports on a Pew Poll revealing that the more people go to church the more they support torture.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

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 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 6 in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only 4 in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

In a way this shouldn’t be surprising. The idea of good versus evil is prevalent in all religions, not just Christianity but in all religions. And by nature if one phalanx of religious worshipers or anybody really firmly believes they are the side of the just, the right, and the proverbial “good guys”, then the opponent must be evil. But especially with Catholics, when the Pope strongly has condemned the practice of torture, this all seems hypocritical. After all, would one not be willing to cede that Jesus Christ himself was not a victim of torture? Crucifixion after all is still torture isn’t it ?

Many of these who are both wedded to religion which typically is a vehicle that preaches love and respect, as well as acknowledging at least some of the most rudimentary human rights; yet simultaneously support such hideous practices as waterboarding see themselves and America as inherently good. Most can agree on that, but those who support torture seem to take it to a point where the core of their argument seems to be that the ends justify the means. As long as we are victorious it doesn’t matter what we do to protect ourselves and fight our enemies as long as in the end we are the last ones standing. That it doesn’t matter what we do to protect ourselves, even ceding our constitutional rights or practice tactics that in the past we had condemned when employed by those such as the Chinese military during the Korean war and the reign of Mao, the Imperial Japanese during World War II. But it does matter. It matters whether we are going to continue to stand as an example of moral dignity and human rights on the world stage or if we will surrender that ground in a bout of hysteria and panic. Rather we will be a land that remains as free and vibrant as the promise etched into our constitution and our spirit, or if we will degenerate into an angry people seeking to fortify ourselves against what is best in us shedding liberties one by one , believing that bombs and threats alone can bring us safety or enrichment.

In the end it is just not enough to say you are the “Good Guy” to be seen as having the moral high ground. It is through your actions, the liberties you grant others, the openness to those caught in the crossfire between we and the real extremists we face, and overall our actions that will determine whether we are the “Good Guy” or just a land so enveloped by fear that we start believing that the American idea is our foe.

And after all, how many of these supporters of such torture techniques are willing to say that some these same tactics that defined the horrible regimes of Mao, Imperial Japan, and others were immoral when they utilized such tactics in the name of preserving their way of life, are now okay merely because we are the ones now using them? If virtuous people such as we in the United States use means employed by despots such as Mao and still retain the reputation of good virtue that we have?


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