Back in June, I took issue with a Time cover story by Nancy Gibbs that included this sentence: “It is as though Bush can’t allow the possibility that the enemy is motivated by its understanding of God’s will lest his critics note that he believes the same of himself.”
Gibbs, joined by her colleague John Dickerson, pursues the idea again this week in a Q&A with Bush, and with a surprising result: he doubts whether members of Al Qaeda are even real theists, or “truly religious.” Let’s go to the Q&A:
You’ve said that you don’t think that they’re religious people.
They’re religiously motivated.
I don’t think people who would believe in an Almighty God would slit somebody’s throat, just like that. I believe that they use religion as a justification for their ideology. But I don’t view killers as truly religious people.
I think this reflects a failure of the president’s religious imagination. To deny that “religious people” can be capable of monstrous acts is, it seems to me, just as foolish as insisting that religious faith invariably leads to monstrous acts.
But here’s a more interesting turn in the conversation, informed by a sharp follow-up:
Faith is important to you. Have you ever prayed for Saddam?
There is that challenge to pray for your enemies.
Absolutely. But you asked me a personal question, Do I pray for him? No, I haven’t. I pray for a lot of things. I pray for the safety of our troops, I pray for those whose hearts are broken because of the decisions I made, I pray for strength, I pray for wisdom. Maybe I will [pray for Saddam], now that you’ve asked the question.