A conservative Christian engaged in a Christian war

I need to confess that I have a somewhat loose connection to Anders Behring Breivik, who recently killed 76 people in Norway. You see, he lifted words for his manifesto from the manifesto of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. I never met Ted, but he and I were in the same research field of geometric function theory, and I published some joint papers with Kaczynski’s dissertation advisor.

When Kaczynski was caught, a slightly paranoid math colleague of mine became unnecessarily concerned that there might be an anti-mathematician backlash. It helped that nobody could think of other mathematicians who were guilty of anything more than eccentric behavior. History showed that violence was more likely to be committed against, rather than by, mathematicians. Hypatia of Alexandria had an illustrious math career until she was burned alive in 415 by a mob of Christian monks. And St. Augustine said, “The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.” (http://www.quotes.net/quote/10297)

While Kaczynski never made any connections between his mathematics and his violent acts, Breivik indicated in his manifesto that he was a conservative Christian engaged in a Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination. His acts are consistent with both biblical Christian theology and Christian behavior. The Bible and other holy books have passages encouraging the murder of infidels. They also have passages about loving your neighbor. I think we can tell more about individuals by which parts of their contradictory holy books they emphasize than by which religion they have in common.

Here’s what I don’t accept: the claim that Breivik is not a “true” Christian because of what he did. Yes he is. You might not like the kind of Christian he is, but he is what he says he is. So is “God hates fags” Christian Pastor Fred Phelps. Similarly, Osama bin Laden was a true Muslim. The Crusaders were true Christians, as were those who murdered abortion doctors, as were most Nazis.

Despite Ted Kaczynski’s terrorist acts, he is a true mathematician. I wish my math publications were nearly as impressive. But math and morality don’t always go together, and neither do religion and morality. I leave for others to opine whether there are positive or negative correlations. I will say that compared to the general population, there are far smaller percentages of mathematicians than Christians in prison for violent crimes. Also, a much smaller percentage of atheists.


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About Herb Silverman

Herb Silverman is Founder and President of the Secular Coalition for America, and founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, South Carolina. He was founder and faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student Atheist/Humanist Alliance. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association as well as a Humanist Celebrant, advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance, and member of the Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He has served on the boards of the Atheist Alliance and the Humanist Institute. He has written for "On Faith" at the Washington Post and for the Huffington Post. He has spoken at a number of conferences and written articles for many freethought publications. He has appeared in a number of debates on topics like: Can we be moral without God? Does God exist? Is America a Christian nation? He has also debated at the Oxford Union in Oxford, England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values? Here is information on his recent book, Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt