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Zeal for Torture Higher Among Churchy Americans

Today is the first day of June, and June is Torture Awareness Month, but May was the month that Americans became aware that the issue of torture had not died with the end of the presidency of George W. Bush. President Barack Obama extended his efforts to cover up evidence of torture under his predecessor, bewildering Democrats who thought that they had voted for change in the election of 2008.

Still, Obama has broken many campaign promises this year, including the promise to reform the Office of Government Religion (faith-based initiatives) by ending its funding of religious discrimination. Obama’s broken promises have a common thread throughout them – the same disregard for the law and the Constitution that made George W. Bush generally recognized as the worst President in American history.

But there’s another link between Obama’s torture cover ups and his fondness for breaking the separation of church and state. The results of a survey conducted by the Forum on Religion and Public Life show that the more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the use of torture.

54 percent of respondents to the survey who attended church at least once a week indicated that they believe that torture is justified “often” or “sometimes”. For those respondents who attended church “monthly or a few times a year”, that support dropped slightly to 51 percent. Those respondents who attended church either seldom or never, however, were much less likely to support the use of torture – 42 percent of those respondents indicated that they believe that torture is justified “often” or “sometimes”.

church and torture chartThere are many possible interpretations of this chart. Association and causation are not the same thing. Perhaps going to church leads people to support torture, but it could also be that sadists who already have the propensity to support torture also find satisfaction in what church has to offer.

However, it’s clear that this survey profoundly undermines the contention that churches are agents of compassion in American society. The statistics here do not support the idea that churches lead people into forgiveness. Turning the other cheek seems to happen more among those who don’t go to church than among those who do.

This survey goes some way to explaining for me why Barack Obama has broken his promises both on torture and on the separation of church and state. If Obama is seeking to create a base of political support using America’s churches, institutions that he used as campaign tools in 2008, then he can solidify that base by acting in support of torture. Obama would endanger his hold on America’s voting churchgoers by opposing torture.

2 comments to Zeal for Torture Higher Among Churchy Americans

  • Tom

    It’s all about punishment to the fundies.

    • Tom, according to the same survey, more evangelicals support torture than members of mainline Christian churches, but support for torture among mainline Christians is still higher than among those not affiliated with any church at all. More Catholics support torture too, compared to people not affiliated with any church. It’s not just a fundie problem. It’s a broad-based church problem.

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