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.
I hope and pray this is untrue. I cannot fathom how a person who believes in Jesus Christ can justify torture. There is an argument that the ‘end justifies the means.
First, it is very much unproven as to whether, in this instance, the end justified the means. Torture has historically been unreliable.
An interesting side note to President Obama’s speech the other night and his reference to Winston Churchill was this. The British, during World War II, were the absolute masters of intelligence and deception. They had broken “Ultra” the German code and were intercepting and translating German correspondence through much of the war. In a series of clever moves, the British were able to keep updating as the Germans changed codes-----codes the Germans believed to be unbreakable. The British did not torture.
Neither did the United States. Our intelligence services broke the Japanese codes early in the war. This information greatly assisted in the victory at Midway and led to the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto’s plane----we knew where he was going and the route he was using. We didn’t torture.
The Japanese did and learned nothing.
The Germans did extensively and were constantly being deceived. Torture does not have a good track record as to reliability.
It is difficult to make any sort of argument about the end justifying the means when the means is notoriously unreliable.
There is something greater at stake, however. There are times when the end does not justify the means. Torture, at least from a faith perspective, is one of those things. This, to me, is not a political issue, but very much a core ethical issue.
Torture is about dehumanizing another person. It is stripping the humanity from another human being, layer by layer. It dehumanizes both the tortured AND the torturer. In the war crimes trials after World War II most of the torturers were found to be completely dehumanized themselves. They had lost all sensitivity towards other human beings. Their indifference to suffering was incredible. One cannot even say they were sadistic. They had lost all feeling, both good and bad.
I find it tragic that, as a nation, we even ventured down this path. The United States has been and is the greatest country in the world. I greatly believe that. It is, however, easy to lose greatness; greatness is contingent on first being a good people. When we lose that sense of being a good people, we will cease being a great nation.
I fear our use of torture, and our repeated use of torture on some of these people was not about getting information. The repeated water boarding of the same people, over and over again, day after day, cannot have been about getting information. Increasingly it sounds like it had become torture for the sake of torture. Perhaps it was torture that sought retribution or revenge. It is obvious, however, that it had long passed the point of seeking information.
I am mortified that people of faith felt, in any way, that any of this was morally justified. If any document in the history of humanity speaks of loving neighbor and caring for one another, it is the Bible. If any document in the history of humanity speaks against dehumanizing other human beings, it is the Bible. How people can read the Bible, pray, attend Worship, and listen to sermons about God’s love, and come to the conclusion that torture is ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justified, eludes me.
Recently polling data has been demonstrating that faith is having less and less an impact in people’s lives and in determining ethics. If people of faith are at the forefront of justifying torture this is, sadly, understandable. It demonstrates, at least to me, that people’s political beliefs are impacting their faith more than their faith is impacting their political beliefs. I do have hope, however, that we will see our way out of this and be the good people we always hope to be.