Andrew Sullivan discusses the difference between Christianity and “Chritianism” in light of the recent terrorist attack in Norway. “Both Christianism and Islamism,” he writes, “are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon.”

Sullivan examines Breivik’s own description of the attack:

I’m pretty sure I will pray to God as I’m rushing through my city, guns blazing, with 100 armed system protectors pursuing me with the intention to stop and/or kill. I know there is a 80%+ chance I am going to die during the operation as I have no intention to surrender to them until I  have completed all three primary objectives AND the bonus mission. When I initiate (providing I haven’t been apprehended before then), there is a 70% chance that I will complete the first objective, 40% for the second, 20% for the third and less than 5% chance that I will be able to complete the bonus mission. It is likely that I will pray to God for strength at one point during that operation, as I think most people in that situation would….If praying will act as an additional mental boost/soothing it is the pragmatical thing to do. I guess I will find out… If there is a God I will be allowed to enter heaven as all other martyrs for the Church in the past.


Notice the absence of real faith, which would recoil even at the very thought of killing innocents, but the pragmatic, cold-blooded use of faith as a psychological mechanism to enable mass murder. Bin Laden, we should  recall, had been a very Westernized rich kid before he became a “believer.” Breivik – who killed a greater proportion of Norwegians than bin Laden did of Americans on 9/11 – has the same internal conflict. It is his fear of his lack of real faith that propels him to pragmatically embrace the psychological structure of religion to murder his cultural enemies, to reify “Europe” or “Christendom” or “the Church” in order to defend them and give some meaning to his life. He also needs to reify Islam into a purely political and cultural entity that exists solely as an existential threat to Western freedom and in which every Muslim is therefore suspect.

Read Sullivan’s post here.