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Religiously-motivated terrorism

Terrorist acts by Christians
and members of other faiths

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Terrorism and threat of terrorism in the U.S.:

Violence by extremist Christians in the United States has been responsible for attacks on Jewish centers, attempts to poison municipal water supplies, bombing of abortion clinics, and shooting of abortion providers. Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City during 1995 killed 168 people, including 19 children. It showed that extremist Christians can be as deadly as their extremist Islamic counterparts.

There is a substantial number of organizations that are closely involved with actual terrorists. The members of these organizations are convinced that the forces of truth wage a perennial, cosmic battle with the forces of falsehood, and that they face the challenge of protecting Christian truth by any methods available. That they are allowing Jesus’ cross to become Mithras’ sword does not occur to them. There are fewer attacks by extremist Christians than by Muslim terrorists because the various Christian organizations are less numerous, their individual agendas differ, and there is a lack of cooperation – their actions are not coordinated.

Many Christian extremists derive their theological beliefs from at least two major fundamentalist Christian organizations.

bullet The Recontructionist movement asserts that the coming reign of Jesus will abolish democracy, the separation of church and state, abortion access, federal welfare programs, and many other features of modern society. Existing laws would be replaced with the Mosaic Code. Slavery, as regulated by biblical laws, would be reintroduced. Adultery, blasphemy and homosexual behavior would become crimes punishable by the death penalty.

bullet Christian Identity (CI) is based on racial supremacy and biblical law (shades of ‘Sharia’?). It has provided the theological foundation for many extremist American movements. It provides the ideological support for some of America’s militias. Its ideas were most likely part of the thinking of Timothy McVeigh. 1

The most distinctive doctrine associated with Christian Identity is the belief in the Satanic origin of the Jews. The Anti-Defamation League® states:

"The most extreme expression of Identity anti-Semitism is the so-called "two-seed" (or "seedliner") theory. ... According to the two-seed theory, the seduction of Eve by the Serpent in Eden was sexual, Cain was the product of their liaison and Cain, in turn, was the father of the Jewish people; all Jews, therefore, are children of the devil, literally demonic. Jews are considered to be non-human demonic creatures who carry the devil’s capacity to work evil. 2

Christian Identity teaches that Jewish ancestry can be traced through Cain, the Edomites, and the Khazars, to contemporary Jews. CI has fused belief in a world-wide Jewish conspiracy with that of a cosmic Satanic conspiracy. 3

A Wikipedia article states:

"Like other anti-Jewish groups, Christian Identity has advocated violence against Jews on the basis that they are the 'Christ killers.' A few members have also advocated violence against Italians, arguing that if Jewish violence is justified on the fact that Jesus was betrayed by the Jews; then Italians must also be punished because it was the Romans who undertook the act of nailing Christ to the crucifix, and the Italians are the descendants of the Roman Empire. 4

Christian Identity was derived from a nineteenth-century form of biblical exegesis known as British Israelism. In the last decades of the twentieth century the ideology of CI groups such as The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA); The Church of Jesus Christ, Christian; Aryan Nations, The Christian Defense League, and The Kingdom Identity Ministries, blended into their distinctive amalgam of biblical, apocalyptic, historical, anti-Semitic, racist, and conspiratorial theories. The ingredients of these theories were taken from New Age groups, survivalism, the patriot movement, and from neo-Nazi variants of white supremacist teaching. 5 A brochure published by Aryan Nations included this statement in their creed of faith:

"We BELIEVE there is a battle being fought this day between the children of darkness (today known as Jews) and the children of Light (God), the Aryan race, the true Israel of the Bible." 3

Their motto is "Violence Solves Everything." 6

One of the United States most notorious right wing terrorist groups of the post-war era, the Order (a.k.a. the Silent Brotherhood, or Holy Order of Aryan Warriors) brought together militant racists from Christian Identity, some Odinists, and people of conventional neo-Nazi backgrounds. 5

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Terrorism in Northern Ireland:

A special chapter could be written about terrorism in Ulster: Between 1968 and 1998, the IRA killed an estimated 728 civilians (most of them Protestants – not counted are military personnel and police). This compared with an estimated 864 civilians (most of them Catholics) killed by loyalist paramilitaries. However, the conflict between the Irish Republican Army, the IRA, whose goal is to unify Ulster with the Republic of Ireland, and the three main Protestant paramilitaries that want to stay loyal to the British Crown (the Ulster Defence Association, UDA; the Ulster Volunteer Force, UVF; and the Ulster Freedom Fighters, UFF), does seem to be inspired more by political ideology than by religious beliefs. Many Catholics feel like second-class citizens in Ulster, and there is violence, harassment, intimidation, and abuse (not to mention revenge killings). But, with the possible exception of Rev. Paisley, there seem to be little religion in all of it. Lately, the terror groups have turned their attention to moneymaking activities.

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Other acts of terrorism:

There are many examples of terrorism committed by religious people all over the world:

For example, there was the killing of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, S.W.R.D. Bandranaike by a Buddhist monk. A bomb destroyed an Air India Boeing 747 over the Atlantic, killing all 329 people abroad, for which both Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists were blamed. However, most probably the attacks were motivated mainly by political reasons rather than by religion.

There are striking parallels between the white supremacists and the religiously motivated Islamic Shi’a fanatics in the Middle East. Both groups transform abstract political ideologies and objectives into a religious imperative. Violence is not only sanctioned, it is divinely decreed. Hence, the killing of persons described as 'infidels' by extremist Shi’a or as ‘children of Satan’ by the white supremacists thus becomes a sacramental act. 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update this essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mark Juergensmeyer, "Terror in the Mind of God," University of California Press, (2003).

  2. "Christian Identity," Anti-Defamation League, at:

  3. Michael Barkun, "Religion and the Racist Right." University of North Carolina Press, (1997).

  4. "Christian Identity," Wikipedia, at:

  5. Brenda E. Brasher, Ed., "Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism," Routledge, (2001).

  6. "Aryan Nations" at:

  7. Bruce Hoffman, "Holy Terror: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative," RAND Paper P-7834, (1993).

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Copyright © 2006 by Vladimir Tomek
Originally posted: 2007-OCT-02
Latest update: 2012-JAN-27
Author: Vladimir Tomek

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