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Fundamentalist Christian or Deranged Social Darwinist?

John G. West


Since the horrific acts perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway last week, the newsmedia have been scrambling to uncover the worldview of Mr. Breivik. After initially speculating (wrongly) that the Oslo bombing and subsequent youth camp massacre were committed by a radical Muslim, establishment media outlets like CNN sought to depict Breivik as “a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.” Think Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson with a machine gun.

Except, it now turns out, Breivik really isn’t a Christian fundamentalist after all. According to his 1518-page manifesto “A European Declaration of Independence,” he may not even believe in God. Instead of Christianity, his views are largely based on what might be described as a virulent mixture of scientific fundamentalism and Social Darwinism.

A “Christian Atheist”?

To be sure, Breivik identifies himself as “100% Christian” in his manifesto (p. 1403), and he certainly talks incessantly about defending “Christian” civilization. But he also makes clear that his Christianity is a simply pose adopted for political reasons. Answering why he chose to align himself with a group supposedly espousing “Christian values,” he states: “My choice was based purely [on] pragmatism.” (p. 1380) He goes on to explain that “Christianity” has far more “mass appeal” than nationalism, white supremacy, or a revival of paganism, and so it is a more effective “banner” under which to build his movement. (p. 1381) In sum, Breivik views religion like Machiavelli viewed religion—as a political tool. It’s worth noting that Machiavelli’s The Prince is listed by Breivik as one of his favorite books. (p. 1407)

As for his own religious beliefs and practices, Breivik frankly admits: “I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person as that would be a lie. I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment.” (p. 1344, emphasis added) Indeed, Breivik acknowledges that he used to believe that “Religion is a crutch for weak people. What is the point in believing in a higher power if you have confidence in yourself!? Pathetic.” He continues: “Perhaps this is true for many cases. Religion is a crutch for many weak people and many embrace religion for self serving reasons as a source for drawing mental strength (to feed their weak emotional state f[or] example during illness, death, poverty etc.). Since I am not a hypocrite, I’ll say directly that this is my agenda as well.” (p. 1344, emphasis added) In other words, at best he views his embrace of religion as a psychological crutch to give him strength for his horrific activities. Although he adds that he has not yet actually prayed to God for strength, he expects that he may do so when he goes on his murderous rampage: “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.” (p. 1345) Note the “if” in his statement about whether God exists. Breivik himself doesn’t even appear to believe in God. He frequently identifies himself as a “cultural Christian,” a term which he defines at one point as the same thing as a “Christian atheist.” (p. 1360)

Unsurprisingly, Breivik’s idea of “cultural Christianity” has little to do with Christianity as most people would understand that term. For example, Breivik makes clear that to join his movement for cultural Christianity “[i]t is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus.” (p. 1361) Indeed, Breivik would like to expand “Christianity” to include those who worship the Norse pagan god Odin. Breivik calls for the Christian church to be “re-create[d]… as a nationalistic Church which will tolerate and allow (to a very large degree) native cultures/heritage/thought systems such as Odinism.” (p. 1361) And despite using the adjective “cultural,” Breivik’s “cultural Christianity” doesn’t leave much room for Christians to actually influence society apart from social rituals. Indeed, Breivik emphasizes that he wants a secular European state where “[t]he Church and church leaders will not be allowed to influence non-cultural political matters in any way. This includes science, research and development and all non-cultural areas which will benefit Europe in the future. This will also include all areas relating to procreation/birth/fertility policies and related issues of scientific importance (reprogenetics).” (p. 1137, emphasis added)

As can be seen, Breivik harbors a special concern that Christians not be able to influence issues related to science and public policy “in any way.” Why?
Because he sees biological science—not traditional religion—as the ultimate savior of society. In his view, advances in biology will makes possible a vigorous new form of Social Darwinism that will save the Nordic race through positive eugenics.

More on Breivik’s frightening eugenics agenda, and the mainstream evolutionary biologist who helped inspire it, in a later article.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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