Torture Gap

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torture.pngAndrew Sullivan, who’s been serving as Anti-Torture Tribune of the Blogosphere, is seriously distressed by Pew’s new finding that the more people go to church, the more likely they are to support torture. I guess this wouldn’t have surprised Torquemada–but to be fair, white evangelicals (as we already know) are more down with torture than white non-Hispanic Catholics (62 percent versus 51 percent.

Sullivan muses, “And people wonder why atheism is gaining in this country.” His point, I guess, is that Christianity is so morally bankrupt that people of conscience are just giving up on it–and joining the moral folks who Pew calls “unaffiliated” and we call call “Nones.” Only 40 percent of the latter believe that torture is often or sometimes justified. Of those who seldom or never attend worship, the number is 42 percent–as opposed to 54 percent of weekly attenders.

The real point here is that moral issues are tied into a whole array of ethical and political values and commitments. Explaining a particular position on a particular issue at a particular time according to religious identity or commitment is a complicated undertaking. One thing should, however, be clear. In this regard there are few if any slippery moral slopes. The oft-cited claim by the pro-life community that support for abortion rights leads individuals and communities inevitably into moral squalor cannot be sustained–certainly not when it comes to opposition to torture. The most anti-torture element in American society–the Nones–is also the most pro-choice.

  • Asinus Gravis

    It is tempting to think that the poll results, now and last fall, show that regular attendance at evangelical Christian services tends to desensitize people to what is morally right and wrong.
    It is not clear from the data what the mechanism of that desensitization is. Could it be a focus on an alleged-next life? Could it be an over emphasis on conservative political policy positions.
    It clearly has nothing to do with what Jesus and Paul taught and practiced. It shows much more congruity with what the Romans taught and practiced.