People take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain, on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Peter Nicholls

Manchester: What kind of person does this?

(RNS) As I write, the identity of the Manchester terrorist has not been revealed by British authorities.

But we do know this: Whoever he was, he decided that the culminating act of his life should be the murder of children at a rock concert. He succeeded in killing over 20 and injuring 60.

Of all the paths one could pursue in life, all the choices one could make, this was his: His path, his final choice, would be to kill as many children as possible. He would end his life, and theirs, by making that choice.

One of the most amazing things about human existence is the staggering range of choices that people make concerning how they should live their one and only life.

Human beings have a freedom that other creatures of earth do not enjoy. Our freedom to craft a life that we consider meaningful is nearly absolute. While humans have instinctual drives like other creatures, we are most notable for our freedom. We are makers of our own selves. We make our selves through the choices that we make.

Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing, in Manchester, northern England, on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Andrew Yates

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Every human culture and subculture knows this. Therefore each attempts to shape human choices by socializing the young. In countless ways, each developing human being is told that this kind of choice is right, that one is wrong; this way of being human is good, better or best, that way of being human is bad, worse or worst.

Most of the time, for most humans, the socialization process works relatively well. That is, some version of right and wrong, some vision of good and evil, is embraced by the young that proves sufficiently wholesome to support a life that does no harm to others and brings reasonable meaning to the individual.

There are many ways in which this socialization process can go wrong, however.

Today, organized subcultures around the world actively seek to train the young into a version of right and wrong in which killing large numbers of people in public venues is treated as the right thing to do. And in which killing oneself in the process is a good and noble act, a brave kind of martyrdom. And in which giving up one's life to kill children pleases the God who made and rules the universe.

It is not only religion, and not only one particular religion, that produces murderous subcultures. Sometimes these subcultures are nationalist, sometimes racist, sometimes anarchist, and often a combination of many ideologies and convictions, many loves and hatreds. As we grieve Manchester, let us not forget murderous subcultures closer to home. Much closer.

We know that individual human beings can lose their bearings, become ill in mind or wicked in spirit, and end up making terribly wrong choices that hurt others. That is hard enough for us to face, and the consequences are often horrible.

But what is worse is that we know, for a fact, that organized subcultures, right now mainly religious, set out each day to train impressionable people into their horrifying way of looking at the right and the good, in which the best use of one's life is to die killing others, as many others as possible.

One wonders what God thinks of this way of being human. Maybe this:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. -- Genesis 6:5-6


  1. Among the causes of these murderous subcultures is the bystanding of Christian religious professionals to institutitional evil, when to do other than bystand is not in their professional and economic self-interest. Did any formally rebuke, in name of God, any of the “banksters” that causes economic meltdown? No. Ditto BP when it pled guilty to 11 charges of criminal manslaughter and a raft of other violations of law at Deep Water Horizen Gulf Oil Spill, GM for ignition switches, Flint, MI for poisioning its population or, more recently, VW for its emissions cheating.

    It’s easy for us humans to critique others. It is very hard to repent of our role in the “suicide machine” our unprecedented global civilization increasing resembles when it might require not bystanding to institutional evil when the cost of not bystanding could be risk to one’s professional standing and economic security – the operable “gods” of many Christian religious professionals and those to whom they deliver religious goods and services.


  2. Interestingly not a single mention of Islam, the inspiration for the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts for the last two decades.

    The author is asking the right question but to the wrong group. Certainly the responsible individuals were likely unstable and had other issues and motives other than religion. They are just puppets. The ones pulling the strings are the radical imams espousing Wahabbi and Salafist ideologies and the Saudi government or members of the royal family who fund them, the mosques and schools built in many countries. So I ask what kind of religion does this?

  3. Hunt down the people who are responsible for this; put them down like the rabid animals they are. 30 minutes before their execution give them a “4 Spiritual Laws” tract, a new testament, and let them speak with a Christian chaplain.
    1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

  4. David, you are making a common mistake by asumming this person was “making choices.” Steven Hassan, an American cult expert, explains that cults create “cult parts” in the mind of victims. The cult part is programmed to take control of the victim’s mind. In other words, the victim is under mind control and is being controlled by external people. Neuroscientists explain that when cult victims are kept frightened they literally cannot access the thinking part of thier brain. Fundamentalist cult control is something Americans need to learn about. We cannot solve the problem of religious extremists in all the Yahwist religions without understanding what cultic control is.

  5. Track down the Conspirators and execute them immediately !

  6. Because every religion gives pretext to anti social behavior. There is nothing unique to Islam here that isn’t found in other faiths.

    What you point to is politicizing religion. Keep that in mind the next time someone claims the separation of church and state is somehow dangerous or bad for the nation.

  7. A religious person. A person with the credulity to accept flying horses, talking animals, and ethereal harems of virgins. A person bereft of skepticism, perhaps denied rational disciplines in their upbringing in favor of being made to chant wishful thinking mantras and prostrate themselves before their divine boogeymen…

  8. RNS offers politicized religion nearly every week, by the way.

  9. Yes, I’d like to know what kind of person would do this. What kind of person would send a drone with Hellfire missiles to kill members of a wedding party in Afghanistan?

  10. How does criticism of Islam create terrorists, if terrorism has nothing to do with Islam? I read that today. Things that make you go hmmmmm

  11. Actually more Americans have been killed by right-wing homegrown Christian terrorists than Islamic terrorists since 2001. What kind of religion does this – any religion which seeks dominance including extremist Christianity and extremist Islam. But not all Christians and Muslims endorse it; just the people driven crazy by religious fervor.

  12. That would appear to violate the 8th Amendment. And, yes, I know it doesn’t apply in the UK.

  13. Well, ok, I concede your point: so here’s a thought: how about if we give them a fair trial – and then string them up?

  14. What a bunch of politically correct clap-trap. Call it what it is: Islamic terrorism. “It is not only religion, and not only one particular religion, that produces murderous subcultures. Sometimes these subcultures are nationalist, sometimes racist, sometimes anarchist, and often a combination of many ideologies and convictions, many loves and hatreds. As we grieve Manchester, let us not forget murderous subcultures closer to home. Much closer.” So says the author of this article. As if the strife in America equals the suicide bomber in the UK. How absurd.

  15. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good……..Romans 12:21

    I’m sure we’ll not be overcome by any sort of evil, but how can we overcome evil with good? That doesn’t sound very sensible.

    I guess the answer is found in verse 20…….But, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will make him feel guilty and ashamed.”

  16. It doesn’t. It creates excuses for mayhem and street cred for terrorists. The message being, “Oooh fear us, Muslim’s are scary!!!”

  17. And what do you propose we do in reaction? Give in to terrorist tactics?

    Use it as a pretext to destroy our own free way of life, rule of law and civil liberties? Overreact in a way which makes for more sane and reasonable people radicalized?

    Fact of the matter is, one does not fight terrorism by attacking ideologies or religions. In a land where speech is free and religion is unhindered by government, one must accept that it included ideas and beliefs we despise as well. We fight terrorism by holding fast to our freedom. By doing the real work of investigation and letting justice guide actions. Not retribution.

  18. Problem is, what most people fear as the ultimate punishment–death–these people welcome as a reward. How the hell do you fight that?! It ain’t natural.

  19. Good question and I certainly don’t know the answer. But if you can figure it out write a book and retire because you have solved the Middle East problem.
    There will never be peace or reconciliation in the Middle East until either Israel is wiped off the map or the Muslim terrorists are all killed.

  20. Any religion or philosophy produces those who take extreme stands and actions. Some through violence others put their wealth to fund those who will do the work for them through propaganda and or violence.

    As in many situations, follow the ultimate funding sources which may reveal some uncomfortable results. In this case some of our “friends in the Middle East” or their citizens are behind this, we must hold these parties accountable by demanding change or imposing meaningful actions.

  21. Anyone brainwashed with the koran:

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)
    “Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons…he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home…” (Surah 8:12-)

    “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)

    “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)

    “Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (Surah 9:29-)

    “It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it.” (Surah 9:31-)

    “If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)

    “Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home.” (Surah 9:73)

    “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:121-)

    “Say: ‘Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom…” (Surah 17:111)

    “‘How shall I bear a child,’ she [Mary] answered, ‘when I am a virgin…?’ ‘Such is the will of the Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him…God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!…Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,’ preach a monstrous falsehood…” (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

    “Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him…He has given you the name of Muslims…” (Surah 22:78-)

    “Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)…These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Surah 23:1-5-)

    “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Surah 48:29)

    “Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?…Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents…They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets…Blessed be the name of your Lord…” (Surah 55:52-66-)

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

    And the OT is also responsible for a lot of insidious brainwashing!!

  22. That sounds like an excellent idea, but, I think the UK no longer has a death penalty. Unlike many liberals, I favor retaining the death penalty for the most heinous crimes, like this one, and unlike 99% of the times it is applied in backward states primarily against defendants who are minority, poor, uneducated, insane, or some combination thereof, without sufficient evidence to justify it at all.. Given how UK law works, if there is no death penalty there, the harshest sentence possible would be justified in this case.

  23. I guess Jesus didn’t get the memo.

  24. I think there are ‘puppets’ but wonder about what are the commonalities. I think of Dylan Roof and then the young Neo-Nazi in Florida arrested after finding ammonium nitrate in his shared apartment. Or the targeted shooting at the pool (party) in San Diego area. I think the fanatics are a separate issue and they are aligned with other geo/political/cultural forces.

    What kind of religion? The fundie kind that distorts its basic messages – like Theodore Shoebat (under the guise of Christianity) who posted a video saying “The people who died, the people who were injured, the people who were scared out of their minds, who ran away [screaming], I really don’t care. The types of people who go to these concerts are the same types of people who are responsible for the degeneracy that you see in society.” “They go to these concerts dressed up as whores, dressed up as sluts, they’re pro-sodomite, they’re pro-divorce, they’re pro-infidelity,” “They want evil, they want decay, they want sodomy, they want Sodom and Gomorrah.”

    But also consider outside the Islam/religious box – for example, the extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances by the national police and vigilantes of over 7000 people in the Philippines. Not to deny Islamic fundamentalism, but I think we have short memories (bombings in the US in the past were generally victim-less unlike Europe during the same time period) and our world has shrunk.

  25. Since Jesus was illiterate, a memo would not have helped.

    The illiteracy of the simple preacher man aka Jesus, as per some contemporary

    From Professor Bruce Chilton’s commentary in his book, Rabbi Jesus, An Intimate
    Biography, p. 99,

    “What Luke misses is that Jesus stood in the synagogue as an illiterate mamzer (pp.
    98-102) in his claim to be the Lord’s anointed”.

    Luke 4: 16 is a single attestation. No where else in the NT does it say Jesus
    could read thereby making said passage historically unreliable. (Luke 4:16-24)
    has been compared to a number of other passage and found to be equivalent with
    the exception of Luke 4: 16 which is the only passage in the list of
    equivalents that mentions reading:
    (leave out the hyphen in “t-itle” if you access the reference)

    31 & P. Oxy. 1.31

    (2) Mark 6:1-6a = Matt 13:53-58

    (3) Luke 4:16-24

    (4) John 4:44

    Professor JD Crossan notes that Jesus was illiterate coming from a landless peasant
    background, initially a follower of John the Baptist. e.g. The Excavation of
    Jesus (with Professor Reed), pp 30-31..

    The question of Jesus’s literacy has also been much discussed by the Jesus Seminar
    and others and they note that references in the Gospels to Jesus reading and
    writing may well be fictions.

    The only Gospel reference to Jesus writing is John 8:6 in the Pericope Adulterae,
    widely considered a later addition, where it is not even clear he is forming
    letters in the dust, and the Greek “εγραφεν” could equally mean he
    was drawing.

    Luke 2: 41-52, the twelve year old Jesus in the temple- As per Professor Gerd
    Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 275, ” the episode is
    unhistorical” (again, a single attestaion). See also

    It is very unfortunate that Jesus was illiterate for it resulted in many gospels
    and epistles being written years after his death by non-witnesses. This
    resulted in significant differences in said gospels and epistles and with many
    embellishments to raise Jesus to the level of a deity to compete with the Roman
    gods and emperors. See Raymond Brown’s book, An Introduction to the New
    Testament, (Luke 4:16 note on p. 237) for an exhaustive review of the true
    writers of the gospels and epistles.

    Of course, Muslims believe that Mohammed was also illiterate. This way, they can
    claim that the only way he could have received the “angelic”, koranic
    passages of death to all infidels and Islamic domination of the globe by any
    means, was orally since he could not read and write.

  26. I am reminded of a saying that applies to this issue: philosophers are divided over the intelligence of dogs. Their opinions are split evenly between those who have dogs and those who don’t. Thanks for sharing.

  27. And don’t forget from the NT —
    …and is worse than an infidel……1 Timothy 5:8

  28. An adherent of traditional Islam.

  29. There is ignorance to the realities on the ground and there is self-chosen blindness to the same realities.

  30. You know from personal experience as one?

  31. 22 years to date of experience boots on the ground in the Middle East.

  32. Every single person who has tried to kill me, every single person who has killed a fellow service member during my career has been a Muslim. What percentage of terror attacks in the world are committed by Muslims? How many of the hot wars currently going on have Muslim combatants?

    Liberal niceties do not whitewash the realities on the ground. They only weaken security and open the door for more death.

    How many more women and children have to die for the liberal fantasy land view of the world?

  33. The answer is my opinion is informed by direct experience.

    Have you been to the Middle East?

  34. The elimination of Israel would not solve the problem inherent in a traditional/tribal understanding of Islam.

  35. Good point! Those nut cases over there would find some reason to kill each other. That’s for sure.

  36. Nobody is brainwashed by scriptures. They use them to just if Yb what thru already want to do. Religious extremism gives a support network to the anti social.from justifying discrimination to justifying murder and genocide. The religion itself is of no importance. The use of it is.

  37. Actually much of those passages in the Koran concerning infidels have a direct reference to old testament calls for the same. Whither the Caananites and Philistines?

  38. The mistake is believing there is a coherent ideology or dogma in play really amounts to the international version of what Chicago police call “gangbanger conflicts”. Causing mayhem to increase “street cred” and reputation.

    Make people panic and take reprisals against all Muslims. Radicalize populations which would have been useful against them.

  39. Not as a Muslim.

    You have also frequently copied and pasted garbage from anti Islam sites and claimed them as some kind of expertise. Even copying a silly argument by renown Islam scholar Eric Trump. Not any different from our resident neo Nazi Roy Hobs lecturing us about Judaism. Same methods. Same arguments. You are not a believer, so you rely on skewed self serving observation. Worthless as anything other than demonstrating your own prejudices.

    Do you understand people tend to live differently in dictatorships and war torn regions than they do in democracies and developed nations? Doesn’t look that way.

    I get the feeling a trip to my local Walmart would make you catatonic with all the hijab wearing checkout girls.

  40. Wars where they are the majority population. The majority of people who tried killing my father and several of my great uncles during their service were East Asian.

    You don’t defend a free way of life by forsaking it.

    The only fantasy here is yours. That attacking an entire faith helps fight extremists. You aren’t trying to make people safer, you are making it easier for more people to be recruited to kill them. Two decades of dealing with the Middle East worries me about how much damage you caused over there for us. Even our secretary of defense, a man with more experience and authority on the subject than you can honestly claim calls rhetoric like yours dangerously stupid. I trust General Mattis on the subject far more than you.

    So take your phony bigoted dishonest sanctimonious argument and shove it. It was stupid when Eric Trump said it, it is even worse when you repeat it.

  41. 1 Tim was written by a pseudo Paul and therefore has no divine guidance.

  42. Indeed, note the last line in my original comments. Much of the Koran was lifted from the OT and NT.

  43. The person who does this is a person who has committed an act of Islamic retardation believing it to be an act of Islamic advancement. They are motivated by the same thing that motivates white separatists and other groups who would retard Christianity with similar kinds of acts even if done in much lesser degrees.

  44. Your ignorance never fails to meet expectations, but rest assured I and my team will continue to perform our duties CONUS and in the Middle East to provide for the security of the citizens of the United States. We took an oath to defend against all enemies and we shall continue to do so. And yes I agree, SECDEF is an excellent leader and he fully understands the realities on the ground as far as I can tell given the recent changes he has made to ROE.

  45. Incorrect. I have no need to quote internet sources. My ideas and counsel are my own formed by experience in the matter which I bring to the table in the performance of my duties.

  46. Except when you need an analogy. Skittles anyone? 🙂

  47. Your fake expertise is not new either. You have constantly suggested actions which enable terrorists, undermine our values and our notions of freedom. You have suggested we target people for discriminatory treatment based entirely on the basis of their religion. This is not acceptable for American society under any circumstances.

    As I said before

    “One does not fight terrorism by attacking ideologies or religions. In a land where speech is free and religion is unhindered by government, one must accept that it included ideas and beliefs we despise as well. We fight terrorism by holding fast to our freedom. By doing the real work of investigation and letting justice guide actions. Not retribution.”

    I am a strong believer in Franklin’s dictum concerning what happens when we sacrifice liberty for safety.

  48. You refusal to see how “religion” informs a culture that promotes radicalization in the region in question betrays your ignorance of the issues on the ground. As I said I’ll keep doing my job and being thankful for our new leadership which is allowing us to finally start making progress again.

  49. Hey, that 90 day Muslim travel ban Trump wanted would have expired already. Evidently being held up by the courts didn’t endanger you as expected. 🙂

    I would rather take my chances dealing with people who merely want to kill me and blow up stuff than with those who would rather sell out our democratic way of life because they are afraid.

  50. I’m sure your sentiment is a great comfort to the families mourning dead children and parents in Manchester this weekend.

    I on the other hand am not willing to put the lives of my neighbors and their children in harms way for a fools dream of the world. I will continue to advocate for stricter vetting and limited importation of refugees from certain militant/tribal areas in the performance of my duties.

  51. Now you are going to exploit them for your ISIS supporting agenda. Color me surprised. You are really shameless. Quite disgusting on your part.

    You are willing to do exactly what terrorists want us to do so you can pretend to feel safer. You are willing to trash our way of life to do it. Its telling both you and ISIS have the same views of Islam. You aren’t harming them, you are helping them. Giving excuses to discriminate, isolate and radicalize muslim communities in free and developed countries. Communities you clearly know absolutely zilch about.

    So take your phony concern for your neighbors and shove them somewhere painful. You are simply looking to justify a bigoted, irrational and frankly harmful position by making such appeals. You have no sense of decency.

  52. I don’t know or understand that for a fact. Here’s a quick bio of Timothy —
    The Apostle Paul met him during his second missionary journey and he became Paul’s companion and co-worker along with Silas. The New Testament indicates that Timothy traveled with Saint Paul, who was also his mentor.

    And also —

  53. ” Much of the Koran was lifted from the OT and NT. ”
    I’ve always sort of sensed much plagiarism from the OT and NT but was never able to read proof of that.

  54. Google will set you free.

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