A new Pew Survey suggests that support for the use of torture is positively correlated with religious devotion. Not surprisingly, white mainline Christians (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) are less inclined to support the use of torture than white evangelicals with white Catholics hovering somewhere in between.
But the non-religious are less likely to support the use of torture than the folks in any religious category.
As a person of faith, I find this disturbing.
Question: what about the Hispanic catholics and black evangelicals? Why did the Pew study leave them out, or did they simply drop them from the published summary? Either way, the ommission is disturbing.
This is a subject we have dealt with in this space before. In “Who would Jesus torture?” Lydia Bean interacted with the views of a conservative Christian blogger. But the torture issue also relates to my “The religious roots of Southern punitiveness”.
Why are conservative Christians so enamored of torture, mass incarceration and capital punishment? Why are incarceration rates in the cluster of southern states to the east of Texas twice the national average? And why have over 80% of the executions perpetrated since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1979 occurred in the South?
Conversely, why are incarceration rates relatively low in Yankee New England, a region that hardly ever resorts to the ultimate penalty?
The same torture divide is apparent between democrats and republicans, of course, but as the GOP lurches rightward, religious and political conservatives are becoming indistinguishable.
Jesus of Nazareth taught non-violence and provided no escape clause. The philosophical distance between the canonical Gospels and traditional “Just War” theory is astonishing. When learned evangelicals seek to justify their support for torture they eschew the words of their Master and cleave to the dictates of St. Augustine.
For better or worse, religious traditions take on a life of their own. Southern Baptists, like every other other religious group, have their own distinctive ethos. Established norms, not sacred scripture, shape beliefs and attitudes. Religious texts can be found in support of almost any position and are tacked on as an afterthought. This explains why Christians who love the Bible can trample on its core affirmations without a twinge of conscience.