Done in Our Name

The Christian Century, June 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

Done in Our Name


After President Obama released memos from Bush administration lawyers that defended waterboarding, Dick Cheney told Fox News that extreme interrogation methods like waterboarding helped the country gain important information and deter terrorist attacks. He called for the release of more classified documents so "the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."

The former vice president is not alone in thinking that harsh interrogation methods are effective and are justified by their results. A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 49 percent of Americans think torture can often or sometimes be justified. Only 25 percent said it is never justified.

Even more disturbing, the Pew Forum found that religious people are more prone to defending torture than is the average American. Among those who attend religious services at least once a week, 54 percent think torture can often or sometimes be justified. White evangelicals are the most likely to justify torture (62 percent); people without any religious affiliation are the most likely to reject it. Among white mainline Protestants, 46 percent think torture is often or sometimes justified; 31 percent say it never is.

Speculating on why so many religious people countenance torture is a dispiriting task. Are they more quick to accept patriotic appeals to national security? Are they more likely to divide the world into good guys and bad guys--and think the bad guys deserve whatever they get? …

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