Holy Terror! Religiously Inspired Terrorism

May 2001

Professor Carl Yaeger discussed terrorism in general and religiously motivated terrorism in particular at the April meeting of Humanists of Utah. He began his remarks by defining terrorism as the "calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain political, religious, or ideological goals through destruction, intimidation, and coercion. Terrorism involves a criminal act that is often symbolic and intended to influence an audience beyond the immediate victims."

Organized terrorism with religious motivations is frequently the most destructive form because its perpetrators are on a mission from God and do not care who gets hurt. Politically motivated terrorism, in contrast, is often more cautious with target selection because the terrorist need to be mindful of public opinion.

Currently a significant portion of terrorist acts are committed by radical Moslems. Professor Yaeger was quick to point out that 95%+ of the violent acts are perpetrated by the Shi'ite branch of Islam. This group is much smaller than the majority Suni branch. Among the Shi'ites only a small percent are violent. Most Islamic adherents are gentle caring people.

Christian terrorists in this country belong to many sects. Among the more well know are the Skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. Many followers of these sects believe that Adolph Hitler was a prophet of sorts. Timothy McVeigh had The Turner Diaries, which is considered to be a "Bible" by many members of the racist right wing white supremacists.

This movement attracts many people who seem to be otherwise very normal. During the week they are soccer parents, members of the PTA, etc. But when the weekend comes they don their survival gear and head into the woods where large stockpiles of weapons are cached, collected, and even made.

A lively discussion followed the formal presentation. This is an uncomfortable subject with many twists.

--Wayne Wilson