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Thursday, May 03, 2007
Sometimes 'God' gets us in trouble
There is something impossibly chilling about it: an insurgent races into a street to fire a rocket, unload with an AK, or fling a grenade, the whole time crying out the name of Allah.

Holy war. That's what it sounds like. That's what insurgents call it.

There is nothing holy about it, of course. Muslims all over the globe have denounced the tactics of terrorism and extremism for just what they are: thuggery masquerading as devotion. Maybe those Muslim voices of dissent are not loud enough for us as we watch our young troops fight and die, and even Muslim leaders have told me they want much more from their own communities in terms of opposing radical sects.

But Middle East analysts say we are also making it harder for moderate Muslims to stand up against the radicals. They say each time an American leader invokes the name of God, or makes reference to Islamofascists or the Axis of Evil, it makes it easier for radicals to claim the entire Muslim faith is under attack...by holy warriors from the West.

President Bush once referred to the war on terror as a "crusade." It's just a word to most of us, but for many Muslims it recalls crusades that started 900 years ago, pitting Christians against Muslims. The president says, "Freedom is a gift of God." Many of us may agree, but we still largely consider freedom a positive, secular value, like democracy. Not so for radicals in the Muslim world.

One Middle East analyst told me these forces are listening to every word our leaders say, and every time they hear the word "God," they roar out the news: a new heresy from the West, a new reason for Muslims to unite and fight.

Polls indicate most Muslims don't believe it, don't think this is really a holy war. But four years of fighting tell us that enough do. So should America's leaders avoid using the name of God whenever they talk about the war or terrorism to deny radicals the propaganda? Or would that itself be a kind of defeat?

-- By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 10:10 AM ET
  40 Comments
Tom,
It really wouldn't matter if our leaders stopped using God's name or not! If they cut out any reference all together of anything to do with the Christian religion the extremists would find something else to rally their troops up with.

And if they did stop referencing God's name it would be feeding right into the hands of extremists because they don't want the non extreme Muslims to hear any good thing that may come from us regarding peace and living harmoniously together.
Posted By Cynthia, Covington, Ga. : 11:05 AM ET
Tom,

I don't think using the word 'God' should be avoided by America's leaders nor by any other leaders around the world.
I think it would be much more beneficial if each religion would focus on a better education on what the word 'God' really means; then they would understand that each faith uses the word 'God' to refer to their respective deity.
There are attributes ascribed to the word 'God' that each religion claims to be attributes of 'their god'.
If people around the world would better understand the 'real' meaning of 'God' rather than accepting that radical groups use it for their own agenda and propaganda, we probably would not talk about nor use the term "Holy War".
Fighting or discussing against the use of the word 'God' just feeds into the arms of radical groups.
Posted By Elke, SW Florida : 11:07 AM ET
This country was founded on Christian principles and as we are embrace diversity we are erasing God... from schools, courtrooms, etc. If our leaders stop mentioning God in deference to Muslims, other religious groups and terrosits they will be making a mockery of the United States, our Consitution and our Founding Fathers. I can hardly wait for the Department of Treasury to recall all monies printed with "In God We Trust."

Religious tolerance is not the same as folding to terrorist propaganda. They are using God as an excuse to propel their fanatacism. Our country must stand strong in our history, faith and patriotism.

We cannot let God be erased from our world. I want my children to know that there is a loving God and not allow evil to win.

Let them say God, and let them say it loud.
Posted By marsha, trophy club, tx : 11:13 AM ET
Tom,
In a society where we come together under a few common goals, the division of our own religious beliefs makes this even more difficult to solve. Some may think, "Sure, we can take God out of our words... out of our schools and courts and off our money and out of our constitution..." but then we only divide ourselves and avoid the big picture: There are people that believe they are being oppressed or ignored and they honestly don't care how they get the attention they need - even at the deaths of innocent lives. Even when we try to listen or a leader comes along to try to think of how to make reason of this madness, they are either attacked by our own religious groups in this country or paraded through the media as an extremist which only causes people to think they are either crazy or just plain wrong. Perhaps leaders showing their beliefs is the strongest tool that we have to bring them to listen because if there is one thing that history has taught us is that propaganda never stays forever and that there are a few intelligent people who can interpret the true message behind the words. Unfortunately it is usually at the highest cost before any of us come to any realization like this on both sides of the fight.
Posted By David of Columbus, OH : 11:27 AM ET
America should stop using religious terms to wage a war, period.
If there are any true expectations of "victory," pitting religious symbols and characters against others is no way to meet that goal. It's embarrassing, in fact, to hear that what the Bush Administration is doing (or not) in the Middle East is, in any way, 'god's will.'
Language certainly plays an important part in any circumstance as dire as this war, but there's no defeat in being practical.
Posted By Tim, Tulsa, OK : 11:30 AM ET
Hi Tom, The world is in chaos today, not because of God, but because of the choices of humans of earth. The violent acts of Muslims and Christians have maligned God for thousands of years, and guess what, "It" has nothing to do with it. The choices we,as individuals and as a nation, have made will rain down upon us consequences of terrible proportions for many generations. In many circles it is known as karmic debt but IMO it just balancing the energy of Light and darkness (positive and negative) in the world. The Light will prevail but it will take many generations.
Posted By Judy Stage Brooklyn MI : 11:32 AM ET
Hi Tom,
I think we could, perhaps should, keep God out of the war on terrorism. However, to change our beliefs in this country to suit anyone, anyplace, anywhere, would make us all guilty of living our lives without the freedom WE deserve. It's a complicated time in history, isn't it? Take Care
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif : 11:38 AM ET
This country was founded by people who felt they had to leave their country for religous freedom. For Bush and other US leaders to continue envoking the name "God" to support their decisions to go to war mocks the constitution and the principles under which this country was founded more than avoiding the word would. The freedoms we enjoy are partially a result of the the separation of church and state and for our leaders to continually reference God undermines this.
Posted By Kate, Washington, DC : 11:41 AM ET
This is a very well written commentary and shares a view that I have often thought is true. This is the strong difference between the Canadian and American societies. Ours is a multicultural society, where individual cultures and beliefs are celebrated. Yours is the great melting pot, where everything melds to become one, essentially represented by one person, who at this point is very much mixing religion and politics.

I believe your forefathers were very wise to clearly separate church and state. A few years ago I did some reading because I was interested in why there was so much fighting over the pledge of allegiance in American schools. I was surprised to learn that the words "under God" were a 20th century addition and not part of the words as originally written. This slow erosion of church and state separation is starting to show through the cracks.

I greatly respect different believe systems and people's rights to their own beliefs. Faith is an important part of life. Organized religion, however, often causes intolerance because is tends to say "there is our way or no other". It is this intolerance that has caused wars throughout history.

Religion does have the ability to be progressive and tolerant. Just look at all the different branches of Christianity as an example. They all share the same beliefs for the most part, but also have their striking differences. It is truly the resposibility of all religions to progress to a place where its OK for others to belief different things.
Posted By Kevin, Vancouver, Canada : 11:57 AM ET
Tom - Bringing God into policy discussions is to appeal to blind obedience. If you need to justify your actions by citing 'God', you are probably unable to justify them by reason. I get nervous when anyone, of any faith, say they're doing something in God's name.
Posted By Arachnae, Sterling VA : 11:58 AM ET
Tom/AC360:
Is it "political correctness" leaders need to re-evaluate or "walking softly through the spoken word" to accommodate the radicals of Islam?

Either way, the fine line between personal censorship and political diplomacy needs to be addressed by American leaders. When speaking for the American people, who include all races, creeds, and cultures, the leaders need to curtail their impulse to use "God" as a threat or imply that God is on our side.

I believe God is objective. He (or she) is just watching to see how the human race wants to keep destroy itself.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 11:59 AM ET
Your point is weak because it doesn't explain why radical Muslims are in Spain, the Philippines, Thailand and all over Africa. They even kill their own people! They are killing to fulfill their extreme interpretation of the Koran, not because Pres. Bush invokes the name of God.

God Bless our troops and God Bless America!
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 12:05 PM ET
Hello Tom,
Sorry, no comprende. This equation does not add up.
Holy + God = War?
If I were the teacher that would be a VERY incorrect answer.
I believe that American leaders should be able to use the name of God without offending anyone. The word Crusade is probably not a good choice though.
The problem is, what are the right words to say to promote peace?
Should our leaders be praying for those words? I pray each day that our leaders will find those special words they can put together to give us peace in the world.
Terrorism, random murders, acts of violence against humanity are anything but Holy or Godly. We must find the right words to make the equation come out right. The correct answer is:
Holy + God = PEACE
It seems so simple. Why is it so difficult?

" There never was a good war or a bad peace"
Ben Franklin~
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches, TX : 12:07 PM ET
When good men don't fight against evil, it's the same as giving the green light to that evil.

There does seem to be alot of unprovoked violence around the world in the name of Islam. Why is that? The war in Iraq or Afghanistan cannot be about Christians vs. Muslims. It has to be about good vs. evil.

God Bless America!
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 12:18 PM ET
Hi Tom,
It does not matter what we say, the extremists will use whatever they can to amass their fighters, but why should we provide them with ammunition to use? I don't think this is defeatist at all. We need to change our tactics, since they are not working.
Posted By Pamina, Pittsford, New York : 12:24 PM ET
God doesn't get anyone in trouble...it's their big mouths and overblown egos!!
Posted By Cynthia, Covington, Ga. : 12:30 PM ET
God simply does not belong in the White House. Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Moreover, I think it's an insult to Americans who aren't Christian. Bush is welcome to keep his bible on his nightstand, but keep it out of the Oval Office.
Posted By CM, Seattle, WA : 12:33 PM ET
For the sake of peace, American leaders need to teach the American public that we can respect Islam and even acknowledge the claims made against the U.S. without accepting the oppression of women or the murder of innocent people. American leaders need to teach the public that when Muslims talk about Allah and Christians talk about God, they are all talking about the same God. American leaders need to teach the public that Allah is the Arabic word for God, and that this God is Abraham's God, is Adam and Eve's God. American leaders need to teach the public that Muslims hold Jesus Christ and Moses as prophets and respect Christians and Jews as People of the Book.

And American leaders need to tell the public that our soldiers are terrorists just like their soldiers, and that our government commits murders just like their government does. And if American leaders are not willing to tell the public this, then they need to stop using the word "terrorist" and start telling us just how many thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed, and just how many Iraqi children are now orphans, or are severely wounded, or have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of this war. And then they need to ask us how we would feel if those numbers were talking about our families, neighbors, and communities.
Posted By Lesley--Oakland, CA : 12:39 PM ET
The greatest threat to world peace are Judeo-Christian
extremists who think it's 'god's will' that they go to
war with people simply because they think that their
god wants them to control the Middle East.

They kill innocent people for land and oil. In Islam
only the radicals have such beliefs, in America and
Israel these hateful beliefs are shared by the
Judeo-Christian mainstream.
Posted By Chip Shirley, Athens GA : 12:50 PM ET
Certainly America's leaders should avoid using "the name of God" any time they speak whether about terrorism or otherwise. What most Americans refer to as God is nameless...not Allah, not Jehovah, not "The Light". In general when they make reference to it, it's in the same way one would reference Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and no leader should express that sort of ignorance.
Posted By Mike, Houston, TX : 12:55 PM ET
One of our nation's founding principles was the separation of church and state, and yet we still invoke religion as a motivator in war...

I find it deplorable that leaders, be they politicians or even terrorists, would attempt to manipulate the public to accept their agendas using something as personal as religion. Faith should never be used as a weapon, regardless of what that faith may be.
Posted By Elizabeth, San Francisco, CA : 1:06 PM ET
I think leaders should invoke the name of God. We need God now more than ever when our own shores are under the threat of extremist Islam.

Have you not been seeing what's happening in Europe as a result of their "secularization?" Look carefully at Spain, France and the UK. Sharia law is already in force in some of these places. If the birth rate in those contries continues at its pace, their well-known cities will be Londinistan, Paristan... much of Africa and Asia are in the same boat.

We need to be accomodating to all religions in the US. Each of us if free to proclaim our God, including our leaders.
Posted By Steve -- Peoria, Ill. : 1:17 PM ET
It would be a kind of defeat. In this country, we are free to do and say as we want, so long as it does not impinge on the rights of others as laid out in our Constitution. Why should we deny our freedoms just because we're afraid what a few crazy people in the Middle East will think about it? That's nonsense, and I bet every soldier in the war over there would agree. The terrorists will eventually be defeated, only the hour and day of their defeat is unknown. Yes, the cost will be high, and the battle long, but their defeat is certain.
Posted By Christopher Noyes, Cleveland, OH - 32 years old : 1:18 PM ET
Sorry, but the day I don't see my leaders as strong men and women of faith, I'll know our country is lost.

Separation of church and state has become separation of Christianity from our society, in order to accomodate other religions. Look at Muslims with their insistence on public footbaths in airports and schools.
Posted By DH - Lake Barrington, IL : 1:20 PM ET
We must always remember that the "Holy War" against America was initiated by the militant Islamists and is against "infidels". This means it does not matter whether we are religious or use the name of God or not. Infidels, in their worldview, are people who do not adhere and submit to Allah, and Allah only. Thus, Christians, Jews, Communists or Secular Progressives are all in the identical catagory: targets for conversion or elimination. The only little "advantage" of being the non-religious westerner is their gravitation towards an appeasment oriented philosophy. However, this behavior only places them at the back of the chronological line. Ultimately, whether opponents use religious language or not, they are still doomed infidels in the extremist's perspective.
Posted By Guillermo Tirado, San Diego,CA : 1:23 PM ET
Americans have yet to practice religious tolerance as it should be. We are not a “Christian nation”, and to make that claim is an affront to any other religion and an insult to Atheists. The fact of the matter is that just like Muslims, Christians have an intimate relationship with intolerance and violence toward anyone not of those faiths.

The war between Christians and Muslims have ravaged human decency and hindered the progress of civilized co-existence for over a thousand years. There cannot be a compromise between two Mono-theistic religions because ultimately one of them has to be wrong if either is right. So the blood will flow as long as modern man continues cling to the archaic musings of an ancient society yet to realize things like the Earth is round or a cold is not a demonic attack.

American leaders should avoid any religious diatribe because it undermines American’s expectations of religious tolerance despite making Muslim extremists increasingly violent.
Posted By John Malvern, AR : 1:30 PM ET
For thousands of years, wars have been started because of religion. Christianity, Catholicism, etc., they've all pushed themselves on other religions - each proclaiming that they believe in the "true God" and everyone else must conform to their religion. Books, people, religious building structures have been destroyed all in an effort to establish one religion over another. In this case, it may not be as extreme but it is still some form of Christianity vs. the Muslim faith. It's in our President's words when he says God and crusade to win this war therefore it's answered back with cries of Allah because that is their God. This quote sums it up for me why I believe God should not be used when talking about terrorism and the war:

When you understand why you reject all other Gods, you will understand why I reject yours as well.
Posted By M. Wong, Los Angeles, CA : 1:37 PM ET
Kevin, trust me we all don't have to agree with the President of the U.S. because if we did and we would all be one. We would be one boring society going to bed at 9:00 PM. All of us on the east coast would have to miss 360 now wouldn't we?

Hey Kevin, let me tell you about my trip to Toronto. I was looking out my hotel room watching some of my northern neighbors burning the American flag.

This was just a group of men getting together to burn a flag and carry on about Americans and how awful we all are.

As a mother traveling with her son, it gave me a real sense of welcome especially when many places in America fly the Canadian flag and consider America as their friend.

In reality the flag burning gave my dear son a good lesson in invidual freedoms, personal speech and rights. Did I give my son a civic lesson? Absolutely. It was one of the best hours we ever spent together.

In about an hour we were off to see the Andy Warhol exhibit like nothing happened. There was no mention of it in the paper the next morning, no police, nothing.

Just men and a bullhorn and propaganda about they hated Americans.
Posted By Renee Bradenton, FL : 1:45 PM ET
I agree with whomever said that if the politicians take God out of the war vocabulary that the terrorists will find something else to attack... Politicians should be able to say the word God, it is their right as an American, but to use the word God as the reason for War, or that God is behind us in this war, no because when politicians talk about the terrorists/war, they should be speaking for all Americans and not all Americans believe in God... As a personal belief, yes mention God all you want, when speaking for the United States, keep it separate...
Please remember, God and Christianity are not the same... There are many non-Christians who believe in God, Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, non Christians do not... God be with you and keep you safe...
Posted By Sherry Sarasota Fl : 1:50 PM ET
I hope the Islamic/Muslin "Dr. Ruth" equivalent keeps preaching her "more sex in the Muslim/Islamic world" doctrine. It might help cool the "hot heads". A more "productive outlet" for their energies! :-)
Posted By Cynthia, Santa Fe, New Mexico : 1:52 PM ET
I believe that all people should have the freedom to invoke the name of what ever diety, higher power, etc provides them with guidance, peace, and comfort. However, I don't think anyone should refer to this war and or anything to do with this war as the will of God or Allah. Let's be honest, religion has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. On second thought, maybe it does. It appears to me that our very "moral" leaders fell prey to atleast 3 of the 7 deadly sins.. pride, anger, and greed.
Posted By EM, SLC, Utah : 1:54 PM ET
Many of you are exactly right: We (our nations, society, our soldiers) ourselves can/could be viewed as terrorists. It's really just propaganda from/on both sides and how anything is argued... Silly humans! Look at us! What a mess! I can't wait for the Apocalypse! (Or, perhaps global thermonuclear war will come sooner and "cleanse the earth" of the silly *Homo sapiens*!!)
Posted By Maynard, Oakland, CA : 1:57 PM ET
Allow me to quote the bumper sticker on my car: "Atheism cures religious terrorism."
Posted By Marc, Sacramento, CA : 1:58 PM ET
God is the author and finisher of faith and it is in His divine providence where war occurs. God has given manking the freedom to choose and as a result of sin man, moreso than no, chooses sin over righteousness (murder, abortion, drunkness, pornography, homosexual relations...etc) There is one God who has one Son....all other religions are false, period. Repent and receive Jesus Christ as Saviour while there is still time.
Posted By Brian Jones, Las Cruces, NM : 2:27 PM ET
Tom you are right on and brave as well. All the religousisty comments prove your point.

"In God we trust" recognizes that spirituality is part of the fabric of our nation. Religous freedom means that we have the right to worship responsibly within the context of our body of laws as we, individually, choose free from the constraints of others.

The use of 'Islamofacists' and other profiling statements supports Tom's ANALYSIS of the image many have of the US adopting the 'Crusader' role with all its negative historical implications as the driving force of our nation's actions and policies.
Posted By linda, bella vista : 2:49 PM ET
The Ten Commandments tells us not to use God's Name in vain. Both Christian and Muslim Fundelmentalist have a nasty habit of using God's Name in vain and both place Jesus and Mohammad before God which is a direct violation of both faiths.
Posted By Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA : 3:06 PM ET
The terrorists will hate us no matter what term we use - but the moderates - and they are the majority - will be much more on our side if we don't phrase this as a religious war on our side as well. 'God' has no place in our war rhetoric - we are not fighting to convert people at all.
Posted By Lisa, Bothell, WA : 3:07 PM ET
Tom, Ever since the Muslim/Arab armies confronted the Byzantine empire, the"West" has been locked in a struggle with Islam. It is a holy war, on both sides. Hence Bush uses the word crusade and calls upon God. Its been going on for 1300 years now. Its had its off period, sure but Islam has been the enemy for far longer than any other western foe. The Romans had Persia/Parthia for hundreds of years too. God has been evoked in all wars. while Christian Americans called upon God, the Japanese called upon the emperor who was a god himself. The Nazi'z revived a form of early Germanic religion to hype their war. When will it end? Who knows but God will surely win.
Posted By Brett, Oriskany, VA : 3:17 PM ET
Hi Tom: Yes we should speak of God. We should pray to God for our country and our troops. Since Mr. Bush seems to be in bunker mode about the war, we need to turn to other avenues to try and end this conflict. I hope that God is listening. The radicals will always have an excuse for war. Congrats on hosting "This Week At War". I try to watch it whenever I'm home.
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 3:22 PM ET
I think American leaders should use God in their speech. We are a Christian-founded nation after all, who also welcomes other religions openly and freely (unlike many Muslim-dominated countries).

I'd hate to see the day we have a non-religious President who doesn't believe in God.

"What do you think of God?" the teacher asks.
The young pupil replies, "He's not a think, he's a feel."
Posted By GS - Evanston, IL. : 4:31 PM ET
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