Attack Brings Out the Best and Worst of Public Religion

"As the White House promises to stop referring to the crusades, America and Canada examines the proper place of faith"
"This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while," President Bush said. Vice President Cheney also used the word crusade. But after many complaints, "administration officials gave private reassurances that the word would not be used again," reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's what the terrorists use to recruit people—saying that Christians are on a crusade against Islam," Yvonne Haddad, professor of the history of Islam at Georgetown University, told the Associated Press. "It's as bad to their ears as it is when we hear jihad." One would think Bush's chief speechwriter would know this—his alma mater last year dropped the crusader as its mascot for exactly these reasons. (No word yet on whether press conferences will continue to end with the chant "God wills it!")

Crusades have been repeatedly invoked this week as evidence that Christians have had their dark spots too and that Islam doesn't have a corner on extremism. Some pundits have even taken to beating up on religion in general. (See Monday's Weblog for several examples.) In one of the sadder columns Weblog read this week, Lauren Sandler writes in Salon.com, "My atheism has only been strengthened by this week of human catastrophe … With this astonishing human bravery to bless America, who needs God?"

Is religion emerging as the hope or the cause of the attacks?

"If many Americans saw this tragedy as rooted in a perverse religious impulse, our own response was religious as well," writes columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. "We poured into churches, synagogues and mosques to ask God's consolation and help. President Bush's most inspiring address of the terrible week was not a speech but a sermon." Is this a bad thing, he wonders? Not necessarily:

Religious faith ...
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September
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