Believer Or Not

Osama wants Americans to convert, but many of us are already religious fanatics.

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Who the cap fit, let him wear it.

Sounding like a presidential candidate, Osama bin Laden sympathized with our "insane taxes and real estate mortgages," according to Al Qaeda's tape, brilliantly dissected by Anne Applebaum in Slate.

Bin Laden's solution for beleaguered Americans? Convert to his brand of hardline Islam.

That wouldn't be much of a leap for many Americans, because 12.6 percent of us are "traditional evangelical" Christians, according to a 2004 survey by the political science prof John Green at the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.

And what do traditional evangelical Christians believe in? Evangelizing, by definition, which is what bin Laden was doing on that tape.

And here's a reminder: Most evangelical Christians believe in the Rapture, as beliefnet.org's Deborah Caldwell noted in an excellent 2002 article. For you who are unaware, this is how religioustolerance.org explains the Rapture:

Most Evangelical Christians believe that the Rapture … will happen precisely as described [in the Bible], sometime in the near future. All previously saved Christians, totaling perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the world's population, will suddenly have their bodies converted into a different form that they will wear for all eternity in Heaven. They will rise vertically into the air. Many believe that they will pass right through ceilings, roofs of cars, etc. to meet Jesus Christ in the sky. Although the vast majority of humans will be left behind, there will be much devastation as planes, trains and automobiles as their pilots, engineers and drivers suddenly disappear and the vehicles crash.

And Americans make fun of Islamic fanatics' beliefs about meeting virgins in Heaven?

Bin Laden's a violent creep, but his brand of religious fanaticism would be a pretty good fit for evangelical George W. Bush. Reporters for Frontline's The Jesus Factor (2004) talked with top Southern Baptist official Richard Land — whose denomination is the biggest in the U.S. — about Bush's inauguration for his second term as Texas governor:

"The day he was inaugurated there were several of us who met with him at the governor's mansion," says Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "And among the things he said to us was, 'I believe that God wants me to be president.' "

OK, I'm convinced: God is vengeful.

(Land, by the way, wears presidential-seal cuff links; see my September 2004 item "The Christocrats.")

I guess that those of you who voted for Bush — Twice! For Christ's sake! — are off the hook, in both senses of the phrase.

Judging by the results of the 2004 religious survey, the turban of conservative Muslim bin Laden would wear well on quite a few other Americans, as much as they rightly detest him.

Hardliners of one religion have more in common with hardliners of another religion than with the rest of us. They all believe in conservative, patriarchal "family values" and they give us the same fiery message: Convert, or burn in hell — and we'll light the match.

You still think there's no comparison between bin Laden's homicidal brand of Islam and the beliefs of America's Rock-of-Ages-rigid traditional Christian evangelicals? Here's the grim FAQ about the future of us unbelievers, according to the killer logic of raptureready.com:

What do most countries do with those who commit treason? The governments either incarcerate the traitors for the rest of their lives or they execute them.

Rejection of God is surely treason because mankind originates from Him: the DNA to form our bodies, the gravity to keep it intact, air to keep us breathing, food and water resources to sustain our bodies, materials for shelter, materials for clothing, and all the other good things about life that we take for granted everyday.

What, then, does a human being deserve when he dismisses God, disregards His law (that is written on our hearts), then even goes so far as to say He does not exist and that evolution is our creator?

Let this be a warning.


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