More Americans believe it is wrong to celebrate bin Laden’s death
A new survey showed recently that six out of 10 Americans, crossing political and religious lines, believe it is inappropriate to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
The survey, which was conducted in May, was a collaboration of the Religion News Survey and the Public Religion Research Institute. It was begun within days of the news of the death of bin Laden, according to the PRRI website.
The survey showed that 62 percent of Americans believe that celebrating the death of a human being is wrong, regardless of how evil he may be. Furthermore, 60 percent believe in the bible verse that says we should not “rejoice when your enemies fall,” and believe this also applies to bin Laden, PRRI said on its website.
The sentiment is particularly strong among young people, aged 18 to 34, where the percentage rises to 69 percent or seven out of 10. Among Americans aged 65 and above, only 47 percent believe the bible verse applies to bin Laden, the website noted.
Support and critique
Episcopal Rev. Clark West of Cornell University told RNS that the bible has verses telling of rejoicing over the downfall of an enemy. However, there are also verses that say it is wrong to do so.
West told RNS, “Scriptures can be found both supporting and critiquing such celebrations. There can be healing for a trauma survivor in recovering a joyful sense that evil will not have the last word, but human events like the killing of bin Laden should not be confused with the divine vanquishing of evil.”
At the same time, West told RNS that for survivors of 9/11 and for families of the victims, “quiet prayer and attentiveness” may be more healing rather than boisterous celebration.
Robert P. Jones, president of PRRI, told CNN, “There’s widespread agreement across religion and party lines about how Americans should act in the wake of the killing of bin Laden.”
Is Osama in hell?
Up to 65 percent of Americans believe that bin Laden is in hell. In examining the total along religious lines, the survey showed that eight out of 10 white evangelical Protestants believe this, and 67 percent are certain that bin Laden will be punished in hell for eternity, the website reported.
Two-thirds of Catholics, and two-thirds of mainline Protestants agree that bin Laden is in hell, while almost half of those religiously unaffiliated, or 49 percent, believe that bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins, the website said.
Stephen Prothero, a religion professor of Boston University, told RNS that the numbers were lower than what he expected, especially among evangelicals. However, he said it may have been the word “eternally” that gave rise to hesitation.
Prothero, who wrote the book God Is Not One, told RNS that another possible reason for the figures could be the fact that new ideas about hell have been raised in the book, Love Wins, written by megachurch pastor Rob Bell.
The survey also showed that most Americans, at 82 percent (eight out of 10), agreed that bin Laden distorted Islamic teachings to fit into his purposes. Sixty percent are in complete agreement with this belief, according to the website.
Prothero said that this indicates that in the U.S. there is increasing knowledge about Islam. He told RNS, “There’s an awareness out there about the distinction between Islam and Islamic extremism. It’s an important conversation that we’ve having right now.”
The survey was conducted from May 5-8 via telephone with 1,007 Americans. The respondents were aged 18 and above, and the interviews were conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation and the PRRI. Margin of error is three percentage points, CNN said.