I'm somewhat confused by a poll I just ran across.
I certainly can understand the notion that people of faith might separate their faith from their belief about whether torture is a good idea or not (though I don't think that it is a good idea myself), so I might have not been surprised to see a lack of correlation between religion and support or non-support for torture, but a new Pew poll out today suggests that especially among evangelicals and to a lesser degree among adherents of a number of other religions, support for torture is actually higher than it is among people who don't go to church.
According to the linked poll, 54% of people who go to church at least once per week believe that torture of prisoners is sometimes or often justified, versus 42% of non-church goers.
That statistic is somewhat misleading or at least overly broad though, as the survey finds that members of 'mainline' Protestant churches-- such as Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopals-- were actually more strongly opposed to torture than non-church goers (30% of mainline protestants answering that torture is never acceptable, versus 25% of the non-churchgoers) and Catholics were not that far behind non-churchgoers. The number that really sticks out is that only one in eight evangelicals believes the same.
Now, I'm not a member of an evangelical church and the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, had no comment on the poll. I'd be interested in knowing how they justify this though. I do go to church every week, and I've read the Bible extensively and I'm not sure what in scripture justifies torturing prisoners. I was reading the sermon on the mount the other day and I'm sure there was nothing in there about waterboarding. Maybe I will read it again tonight just to be sure.
If anyone who is a member of an evangelical denomination would like to comment on this and what in your doctrine makes members of your church more likely to support torture I'd love to hear it. I've always thought that Christians were more likely to uphold the teachings of Christ-- starting with compassion, even towards an enemy once he has been rendered powerless. But maybe I'm getting the wrong idea about that, this is more like the Christian values as practiced during the Inquisition.