Bishop of Manchester, Peter Anthony Libasci, speaks during a vigil on Saturday (Aug.23) for slain journalist James Foley at the Rochester Commons in Rochester, N.H. Photo by Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo

Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci of Manchester, N.H., speaks during a vigil on Saturday (Aug. 23) for slain journalist James Foley at the Rochester Commons in Rochester, N.H. Photo courtesy of Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) From the moment news broke that U.S. journalist James Foley had been beheaded by Islamic State extremists in the Middle East, many Christians, especially Foley’s fellow Catholics, began calling him a martyr, with some even saying he should be considered a saint.

Yet that characterization has left others uneasy, and the discussion is raising larger questions about what constitutes martyrdom.

Foley’s parents seemed to validate the martyrdom label when his father, John, spoke at an emotional news conference outside the family’s New Hampshire home and said he and his wife “believe he was a martyr.” Foley’s mother, Diane, added that her son “reminds us of Jesus. Jesus was goodness, love — and Jim was becoming more and more that.”

In an interview two days later with Katie Couric, Foley’s younger brother, Michael, recounted how Pope Francis had called the family to console them and in their conversation “referred to Jim’s act as, really, martyrdom.”

Numerous commentators had already picked up on that idea, holding Foley up not only as a witness to the Christian faith but as a spur for believers in the West to take more seriously the plight of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East who are being persecuted to a degree that some say is comparable to genocide.

John and Diane Foley address family and friends on Sunday during the memorial Mass in Rochester, N.H., for their son, James, who was murdered by Islamic militants. Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo

John and Diane Foley address family and friends on Sunday (Aug. 24) during the memorial Mass in Rochester, N.H., for their son, James, who was murdered by Islamic militants. Photo courtesy of Shawn St. Hilaire / Democrat Photo


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But in the Catholic Church, determining whether someone is a martyr is not so easy. Historically, two conditions must be met.

First, even if martyrs weren’t saintly or pious Christians throughout their lives, there should be evidence that they held fast to their faith in their final moments, and that this witness can serve as an example to others.

Foley certainly seemed to take solace in his faith under duress.

In a 2011 essay he wrote for the alumni magazine of Marquette University, his Jesuit-run alma mater, Foley spoke movingly of his belief in prayer, and especially his recourse to the rosary to sustain him when he was imprisoned in Libya earlier that year while covering the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi.

That was also the heart of a message that Foley managed to send from his captivity at the hands of the IS; after the episode in Libya, Foley, a photojournalist, went to cover the civil war in Syria and was kidnapped there on Thanksgiving in 2012. He was held with as many as 17 other prisoners and had a fellow captive, who was later released, commit to memory a letter in which Foley spoke of how prayer and faith kept him close to his family.

“I feel you all especially when I pray,” Foley said. “I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.”

The second factor in determining whether someone is a martyr is that they must be killed explicitly because they are a Christian, or “in odium fidei,” out of hatred for the faith. That’s where martyrdom arguments can get complicated, and messy.

Hundreds of family and friends of James Foley attended the memorial Mass on Sunday (Aug. 24) at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, N.H. Photo by Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo

Hundreds of family and friends of James Foley attended the memorial Mass on Sunday (Aug. 24) at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, N.H. Photo by Shawn St. Hilaire / Democrat Photo


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

For example, Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who lived under constant threat for his advocacy on behalf of the poor and in defense of human rights, was immediately hailed as a martyr in 1980 when he was assassinated by paramilitary forces while celebrating Mass.

But under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Romero’s canonization cause was repeatedly stalled because conservatives in the Vatican argued that Romero had become an icon of liberation theology and was killed for political rather than religious reasons.

Only this month, in fact, Pope Francis — who has long revered Romero – announced that the archbishop’s sainthood process had been “unblocked.”

Francis also indicated that he wanted the church to consider whether those who are killed “for performing the works that Jesus commands us to do for our neighbor” are martyrs just as those who are killed for professing the creed. If that happens it could mark a significant shift in the church’s understanding of martyrdom.

Yet some also worry that Foley is being promoted as a martyr in part because he can serve as a Christian rallying cry against extremist Islam, or as a way of building momentum for a more forceful Western intervention in Iraq.

Honoring James Foley on Sunday (Aug. 24) at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, N.H. Photo by Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo

Photos and flowers were on display in honor of James Foley on Sunday (Aug. 24) at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, N.H. Photo by Shawn St. Hilaire / Democrat Photo


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

So the question then comes down to parsing the rationale of Foley’s killers: Did they murder him because he was a Christian or because he was an American? Did they kill him because he would not convert, or did they kill him to provoke the West? Was he a martyr for the faith or, as Foley’s father added, “a martyr for freedom”?

Can we ever know?  Should we try?

“It would be vulgar to indulge in speculative fiction that claims James Foley was praying during what are now his famous last moments on Earth,” Alana Massey wrote in a Religion Dispatches column taking issue with the instant canonization of Foley.

Massey said she found it “off-putting” to read others describing Foley as a martyr “not only because he was killed explicitly for his nationality and not for his religion, but also because the prospect of the hellscape that is the battleground on which ISIS fights becoming a destination for competitive martyrdom can do no one any good.”

Many more seem to disagree with that view and think that whatever the perils of calling Foley a martyr, he ultimately qualifies as one — and in doing so his death, and life, point to a modern-day example of martyrdom that has moved millions of people.

“We don’t want to cheapen the meaning of the word ‘martyr,’” the Catholic blogger Pia de Solenni wrote in a detailed meditation on Foley’s death. “But this is real. It’s happening everywhere. It’s making extraordinary witnesses out of ordinary people. We should not cheapen their witness by ignoring the reality of their sacrifice, their martyrdom.”

YS/AMB END GIBSON

91 Comments

  1. Roman Catholics/Catholics,

    Why not martyr the children sexually abused by your clergy—your hierarchy—the ones having died from this, and the ones with the courage to speak out today? They endured hell … and tell stories of the atrocities at the hands of Religious—the ones still living to speak that is.

    Just a thought …

    Peace and Love

    • Well, opheliart, there is religion and there is religion. Take your pick.

      What has a more evil history than religion? Evil, as we see so much of it now in the religious extremists in this country, has always been rampant in religion.

      It should make one wonder, of what good is religion?

      • gilhcan,

        Re: There is religion and there is religion. Take your pick. :)

        Geraldine Marie said, “He could have recanted, said anything to preserve his life, but he didn’t.”

        I would like to know how Geraldine Marie knew he was given the option. This is worth exploring—don’t you think? Is it possible he was never given the option because he was being saved for this very purpose—to use as a sensationalist trick of the extremists (degraded and demented mindset, I mind add) to generate propaganda, raise emotions (obviously) … and create hysteria, causing governments and religious to REACT? Using a Brit, for instance … this was illicitly clever, and does generate unexpected feelings as the “herd” mentality swerves this way … or that … you follow?

        Peace and Love

      • Gilhcan

        one can also dig up a whole lot of dirt about atheists ..
        their child molesting ways how some raped and murdered etc etc

        the point ibeing made is its people of all creeds that are sinful..

        if you want to get rid of all evil you have to get rid of all people .

        including your self .. now wont that be fun .. with no humans around to enjoy
        a world with out evil people in it.

        you can leave the guns and even atheistic creeds or religious writings just get rid of all people.. and there wont be evil people no more..

  2. He was killed because of his religious beliefs. By textbook definition he’s a martyr. Whether he is worthy of being canonized is for someone else to decide. No doubt he is a martyr.

    • Huey Bahr,

      I did not realize that MARTYR has to do with “religious” beliefs. I thought martyr meant WITNESS (Greek – martur, meaning witness), as in having to do with professing something of VISION.

      And all that sat in the council, looking on him, saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel. Acts 6.15

      Peace and Love

      • Opheliart,

        I believe that an excellent example of a martyr is found in the Bible book of Acts, concerning the man, Stephen. The account of him and the great WITNESS he gave is found at Acts, the entire chapter 6.

        It is beneficial to read Chapter 5:6-8, before reading that chapter. Stephen had been performing many signs and wonders before the people. However, some people stirred up the people, elders and scribes to have Stephen brought before the Sanhedrin, or Jewish High Court. They said they had heard blasphemous things from Stephen against Moses and God. The Court asked Stephen if this was true.

        Stephen then gave a most wondrous witness to those at the Court (Acts 7:1-33). I suggest you read this most extraordinary witness yourself!

        After this witness, they were infuriated with him and began to grind their teeth (Acts 7:54).

        Having God’s Holy Spirit or active force, he looked heavenward and glanced at God’s glory and saw Jesus at the right hand of God (a vision). He said at that time, to the Court, “Look! I see the heavens opened up and the Son of man (Jesus) standing at God’s right hand!” (Acts. 7: 56)

        What action did the Court take? They rushed toward him all together and started to stone him!!! (Acts 7:57-59)

        How did Stephen react to this? Kneeling down, he said with a strong voice, “God, do not charge this sin against them!” (How many of us would have said that if we were in his shoes???) After saying this, he fell asleep in death (Acts 7:60).

        Now, THAT is what I would call a true martyr, having spoken with strong confidence and faith about God and his son, Jesus!

        I have no idea if James Foley gave a witness about God to his enemies before his death, but James, obviously having been a meek person, at least has the hope of resurrection back to life on a cleansed earth, to be reunited with family and friends (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). Not all is lost!
        :-)

    • There is no evidence that Foley was killed “because of his religious beliefs.” That is an exaggeration of people who know little of history, whether it be the history of religion or politics or the current events about Jim Foley.

      In the Middle East, supremely sadly, there is no difference between religion and politics. That should cause a stopping pause for all those extremists in this country, like John McCain and his pal Lindsay Graham, who continue to ignore the wisdom of the first clause of the First Amendment fro our own Constitution to maintain a separation between religion and government, between church and state. Of course, we know their motives are self-promotion for political purposes.

      The non-stop evil in the Middle East is religion-based. When will we wake up and realize religion and civil government is an evil combination instead of heading in the same direction in our own country by ignoring our Constitution, by ignoring history.

      What displays more evil in history than religious beliefs and consequent contentions? Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

      • Gilhcan,

        In the United States, religions get involved in politics as well (sometimes telling parishioners like my sister who to vote for) and religious persons even run for office (Mitt Romney, for example). How is that any different from the Middle East?

        People who belong to religions in the USA get involved in global conflicts such as war as well. No difference there!

        What situation of separation between politics and religions exists today?

  3. Earold D. Gunter

    Shouldn’t the conversation go much deeper than this? Does it really matter if this poor man was killed in a extremely brutal fashion for his faith, or just because he represented America to these religious nuts? Isn’t the real root cause of this issue that some humans believe in something that they have absolutely no evidence is real, and are willing to take actions that effect others based on those beliefs, even if those things are so heinous it reviles most others? Other than complete insanity, nothing else influences humans to believe something that can’t be proved to exists, except religion. Faith is the gulp in swallowing the poison of religion.

    • Earold: Realize, Foley was not killed for his religious faith. He was killed for his politics. His politics included a desire to protect all the human rights of all people. True, in the turmoil of the Middle East, religion plays a prime part in all the inhumane disasters.

      The framers of our Constitution knew their history, they realized that every combination of religion and civil government ended up in turmoil, even in the destruction of the natural right of all people to hold whatever religious beliefs they want as long as they do not inhibit any rights of others.

      Vitally important is that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Choose your beliefs, but you have no right to inflict others in any way with those beliefs or because of those beliefs.

  4. There is no doubt that Jim Foley was an excellently good person, an honest person who strived to do good and impede evil, but this controversy is more evidence–as if we needed any–that the church that started declaring saints should also end it. Now!

    The recently paired canonization of John Paul II and Good John XXII is evidence of the terrible church politics that has been a part of the process off and on from the beginning–whenever that began. John XXIII, who called the sadly maligned Second Vatican Council, a grand effort to make religion and the church relevant in these latter times, had to wait over 50 years to be recorded in the book of saints. John Paul II, who did all he could to destroy the work of John XXIII and the church council and return the people of God to religious dark ages, was moved toward sainthood with certainty as soon as he drew his last breath and canonized 9 years later, long after he should have retired because he was unable to function for the work needed.

    The pairing was obviously considered by the powers-that-be as an avoidance of the shock and objection of reformers over the non-stop efforts of popes, other clergy, and a multitude of uninformed people in the pews to kill the work of the Second Vatican Council. John XXIII got into heaven by holding John Paul II’s hand.

    John Paul II is the pope who did nothing about the sex scandal that exploded in front of him. Initially, he only excused the church and its pedophile clergy by blaming it on the secularism of the United States–the reason most of the civilized world is moving toward secularism. That proved John Paul knew nothing of the world beyond his Poland where bishops still think they have the last word in handling clergy who are sexual molesters of the people in the pews–the people who pay all the bills, including the bills related to the sex scandal. Polish bishops continue to excuse and hide molesters.

    To pair John XXII and John Paul II is an insult to any consideration of holiness. John Paul II was a very small-minded man who did suffer awfully under communism, but never gained a view of the larger, real world. John XXIII had been a diplomat. He knew the real world. Both popes were people of their pasts. John XXIII’s past was simply broader and more experienced than that of John Paul II.

    Leave it to the historical facts. Quit the business of overloading the altar and book of saints as if we know God and heaven. Mother Theresa is another example of political popularity taking over religion.

  5. Sister Geraldine Marie

    Mr. Foley was a Christian martyr (witness) in every sense of the word! He could have recanted, said anything to preserve his life, but he didn’t. Standing up for the ideals of truth and justice is not mere “politics”–on the contrary, it is what every saint has done, regardless of religion, throughout the ages! May the Lord reward him! And whether or not he is formally declared a saint by the Church, he is!

    • Geraldine Marie,

      That is your belief, and the belief of your religion, which is why it makes “every sense” to you. No one is stopping you and those who feel as you do from martyring James. This is your choice. This can also be a private matter. But I have a few questions:

      1. Why is it necessary for the Roman Catholics to parade this—making it known to the world? There are a lot of WITNESSES in the world, and a lot of them died in the process, but we never hear of these as martyrs. If, say, the Greek Orthodox Church decided to martyr all those slaughtered on Chios in March 1822, would the Roman Catholic Church also accept these as Martyrs?

      2. This is a very EMOTIONAL time for the family and friends of James. Why would anyone think to bring up martyrdom at this time? And, I thought this was a process taking many years, but I may be incorrect in this information of the RCC.

      3. Religion can be anything. A person can make their country a religion, or even their politics. We see this in many politicians … and we see this in many religious, as well, who engage more in politics than they do in their professed religion. Based on your definition of witnessing, everyone is a martyr who dies doing work in his/her religion, including all those who died for their country—correct? Every single person of his/her religion would then become a martyr. Don’t you agree?
      Also … something to think about … who can say “how” one died within the witnessing? Does it have to be a brutal death? What if it were a slow death … years of quiet torture? But then who would know—right? Only GOD would know then—correct?

      4. In the RCC, what happens to one martyred? Is there a “special” place these go that others Catholics do not?

      And lastly, what is your order, Geraldine Marie?

      Peace and Love

      • @Ophelia,

        By turning James Foley into a ‘martyr’,
        Geraldine is practicing the age-old immoral thievery of life
        that is at the heart of the religious mind.

        All life and death is claimed to be at the service of their God’s cause
        whether the victim likes it or not.

        You are being too easy on Geraldine. She is attempting to rob James Foley of whoever he really was and still the story of his death and apply it toward her own cause.

        Anyone who uses the word “Martyr” is a theif of this man’s life – victimizing James Foley a second time!

        There is no end to the immoral circularity of religion.

        • Atheist Max, I am being too easy on Geraldine Marie? Hmm … last night someone accused me of being insensitive (Re: the comment on the origin of martyr—the Greek martur as witness).

          If the RCs want to martyr James then they will martyr James. I do not view martyrdom in the same manner as ‘these’ religious, however … not even in the vein of Humanist agenda. This takes nothing away from James, as my understanding of “the Martyr” is not as the Roman Catholics/Catholics believe, therefore, I was not being insensitive …
          but merely jogging the brain to move beyond that textbook definition that Huey stated.

          What I would like to see is his work—that WITNESS. This is where we begin to understand the person, and what he believed—WHAT he lived for. People are dying everyday, and some, having gone beyond the stage, give us a series of “faces” turned teachings that generates growth. Very often, this is not seen for quite some time.

          Take Thomas Merton, for instance. He asked that his journals not be shared until twenty years AFTER his death. Inside these, is revealed another person. I am not saying that he deceived the people through his writings/art … just saying there is more to “his story.” He was a Trappist monk having had a sensuous relationship with a woman, even writing that the two had been together in the nude, kissing …

          The Trappists made a lot of money off of dear Tommy Merton (and still do I would imagine), even though he wrote the following in his journal—something that you might appreciate:

          I am beginning to dig the God is dead set.

          Truly, in seeing, experiencing the religious in action, sometimes, often times—that agenda, it is not hard to relate to what Merton said there.

          But I leave you with this:

          Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was asked to account for the great tragedies that occurred under the brutal communist regime he and fellow citizens suffered under.
          Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offered the following explanation:
          “ Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’
          Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’ Source: Wikipedia

          Peace and Love

          • @Opheliart,

            “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

            I hope you take great consolation ?
            in the fact that ISIS has not forgotten god ?
            It appears ISIS is very interested in remembering God
            on a 24 hour/7 day basis. I fail to see how beheading people for God is a good idea.

            Also, It is hard for me to understand how Stalin, a former Orthodox Seminarian, who took over the position of Czar (a religious title) and who forced an entire country to follow a state religion of Communism, including complete adherence to “the miracles of Lysenko” could in any way be called ATHEISM.

            Atheism = I do not believe in a god.

            Atheism is the lack of belief in a god.

            But
            The Soviet Union had a GOD: Stalin.
            The Soviet Union had a FAITH: Communism
            The Soviet Union had MIRACLES: Lysenko
            The Soviet Union had an absolute law.

            Apostates who were not “comrades” were executed.

            None of that is Atheism.

            Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was an apostate of the Party Line (doctrine).
            Solzhenitsyn regretted that humans
            had been denied their DIGNITY.

            That is not an argument in favor of a God!
            It is an argument against God.

        • A max is living proof of what atheist martyrdom is all about ..
          they always prefer to put there mouth and never their lives or much of their money to the test. and only .as long as no one will hurt them for it..

          what invincible courage one must have to be a atheist martyr..

          in fact no one has ever even heard of a atheist martyr until A max showed up .a live and well.. not even a slight scar
          or even a bull winkle band aid..

    • Sister Geraldine Marie you just made me choke up and cry,I couldn’t have said it better!I’ve known James and his younger brother Mike for yrs and went to junior high and high school with both of them in the small town of Wolfeboro Nh(kingswood regional High school)I can’t express what a wonderful person James was,you won’t ever read one bad thing about him,he will be missed ,he defiantly made a difference in the world!

  6. Religions must be abandoned to save civilization:

    ISLAM SAYS TO OTHERS:
    “The only true faith in God’s sight is Islam.” (Surah 3:19)
    “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.” (Surah 2:216)
    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    JUDAISM SAYS TO OTHERS:
    “Cursed be he who does the Lords work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood.” (Jeremiah 48:10)
    “Seize all the non-believers and execute them before the LORD in broad daylight…” (Numbers 25:1-9)

    CHRISTIANITY SAYS TO OTHERS:
    “To those who would not have me as their king,
    bring them to me and EXECUTE THEM in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)
    “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! …what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but conflict.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)
    “Except they repent…I will kill her children with death.” – Jesus (Rev:1:22)

    All of this is evil.

  7. JAMES FOLEY is a tragic victim of RELIGION

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH RELIGION?

    Religion is frivolous; “thou shalt not masturbate”
    Religion is annoying; “Creationism makes planes fly”
    Religion is expensive; Al Queda, Hamas, Zionism, The Vatican, David Koresh
    Religion is a joke; “Bats are birds” (Leviticus)
    Religion is dangerous: “Execute them” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)
    Religion is poisonous: “Creationism makes medicine work”
    Religion is a lie: “Many people rose from the dead” (Matthew 27:51-53)
    Religion kills: “Slay them” (Surah 2:190-)
    Religion destroys critical thought: “You just have to believe”
    Religion destroys critical thought: “People can live inside a fish for 3 days”
    Religion encourages mental illness: “God turned into a cracker for you”
    Religion encourages mental illness: “Your sickness is caused by your sin”
    Religion encourages mental illness: “Hate your mother” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)
    Religion encourages mental illness: “Hate your life” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)
    Religion cheapens life: “Die for me” – Jesus (Matthew 16:24)

    No wonder Charles Schultz was an Atheist.
    Charlie Brown had enough trouble
    functioning in society without all that nonsense.

  8. ISIS thinks these beheadings are good for business and maybe they are in the short term – but religion suffers when we see people getting their heads chopped off.

    What is religion if this is what it does? and how about the bigger question”’ where is God in all of this? why doesn’t he do something?
    Oh, yeah. cuz god is pretend.
    never mind.

  9. Foley was certainly a martyr for humanity. Those who are killed resisting or not giving in to crimes against humanity are martyrs for humanity. That’s the sense that most of us use for that word now. So it’s easy to confuse this meaning of martyrdom with the Catholic definition, whatever it might be.

    • “Martyr” is a horrible, corrupting, insidious RELIGIOUS word.

      It transposes the life of an innocent victim and foists a meaning upon their death
      - without their permission – the service of a cause the victim did not likely share.

      Profoundly immoral. And typical, cruel nonsense of religious myopia.

  10. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    James Foley certainly was a person worth honoring and respecting. And certainly he was a better person than the people who seem to have nothing but sick hatred to contribute to a discussion on whether and how his Church should honor him and his apparently devout faith and that of his grieving family.

    • @Deacon –

      “Nothing but sick hatred to contribute”

      Excuse me?
      Leave it to the religious to MISS THE WHOLE POINT.
      You defend the logic of your ‘faith’ without the slightest whiff of irony!

      “Slay them…Islam is the true Faith” – (Quran)

      How dare you? Faith is clearly NOT very effective at producing the ‘true religion’ if you reject the method when used by EXECUTIONERS but embrace it for yourself!

      Under these terrible circumstances you come running to the defense of the EXECUTIONER!

      Dont pretend we have taken our eye off
      the true enemy of humanity in this article!
      it is Faith. It is religion itself!

      • Sister Geraldine Marie, R.N.

        Max, it is one of the spiritual works of mercy to admonish the sinner. So, I admonish you:
        Stop blaspheming the Lord your God–He is a patient God but you are becoming more and more out of control with your statements. Pray for forgiveness so the evil one will lose his grip on you. I will pray for you as well.

  11. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    From reading these and other atheist rantings it is easy to see where Stalin, Lenin, Mao, etc. etc. blossomed from and why the Soviet gulags had atheist roots. To hate all and every religious expression is as illogical and nonsensical as hating every political party and movement because you are adamantly opposed to the practices and activities of one or some.
    If one wanted to try to figure out where future atheist spawned death sweeps might begin in our day and age one need only read the comments here.

    • “From reading these and other atheist rantings it is easy to see where Stalin, Lenin, Mao, etc. etc. blossomed from and why the Soviet gulags had atheist roots.”

      Wrong as usual. They learned by watching state backed religion. Stalin was educated in a seminary. Mao and Pol Pot had religious educations. Cult of Christianity or Ancestor worship being replaced by Cults of personality.

    • James Ronan

      The united states does not have Islamic laws or views that why its called the great Satan .. He was beheaded because to them at least he represented not only a Christian nation but a Christian nation that defends and supports Israel
      whom they hate almost as bad..
      I say almost as bad because Israel to has not yet discovered what their missing how good bacon tastes.. ITS NOT RIGHT BUT WHATS YA GOING TO DO .. when these other religions don’t have freedom in Jesus .. they just get all moral and uppity on ya just like some atheist ..

    • Finally a short post that tells it like it is and makes sense, instead of of the long posts on the rationality of atheism, martyrdom, religion, Catholic bashing, etc….

  12. Rob, Believe the Islamic State is a grab for land wealth and power wrapped in a veneer of Sunni doctrine. Given the chance the Iranians would do the same thing for the same reasons, wrapped in Shiite doctrine. IMHO, the religious zeal that characterized Muslim expansion disappeared about 750 AD and has degenerated into mundane, secular power grabbing.
    As the USA is the biggest fish in the secular sea with the potential to put paid to these barracudas’ dreams of aggrandizement our citizens and our interests are targets.

  13. Sad to say that there are far more people who ve been brutally beheaded,Nick Egan ,Eugene Armstrong ,James Foley Daniel Pearl,and others who ve not been mentioned ,I m sickened by these animals over there killing are innocent civilians on top of raping there own .There cowards and should be whiped off the face of the earth.I wish someone would shed light on all these men who ve been brutaly murdered ,,,,

  14. Any “religious” person who harms an animal, plant or human, who does evil deeds or has an evil thought in the name of God is a fake. I think religion is a joke, it breeds all sorts of judgemental fanatics. Religious people are not necessarily godly people. I have yet to meet a religious person who is not judgemental and does not wield their scriptures, through their own personal perceptions. Religion breeds fanatics in all sorts of forms. People form groups and learn to hate each other through their different perceptions. I think religion should be banned. It brings out the very worst in humanity. Mankind is the scourge and cancer of this planet. If only we as a species could rise above our egos, greed and self righteousness, we may just evolve a tad. James Foley appears to have been a good person, who ended up being a pawn in a game played by fanatics, bred from yet another religion that teaches intolerance. Intolerance breeds hatred and this is where religion has taken mankind, to HELL. One just has to look at the outcome of religion on this planet, we’ve ended up being a very sick society.

    • Actually the bible states that mankind is made in the “image of God” and that sin is the earthly issue or “cancer” as you stated. So the good thing about this is that God has a very high view of humanity and love for us because we are made “in his image”. The problem though is sin, which is a bit of an issue if we are too.proud to admit a) our behaviour is wrong or b) we need our loving God to forgive us and help us make our wrongs right. So if any human being does unlawfully harm and animal or the earth it is seen as sin in the bible. God gave us this earth to care for not to destroy or harm.

  15. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    As usual atheists blame all evil on religion while ignoring the 20th Century roll call in blood written by atheist leaders from Mao, to Lenin, to Stalin, etc.
    I suppose I should be grateful that jenny only wants to outlaw religion and not send us to gulags as the Soviet atheist Communists did. But hopefully the First Amendment will provide protection for religious believers that—protection not provided by the Soviets because the last thing they wanted to do was allow any modicum of freedom to believers–or anyone else for that matter.
    In fact there are many reputable mainstream historians who believe that it is under the umbrella of religion fighting to have its rights respected that all our other rights came to be recognized and respected.

    • @Deacon,

      “the 20th Century roll call in blood written by atheist leaders from Mao, to Lenin, to Stalin, etc…”

      Atheism is – the NON-belief in any Gods.

      Atheism is not the process of claiming GODS are NOT REAL then following it up with a claim that YOU are a GOD (Stalin, Mao, Hirohito…) !

      The US Constitution is Atheist.
      “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion”

      America owes its freedom to its rejection of God as a commander.
      “Government of the people, for the people and by the people”
      has no room for Gods.

    • “many reputable mainstream historians who believe…”

      If you want to argue that religion plays an important role in the development of civilization, that is undeniable.
      But the role has been mostly negative.

      Science = “It appears there is no god”
      Religion = “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

      Science has been far more important at saving lives, solving problems and building our communities.
      The evidence for this: Ambulances pull up to hospitals, not churches.

      • Max,

        God’s kingdom or heavenly government will not only save lives but resurrect millions of persons who have lost their lives by any means (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29).

        It will put an end to all of mankind’s problems (Isaiah 11:1-9).

        It will put an end to all sickness, old age and even death. Ambulances and doctors will go out of business since they will no longer be necessary (Revelation 21:1-4). :-D

        • @Fran,

          “resurrect millions…”

          Clearly you believe.

          These hallucinatory ideas are evidence of the damage that religion does
          to otherwise normal people. Add the frustration we suffer in combatting it with reason and science as another layer of misery.

          Religion is not benign. We all pay a price.

          It is a cause of unrelenting misery to victims and non-believers alike.
          Religion is a perfect storm of nonsense.

          • I know.

            It is so sad to hope for a better future and a world where we can exist with our loved ones in perfect peace and harmony. I’d much rather believe that when I die the end is the end. I will never hold my daughters hand in mine again. I will never hear my fathers laugh. I will never see my mother at ease. I will never know who my brother is. I will never know true ecstasy or pure love, peace and joy. I will never look my enemy in the eyes and know him or her as they were created to be in perfection. I will never dance with my friends again, or run in the wild or breathe in the smells and tastes and sounds and views of Heaven of Earth as it was meant to be. I will never know the deoth of wonder revealed to me in glimpses in this place we call home now. I’ll never know what inspired all of this beauty and excellence and nobility in nature. I will never see you Max, as odd as that may sound. I will never be truly free or at one with the essence of why we are created.

            Nope. I’ll just be dead. Dust. Nothingness. My memory will fade away from the wholeness of eternity and the pages of history will close on my one very small existence as life on Earth.

            I’m a nobody really. And nobody other than my family will truly care once I’m gone. But that’s ok, because I’ll be dead. And then when I’m dead ill be gone and I’ll know ‘true freedom’.

            There is no hope in this.

    • Sorry John, but those communist dictators knee-jerk cited by ignorant or dishonest Christians unused to criticism were never atheists. They merely replaced the previous state religion with one of their own making. Stalin and Lenin had a groundwork of centuries of the state controlled, massacre friendly, Orthodox Church. Mao took advantage of the groupthink and cultural duties of Chinese traditional to further his ends. All lessons learned by religious institutions.

      But you know that already, yet you repeat the same nonsense over and over again. So what was on the belt buckles of every soldier in service of the Nazis “God is With US” (Gott Mitt Uns)

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        When openly atheist leaders take over a country it seems that forever their evils are to be blamed on mistakes Christians made in the past.
        The Soviet atheist run gulags were not the handiwork of atheists, but the residue of religion.

  16. Usually or at least the few atheists I know have cogent well thought out arguments for their position. Reading some of the atheists comments on this article made me laugh at their lack of knowledge. Many being as uninformed and irrational as things you might hear from the hardcore religious right fanatics.
    This one takes the cake: The US Constitution is Atheist. “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion”. Obviously this person has no knowledge of history, religion, the intent, or meaning of that phrase. To his credit he is very passionate about his belief system and he gave me a chuckle.

    • @Cken,

      “Obviously this person has no knowledge…”

      Oh – is that so?

      ATHEIST PARENTS to their children:
      “We will not establish a religion in this house. But you are free to have one.”

      ATHEIST USA CONSTITUTION:
      “Government shall make no law establishing a religion. But you are free to have one.”

      Don’t be foolish.
      Your freedom depends on an ATHEIST document.

  17. James, from all accounts that I have read, led an exemplary Catholic — and by definition Christian — life! He taught poor children in Chicago prior to his journalistic career. After his release he recounted praying the Rosary on his knuckles during his captivity in Libya. Fellow captives, since released, have told of him leading them in prayer and keeping their spirits up to endure the ordeal. He led a life of “Heroic Christian Virtue,” a requirement that must be proven in order for The Church to declare one a saint!
    The Church is a Divine institution, but populated by humans with a fallen nature. 2.5 million lives have been lost over Christianity in 2 thousand years. However, well over 300 million lives have been lost in the last 97 years over atheistic and secular wars!
    There are several rites that are Catholic other than Roman Catholic and their members, as well as Orthodox Christians and members of different Christian denominations are among the victims of “religious cleansing,” the stated purpose of the radicals!
    The debating with atheists is a distraction from the point of this article! I would recommend reading a new book entitled SOMETHING OTHER THAN GOD. I hope that any future commentators will stay on point!

    • @Roch W,

      “debating with atheists is a distraction from the point of this article”

      No it isn’t.

      When someone anoints someone as a “Martyr” they better be ready to explain and defend it.
      The topic here is MURDER under the direction of a God!
      The evidence of God (or LACK thereof) is keenly relevant.

    • @Roch W,

      “well over 300 million lives have been lost in the last 97 years over atheistic and secular wars!”

      Nonsense.
      Those wars were all religious, faith-based wars of ‘A GOD’ vs. Humanity.

      Stalin – Czar/miracles of Lysenko
      Hitler – Catholic
      Pol Pot – Theraveda Buddhist
      Franco – Catholic
      Hirohito – cult of the sun god
      Rwanda – Catholic

      “Bring to me those enemies of mine…execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27, from Hitler’s favorite; the parable of the minas)
      “Slay them where you find them” – Surah (Q’uran)
      “Kill them” – Yahweh (Torah)

      Faith is the enemy.

      • Leave it to Hitler and his propaganda machine to take a “sound bite” and twist the intended meaning to suit their own purpose! As stated, Jesus is telling a parable, and Luke 19:27 is the last line of it. Jesus is still speaking in the voice of the nobleman turned king in that Bible quote, and not his own. Parables are allegorical and “slay” or “execute” are referring to being sent to hell.
        If one reads the article again, then notice that the title, IS JAMES FOLEY A MARTYR? … and I failed to address that question earlier. There is little doubt that he is! The real question for The Church to answer is, “Is he a Holy Martyr?” One witnesses to the Christian Faith not in describing a vision, but is martyred when one is killed for living that faith or dieing rather than renouncing that faith. Many churches will call for someone to “witness,” and by that is meant to recount their personal experiences with the Christian Faith. If James is officially proposed as being a Holy Martyr, there will be exhaustive research into his life and the circumstances of his death. — Note that The Church never speculates as to who is in hell, but only searches for the truth as to who is in Heaven, is a model of Christ, and thus can serve as a model for us all! These comments will doubtlessly not be a part of that research. I do not intend to offer any further comments beyond these.
        Thought the mentioned leaders may have been brought up in a faith and, maybe, practiced a faith at some time, it is obvious that they were not practicing any faith in God as they led their respective countries into war!
        I would challenge all atheists to recite the following: “Dear God, please strengthen and deepen our love for You, especially for those soon to meet you for judgment! May we all love You with our whole hearts and souls, and our whole minds and strengths. Through acts of loving You, may we love our neighbors as ourselves and as Jesus has loved us! May we love our enemies and do good things for them and pray for good things to come to our persecutors! Amen!” I believe that this sums up all of the commandments that Jesus gives us all in The Gospels. I love you all through Christ and wish you His Peace!

        • @Roch W,

          You said, “slay” or “execute” are referring to being sent to hell.”
          Gosh. Not according to the victims of The Inquisition.
          It will also be a big relief to the victims of the Tai-Ping Rebellion where 45 million people were slaughtered for Jesus.

          “Slay them wherever you find them” – Surah (Q’uran)
          And how is that working out for James Foley?

          When it is too dangerous to take the Literature LITERALLY what
          does that say about the quality of the Literature?

          Religion is useless, barbaric nonsense.

        • @Roch W,
          “I do not intend to offer any further comments beyond these.”
          You don’t have much of a reason to. You have no argument.

          “may we love….as Jesus has loved us!”
          It is not nice to curse people.

          HOW JESUS ‘LOVED’:

          JESUS – I WILL DISMEMBER PEOPLE WITH A SWORD
          “The master shall cut him to pieces” – Jesus (Luke 12)
          JESUS describes what he intends to do to his own enemies.

          JESUS – I SHALL RETURN TO EXECUTE MY ENEMIES
          “..bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King, and execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

          JESUS – YOU SHOULD DROWN THEM
          “Drown him with a millstone” (Matt 18:6)

          JESUS – KILL YOUR CHILDREN THE WAY GOD TOLD YOU TO
          “And why do you break the command of God
          for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ ” (Matthew 15:3)

          JESUS – YOU MUST JUDGE OTHERS HARSHLY
          “…if they are unworthy..REMOVE your blessing of peace.” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

          JESUS – I CAME TO BURN UP THE WORLD AND DESTROY IT
          “I have come to bring FIRE…What constraints! I am impatient to bring NOT PEACE BUT DIVISION.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)

          JESUS – HATE THOSE WHO LOVE YOU
          “Hate your parents…hate your life” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)

          JESUS – I’M A MAFIA GODFATHER. DO IT, OR ELSE.
          “Eat of my body” and “Be baptized and believe” or “Be condemned to Hell” – Jesus (John 6:53-54) (Mark 16:16).

          JESUS – I WILL KILL THE CHILDREN MYSELF
          “I shall kill her children with Death” – Jesus (REV. 1:22-23)

          JESUS – I WANT YOU TO LIVE IN A HOUSE FULL OF ENEMIES
          “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death…for ME.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:21)

          JESUS – I’M HERE TO RUIN YOUR LIFE AND ALL THAT YOU LOVE
          “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his daughter, and a daughter against her mother, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:35)

          JESUS – JUDGE THEM FOR GOD’S WRATH!
          “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet AS A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM.” – JESUS (Luke 9:3-5)

          Instead of wishing you martyrdom or ‘love of jesus’,
          I shall wish you something much better in parting:

          “My best wishes to you Roch W.
          for a life of love and peace”

          • Again, you have taken all of this scriptures out of context and are using them to defend your biased position.

      • Your quote of Jesus, Max, is not a quote of Jesus. It is the quote of a noble man in one of Jesus’ parables. It’s not too late for you Max, to open your eyes and stop denying the Truth. I pray that you would read the poem “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson. God is at your heels my friend, throughout your life. Stop for once and let him catch you! Only a fool believes modern man is a descendent of monkeys! Christianity is NOT a religion. It’s not about what you have to do in order to get to heaven! It’s about what has already been done for you. It’s a belief. You either believe Christ died for your sins or you don’t. James Foley as a Christian martyr in service of Christ has no better chance of getting into heaven than you do! However, you must believe in Christ! Life is short. Eternity is forever. I’ll pray for you, Max.

  18. I must make an additional comment. The framers of the constitution also penned the Declaration of Independence which states “…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …” The Founding Fathers were well versed in philosophy and, to a lesser degree, theology, so they knew that “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” are God given Rights. To include unalienable Rights as Rights in the constitution or The Bill of Rights would imply that, if the government could give them, then it could also take them away! They knew that that was and is not the case!

    • @Roch W,

      I do not have a creator but I have a maker.
      I was made by the Cosmos – stardust – science proves that much.

      When you assault the Agnosticism in the Establishment clause which gives us Separation of Church and State you threaten your own freedom from other religions:

      “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion”

      Be glad for it. Otherwise neither one of us would be free.

  19. I have already proven the point. Now more “quotes” are listed with no context. I urge readers to look them up and see how accurate they are and to see in what context they are! Case closed.
    Through Christ, may His love and peace be with you all!

    • ‘listed with no context’…OK, but what proper context could there be for some of those expressions of jesus?

      As for James Foley, he was murdered for nothing except to show the world that Islam is an religion out of nightmares. This is the dark ages oozing out of the ground.

      • Max,

        The staunch Religious are imbedded in their own theology. Don’t try to argue any point with them, for they are insulated beyond the ability to think outside ‘that’ box. They are right and everyone else is wrong. They would say that Holy Scriptures were only ever written in Roman Catholic verse and NEVER Koine Greek. They want to take credit for God Himself … hence the number of Atheists in the world :)
        They do not even realize that they cut their own throats through lack of Spiritual Ingenuity. I see the poster completely missed the “message” on what is meant by Witness. If it does not draw attention to their religious agenda as somehow “holy” or promoting Religion god, it is in their very adolescent view, in error. I have read their posts on many forums and have seen the “reproduction” mindset void of original thinking. The Gospels are NEW … Good News is NEW … just as WITNESS is of NEW Voice (see story of Stephen). Those of the catechisms of the OLD do not see NEW, hence the fracturing. The Spirit Holy cannot be “contained” … Paul says:

        Being manifested, that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.

        *I am not trying to convert you as I am not OF Religion (explained this already) … just sharing that believers are not all of RW’s mindset.
        And I should note that we are in a Day where “gentler” is not poignant, or I would be as I was on other forums a few years ago, however …
        Peace, and yes, much Love.

        • @Opheliart,

          “Don’t try to argue any point with them, for they are insulated beyond the ability to think..”

          Not true.
          I was a devout Christian once – for 44 years.

          I raised my children in the Church, had them baptized, and taught Sunday school. I sang in the choir.

          The nightmare of religion will not end if we give up.
          We must try to awaken the thinking parts of all brains before the world destroys itself in holy war.

          I only confront the religious when they make assertions and claims they cannot defend.

        • Ophelia, dearest one. You are so lovely and patient and kind. Your words are steeped in a search for knowledge and truth, but Not all relgious folk are steeped in doctrine, just as you are not truly free outside of your own pre-determined social, political and material world views.

    • Some of us are hoping to inspire atheists, like Max, to let God save their souls and are praying to God give them that inspiration! Readers, look up the “bible quotes” and see if they even exist! One can even do that on the Internet. I will do some for you, but realize that just because someone put it on the Internet does not make it true! Consult a dictionary rather than come up with rather silly definitions! Even if Sr. Mary 4th Grade gave the definition, still look it up before attempting to impose it on others!
      Luke 12 — Reread this a few times and by no stretch of the imagination can anything there be interpreted as stated above!
      Luke 19:27 — Yes, Hitter’s favorite — already explained above.
      Matt 8:6 — Matt 8:4-6: “Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
      “And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me. But whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” So Jesus says that for such a person it will be even worse!
      Matt 15:3 -Matt 15:3-7: “But he answered and said to them, ‘And why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and “Let him who curses father or mother be put to death.” But you say, “Whoever shall say to his father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God,” does not have to honor father or his mother.” So you have made void the commandment of God because of your tradition.” Jesus is quoting Mosaic Law to the Scribes and the Pharisees. They had established this tradition so that they could be seen giving bigger sums to the Temple with trumpets and fanfare, and Jesus calls them on that!
      Are you getting the idea yet? I’m doing this on my phone and it’s somewhat tedious. Do not take everything at face value! I urge you to look up for yourselves what I have presented as well as what Max presented!
      Additionally, I know of many scholars who are Catholic and consult the Koine Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew texts of the Bible. Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. for one. He has a website and is a principle among God’s instruments on EWTN!
      Loving you all through my love of God and praying for you all too!

      • Please forgive any errors in syntax in my comments above! I reconstructed it rather late — for me anyway — last night, after losing it do to a loss of Internet signal.
        I also ask for your prayers to whatever possible higher power that you might accept, that I be given the strength to endure the excruciating but unexplainable pain with which I live. It is especially painful today! I know that God will not give me more than I can bare without giving me the strength to bare it! But it would be a great consolation to think of you readers praying, or whatever word that you choose to use, for me! I thank you in advance! I love you!

  20. Yes, James was absolutely a martyr….He was kidnapped and brought to their attention because he was an American. He stood by his faith however, which certainly contributed to his death. James could have bargained for his life at the end in desperation to survive, but he would not compromise. He prayed actively and sustained his prayers throughout his ordeal and morally upheld his fellow grieving and suffering prisoners with courageous fortitude and supportive encouragement. He displayed a selflessness throughout his life, sacrificing a normal, quiet life with a life that exposed evil in the hopes of changing it for the better. Finally he happened to be Catholic which fulfills the criteria for sainthood formally speaking. Informally I certainly believe many non-Carholics are candidates for “officially recognized” sainthood, such as Martin Luther King, who also died pursuing truth and justice, actively bringing about a better world, even at great risk to himself and of course a great belief in God.

    Finally the others such as Steven Sotloff may well be as as virtuous, if not more so, but because they are not Catholic, the formal proceedings of the Church can not take place, but this in no way diminishes their ‘rank’ in heaven.

  21. @Fran,

    You said, “False religion will be put to death :-D

    And clearly you enjoy the idea? And I suppose the last one standing would have to be the evidence of which one was true?

    Well, others thought like that, also:

    “EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” – JESUS (LUKE 19:27)

    Are you saying, ‘Let the killings begin’? In the name of Jesus?
    I submit this religious ‘logic’ for public review.

  22. “Repent”

    To say you are sorry
    for something you did not do
    to offend a thing
    who you cannot know, see or hear
    and who insists will not be appeased
    for His satisfaction anyway
    For reasons you do not know.

    It is a wholesale destruction of the morality in the meaning of the sentiment, “I am sorry.”

  23. Yes, Max, those who misrepresent God, lie about him and teach that God torments the wicked forever or that God is a trinity (3 Gods in one), or that all good persons on earth go to heaven after they die and all wicked ones to burning hell forever, or that homosexuality or same-sex marriage is approved by God and abuse by priests of children is acceptable by God, or that God does not care or love mankind, or that God delights in the death of the wicked ones (he wants them to repent and turn their lives around) are deserving of God’s judgment against them; they have slandered God’s name and his wonderful purposes for mankind through the centuries!!!

    The truth will finally be know by ALL nations of peoples on earth and his name, Yahweh/Jehovah will be sanctified and vindicated worldwide by all mankind as well!!! (Isaiah 11:9) :-D :-D :-D

    You will see the destruction of false religion with your own eyes!!!

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    […] His Miami family’s spokesman added to their statement,  switching from English to Arabic to say, “Steve died a martyr for the sake of God.” But RNS’ Brian Pellot in his blog On Freedom says Sotloff and Foley, a prayerful Catholic, died for freedom, not faith, and hence are not religious martyrs. […]

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