The news coverage since the capture of Osama Bin Laden has been fascinating. And yet a number of questions remain: Did Pakistan know his whereabouts? Has the death of Osama hurt Al Qaeda or emboldened them? And yet still an important question remains that few have asked—Was Bin Laden a homicidal maniac? After all, could any normal person call for the death of over 3,000 people? He must have been insane, right?
The day after the news of his death, Bill O’Reilly twice referred to Bin Laden as a “homicidal maniac” during the opening comments of his show on Fox News. The first definition of maniac is, “an insane person, especially one who suffers from mania.” Whether or not O’Reilly meant for maniac to be understood in this way, others have said Bin Laden is “mentally imbalanced,” “insane,” and “wired wrong."
But why would we think Bin Laden was insane? What evidence do we have? The underlying reason many people think of Bin Laden as insane is not actual evidence, such as a psychological profile, but the secular worldview that dominates our culture. Secular Humanism is based upon the view that humans are naturally good, or at least neutral, and become corrupted by society (or religion). Thus, normal humans would not act like Bin Laden and harm so many people. Therefore, he must have been insane, mentally imbalanced, or maniacal.
But a Christian cannot accept this analysis, because the Christian worldview has a very different understanding of human nature. While we believe humans have intrinsic value as image-bearers of God, and are responsible for our actions, human nature has been profoundly corrupted by sin. In Romans 3:10-13, Paul writes, “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they deceive with their tongues. Vipers’ venom is under their lips.” In other words, apart from God’s grace humans naturally rebel against God.
While I personally have not done a psychological analysis on Bin Laden, I find no reason to think he was insane. In fact, there is reason to believe he was very rational. Egyptian radical Sayyid Qutb has increasingly been recognized as the foremost thinker behind the worldview of Osama Bin Laden, and the rest of the radical Muslim world. His book Milestones is a brilliantly written treatise calling Muslims to return back to the pristine state of original Islam.
Charles Strohmer said, “The methodologies and goals of the political and religious actors it [the worldview of Bin Laden] produces are sometimes labeled ‘irrational’ by Western analysts, but nevertheless it is something of a coherent and calculated worldview, one that is based on a particular set of religious, political, and historical assumptions that lie at the heart of Sayyid Qutb’s writings” (Christian Research Journal, Vol. 29, No. 4, p. 20, 2006).
Bin Laden was not insane. At least there is no good reason to think so. He acted with perfect consistency according to his radical Islamic worldview. While our secular culture may want to explain away evil as insanity, Christians know the root of the problem is the rebellion of the human heart against God. Jesus said, “What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from without, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these things come from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).