Is Edward Snowden a Buddhist? If one were to read the widely-circulated AP profile on the NSA leaker, one could be led to believe so. In the media scramble to glean meaning about Edward Snowden’s 29-year old life and the possible motives for his actions, reporters have been sniffing along his online trail, including sifting through more than 750 comments he left on the technology blog Arstechnica. Mining Snowden’s writing about personal freedom, privacy, and security (he posted under the pseudonym TheTrueHOOHA), the AP writer offers this nugget:
“In another post that fall, he mulled the politics of personal identity.
“‘This is entirely dependent on the individual — as is the definition of freedom. Freedom isn’t a word the [sic] can be (pardon) freely defined,’ he wrote. ‘The saying goes, “Live free or die,” I believe. That seems to intimate a conditional dependence on freedom as a requirement for happiness.’
“In that discussion, Snowden mentioned that he had identified himself as a Buddhist in paperwork he filled out for the Army. And in May 2004, he enlisted, with aspirations of becoming a Green Beret.”
Well, isn’t that interesting: on top of everything else, Snowden is a self-identified Buddhist! Or is he?
Papers like Israel’s Haaretz turn it into an assertion:
“He is a self-proclaimed Buddhist who joined the army in the hopes of becoming a Green Beret and fighting in Iraq…”
But if we turn to the New York Times’ profile, we learn an important lesson in selective editing and the danger of relying on just one news source when determining facts. Here’s the relevant passage:
“Toward the end of 2003, Mr. Snowden wrote that he was joining the Army, listing Buddhism as his religion (‘agnostic is strangely absent,’ he noted parenthetically about the military recruitment form). He tried to define a still-evolving belief system. ‘I feel that religion, adopted purely, is ultimately representative of blindly making someone else’s beliefs your own.’”
So it seems that regarding Edward Snowden’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we must remain agnostic as well.