Well, here we are again – in the aftermath of another mass killing in America.
People all over this country are searching for answers – how can something as tragic as this occur? What kind of beast murders innocent children in cold blood? What could have been done to prevent it?
Many people see the need for better gun control laws as a start, while others hold on to the mantra that guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people. That debate will peter out in a few days – regardless of how tragic, how violent, how heinous the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was, we are all so entrenched in our views on firearms, the “debate” is near worthless.
Far less tragic than yesterday’s loss of life, but tragic nonetheless, are people putting forth the notion that god, or the lack of god, has something to do with this senseless act.
Yesterday, without knowing at the time about the details of the Connecticut shooting, I posted on my Facebook page a data point taken from the latest United Kingdom census. It showed that over the last decade, UK citizens have experienced over a 10% drop in those affiliating with Christianity as their religion, with a corresponding rise of those choosing “No Religion.”
I noted in my post: “a positive trend!”
A friend responded to my post, obviously shaken by the Connecticut shooting, with the following:
“If you look at the way the world is crumbling, especially in light of today’s awful massacre in CT, I’d have to disagree with saying it’s a positive trend.”
Then I read former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s response to the shooting:
“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? We don’t have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem. And since we’ve ordered God out of our schools, and communities, the military and public conversations, you know we really shouldn’t act so surprised … when all hell breaks loose.”
There is more than just a tinge of Westboro Baptists in both these sentiments. Westboro Baptist has already put up on their website that “God sent the shooter to Newtown, Connecticut.” WBC will undoubtedly set up protests at the funerals of the small children murdered by 20 year old Adam Lanza.
I understand people are grieving right now – the thought of such incredible violence perpetrated on innocent youth is almost more than the average person can bear. In such times, we turn to that which comforts us – for many of us, that is a just and kind god. We want to pray for comfort, for understanding, to ease the pain of those who’ve lost loved ones. It’s a human emotion – cathartic and necessary.
But as we look past the grief to understand the reason behind it, we are bound to have problems understanding.
What troubles me is that we have two types of pseudo-religious rationales being put forth in the quest for an answer:
1. If people had more faith in god then we would live in a better world where crimes of this nature would not take place. Or
2. Because people are losing their faith in god, he is punishing people for their sin (i.e., their lack of faith in him).
I suppose that latter rationale was popular in ancient Greece and Rome as well, when Zeus or Poseidon would express their displeasure at human actions by throwing lightning bolts or sending storms to topple ships, people got a sense that the gods were angry.
Rationale #2 is the essence of Westboro Baptist theology! God is angry! Get right by him or more children will be shot by lunatics. If you are not on his good side, you will be punished.
That line of thinking scares the living crap out of me! It emboldens believers to push a faith-based policy on this country (prayer in school, god in government, etc…). Successful implementation would lead to inevitable discrimination against those that do not believe – after all, they are ultimately responsible for god’s loving anger!
I noted that the rise of non-believers in the UK was a positive trend for one big reason. Among the Nones, atheists especially stand out in understanding the value of life – with the full understanding that this is the only life we have. It is finite and precious! While not every humanist may be an atheist, almost all atheists at their core are humanists – with, in my opinion, a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the sanctity and value of life.
Without a belief in an afterlife, or a willingness to have conversations with invisible deities (worded this way because if an atheist were to have a conversation with an invisible voice, they would be more inclined to seek psychiatric assistance than to listen to that voice in their head…), from what I’ve gathered over the years, atheists hold the human condition in as high regard, if not higher, than their religious counterparts – which obviates rationale #1.
I know we are all suffering in the wake of the Newtown shootings, looking for answers, looking for reasons, looking for comfort. The notion that if only these kindergartners been able to pray in their school then this crime would have been averted, is beyond ridiculous – and in fact, offensive!
We’d probably be better served by having that worthless debate on gun control…