First Reaction from the Right: Secularism Caused the Shootings
Huckabee has the whole answer to the school shootings. I knew some loon would come up with this, but did not expect it to come from Huckabee:
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee attributed the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in part to restrictions on school prayer and religious materials in the classroom.
“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News, discussing the murder spree that took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT that morning. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”
Yes, that’s right. If only had those children been praying, that man would not have murdered them.
This statement is rather demented, in a couple of ways. Aside from his apparent lack of understanding that the attack came from outside the school, not from within it, he is essentially concluding that “removing God from our schools” resulted in horrific violence being done. Because religious people are all non-violent pacifists, of course. Unlike those mass-murdering atheists.
Huckabee then went into detail about his reasoning:
“[W]e’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment,” Huckabee said. “If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”
This statement seems to move Huckabee more towards the rationale that acts like this happen because we aren’t a religious enough society, which, in my opinion, is not much better. It makes the old, conceited presumption that if you don’t fear God’s wrath, you are more likely just to do any damned thing you want, thus we have a violent society. You can’t be good without God.
That’s essentially what other fundie notables are saying, like Eric Hovind:
Are you happy now that the shooter grew up in a school without God?
Christian talk show personality Bryan Fischer had this even more twisted point of view:
The question’s gonna come up, where was God? I thought that God cared about the little children? God protected the little children? Where was God when all this went down? And here’s the bottom line: God is not going to go where he’s not wanted.
He elaborates, saying essentially that God would have stopped the shootings if only we had not forsaken him in public schools. This is particularly reprehensible; he is saying, directly, that if we do not make our public schools religious, God is going to allow anyone to enter these schools and massacre the children.
OK, first, let’s set a few things straight. At the top of that list, prayer is not forbidden in schools. Only prayers led by school representatives is banned. But prayer is not. Kids can pray anywhere and everywhere they like, so long as it does not interrupt class proceedings. They can (and do) pray outside the school (e.g., around flagpoles), they can pray in clubs on school property, they can pray in the hallways, the schoolyards, the cafeteria, whatever. Personally, to themselves, they can pray practically all day long. The only prohibition is one the prevents religious discrimination.
Second: There is no evidence I have ever heard of that correlates religious education with lower crime rates or greater ethical behavior, even if one ignores the vast oversimplification concerning such a statement. As I pointed out above, this belief is simply a conceit by religious people who see their morality and behavior as superior, often helped along by the belief that only religious people can be truly moral. Many in fact believe that if you do not have religion, and in particular fear of judgment by your creator, then there is nothing holding you back from doing anything immoral. Millions upon millions of atheists beg to differ.
Third: Even if there were some pacifying effect given by a specific sort of religious study, why assume that public education is the vital missing factor? If children are raised to be religious at home, and if they attend church, and if they pray privately in school, then why do they not have these morals instilled from all that exposure to religion and religious teaching? This is similar to the Wall Street Journal editorial which assumed that so long as one small corner of society is not expressly 100% religious, then things fall apart.
In fact, you may have heard that the guns—several handguns and rifles—belonged to Adam Lanza’s mother. So the first thing you ask is, why was this woman so heavily armed, with not just handguns but semi-automatic rifles as well? Some reports now have that she was a survivalist, and that her son was home-schooled; while these reports are unconfirmed, if they are true, the typical home-schooling survivalist types tend to be fundamentalist Christians. Which would mean that Lanza, in fact, was schooled religiously. Once again, if these reports have any veracity to them.
Lastly, and most important: are these people—Huckabee, Hovind, Fischer, and likely many others—not aware of how sickeningly offensive their statements are? Do they imagine that the parents of the slaughtered children will not be horrifically enraged by the suggestion that God killed their children as a punishment for secular schools?
So, what is the solution? How do we fix this?
Naturally, the sad truth is, there are no easy or sure-fire fixes. In this particular case, gun control probably would not have made a difference. Lanza was turned away by a background check and waiting period—but he instead simply took his mother’s guns, which were legally purchased. If Lanza took a semi-automatic rifle into the school, that may have contributed, but in all likelihood, the other guns he had would probably have been enough to do the same damage. Certainly, not having a semi-automatic assault rifle in an elementary school is better than having one. Better mental health treatment probably could have done some good, but recognition and intercession are less than perfect. We supposedly became more sensitive to this after Columbine—but little seems to have changed.
We will find out more as time goes on, but it is likely that the details of this case will show us how hard it would have been to screen in any and all ways to prevent it.
That said, something is obviously happening in our society, as is evidenced by the alarming increase in gun massacres.
There is no magic solution, no silver bullet that will fix everything. However, there are steps we can take that will alleviate problems in specific areas that will help society in general, and hopefully at least slow cases such as the one we are now witnessing.
Gun control is one of them. Our gun laws are stupid, as is the paranoia of those who rush to gun stores when a tragedy occurs or if Obama is elected. Currently, we have very little in the way of comprehensive gun control. Background checks and waiting periods have helped, but there are too many loopholes, too many places where these things make no difference. We need to eliminate all loopholes like those at gun shows. All gun sales, public and private, must be subject to the same scrutiny. It is insane that an 80-year-old grandmother should be forced to go through intense scrutiny when she buys Sudafed, but a convicted felon can easily buy dozens of weapons at a gun show. We need limits on the number of guns people can buy per month/year; we need bans on weapons and features designed to kill but which have no relationship to self-defense; we need laws concerning the storage of guns; we need better training and licensing; we need universal registration of both weapons and ammunition. There is so much that can be done, such as all of the above, and still allow every law-abiding citizen to be armed more than sufficiently for home defense and sports usage. And yet people wet their pants if any of the above are even suggested at a serious level.
Better mental illness diagnosis and treatment is needed. I know little about this, so I cannot go into detail. But I think few would argue with this point. Nevertheless, much needs to be done—not just talked about and then nothing happens.
There is much more than even that, however. To a certain extent, we as a nation have to change our attitudes. Our attitudes about a broad range of things, from basic civility to the way we value life. This cannot be legislated; it must be decided. We cannot be a nation which passionately shouts in approval when it is suggested that a poor man be allowed to die in the street before his community raises even a finger to help him. We cannot be a nation which is so strongly opposed to basic humanity. It has now become popular among the right to refuse to give a shit about others, to dismiss and reject others, to treat them as less than human. We can no longer afford this selfish disregard.