Interesting Coincidence about the Colorado Shooter’s High School…

Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert is taking well-deserved heat for suggesting that taking God out of school is the reason James Holmes killed people in a movie theater in Colorado:

“People say … where was God in all of this?” Gohmert said. “We’ve threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed … I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.”

As details are being released about the killer, one friend noted an interesting coincidence. Holmes graduated from Westview High School in California.

That happens to be the same school where Bradley Johnson teaches math. Johnson, if you recall, is the teacher who thought it was a good idea to hang these banners in his classroom:

In God We Trust
One Nation Under God
God Bless America
God Sheds His Grace On Thee.

All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their CREATOR

I’m not at all suggesting there’s a link between the two. I don’t even know if Holmes had Johnson as a teacher.

I am saying this: If Gohmert believes this tragedy happened because God was taken out of the schools, it’s worth noting that Holmes graduated from a high school where a teacher had those godly banners in place. Christian Right groups supported that teacher during his case because they wanted “God” to remain there.

If you believe there’s a link between religion in schools and how the students do later in life, here’s even more proof that you’re wrong.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Glasofruix

    Oh the irony

  • Istj04

    How many want to bet that this WHACK JOB of a shooter was a “believer”, and NOT an atheist at all? 

    • eric

      I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t matter. He could be either. Statistically, he’s likely to be a believer because of the demographics of our country, but that’s only relevant if you also think it would be relevant if he were an atheist.

      • ElRonbo

        Well, atheists aren’t known for thinking God ordered them to kill people, so yeah, kinda relevant when you’re talking about mass murders. There’s frequently a religious motivation, whether its “God told me” or “I hate Muslims/Jews/Christians/whatever”

    • AdriBurns

      Only because he was working on a PhD in neuroscience, I’d actually be surprised if he is a believer.

      • Randomfactor

         By reports, he started out that way and was active in a Presbyterian church.

        • http://www.facebook.com/baylus.brooks Baylus C. Brooks

           Well, that explains it!  He was learning that God doesn’t make sense and trying to reconcile that with what he had been brainwashed and indoctrinated since birth to believe… that can cause a monumental amount of stress!  :)

      • Ridcully85

        It’s only relevent because of Gohmert’s response. Otherwise, I agree.

    • Glasofruix

      I’m going to bet that he also had video games that are going to pop in this case at some point.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesus-Chrystler/1797838676 Jesus Chrystler

      His pastor apparently saw him at church just weeks before.

    • Jesus Jihad

      Well I don’t see how that is possible when his degree is in science. Atheist claim Christians reject science.  So one way or another the atheist are wrong.

      • ElRonbo

        Atheists don’t claim Christians reject science, that’s a complete straw man argument.  Darwin (like many scientists) was deeply religious. Creationists reject a part of science.  But funny how the people who don’t believe in evolution will believe in modern medicine, or gravity (which is, after all, just a theory!). 

      • PAL52

        Nonsense. Historically, Christians and all manner of believers have been intimately connected with the scientific process. No atheist would dispute that, but many of today’s religious leaders and their cheerleaders in the Grand Old Tea Party routinely and loudly reject the science they don’t care to believe in.

  • Lauren Lane

    I’m so glad you wrote about this–I was just about to send you a link! Can you believe this shit? Ugh.

  • Pearlzm

    There is also a very high probability he wasnt religious at all Istj04, he was doing PhD studies in neuroscience.

    • Cheryl

       Neuroscience is just the study of the nervous system.  I’m Christian and I still believe in the study of sciences.  Why is there a higher probability that this guy wasn’t religious just because he was studying neuroscience??? That makes no sense whatsoever!   There are Christian scientists, physicians, physicists, etc. all over the world.

      Whether he was a “believer” or not has very little to do with anything.  As someone else said, the statistical probability due to American demographics of his being affiliated with some area of faith is fairly high.  However, being a “believer” and being an active participant and follower of a religious deity are completely different.  There are plenty of people who do bad things and claim to believe in God.  Then there are those whacked out weirdos who do bad things in the name of God.  And in fact, most heinous criminals (murderers, pedophiles, rapists) are or have been associated with religion during their lives.  However, those who have a true understanding of who God is and what he wants from us aren’t usually religious radical fanatics who have violent tendencies.

      But to suggest that God not being in the schools is somehow to blame for this is just preposterous and insane.  This is a country founded on freedom of religion.  We cannot have freedom of religion and still tell people which “god” they have to worship.  There is no freedom of religion if everyone is condemned for not following this or that religion.

      The odds are good that this kid had a crappy childhood in some way or another.  Bad people are not born; they are created by their home life, their school life, the people surrounding them, their environment.  If this kid was abused, bullied, abandoned or suffered other traumatic events in his life, then odds are he was destined to turn out a menace to society.  No one who ever had the stereotypical ozzie and harriet childhood grew up to be a mass/serial murderer.

      • Randomfactor

         I think the odds are this guy has some sort of longstanding organic psychological disorder; that his parents knew about it but didn’t take any steps to make treatment mandated, and that it wasn’t entirely a surprise to them when the Colorado cops called them.

        For what it’s worth, I believe he was a Presbyterian and that it was entirely irrelevant to his breakdown.

        • paisleycat

          If he has a mental disorder, how do you know that his parents have not tried to obtain professional help for him? Even as a minor he could have refused help in California.

          • Randomfactor

             You are right.  I still have a gut feeling that he was, and they didn’t, but we should all wait for this to shake out. 

            • Skippy

              But it can be damned hard for parents to find treatment for a child’s psychological/emotional problems even when they know the child needs help.  Just adding another point here.

              • http://www.facebook.com/daria.rizzi Daria Rizzi

                it could be hard to find help if you don’t have insurance, money, a computer, or the wherewithall to find the help your child needs.

          • http://www.facebook.com/daria.rizzi Daria Rizzi

            often people with mental disorders are not aware they have them. they might realize they’re different, but don’t know what/why/how/where to get help. If help is offered, it’s often refused, or they don’t stay on their meds. Often parents of children with mental disorders have them too and didn’t get help (because they didn’t know where to go or even realize they had problems or that they could receive help/treatment for their conditions). Isn’t it usually schizophrenia that’s diagnosed  when people hear voices that tell them to do horrific things like this? That would be an organic problem that’s only compounded without treatment, and further compounded by abuse, neglect, and watching too much TV, i.e., Fox News.

        • Xeon2000

           I agree.  He probably had a neurological vulnerability, and that mixed with social/media pressures and potentially any drug triggers may have tipped the scales.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/RHLPQ6W2FKL6G3KPNCJFWKVZPI Cheryl

           Generally speaking, mental disorders are rarely solely organic.  While I fully understand that mental disorders are often genetic, many times they do not manifest themselves except after a traumatic event or a long period of repeated traumatic events.  And as to his parents, we don’t know yet about his history or childhood.  But I can say with assurance that parents don’t always know what’s going on, and they are not always looking for something to be wrong. 

          I have bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.  I’ve had quite a bit of trauma in my life.  It was trauma that may not have affected someone else in the same way it did me, but it was my personal trauma and it had its affects on me that it did.  I will say that there is other mild to moderate mental illness in my family, but that’s only to show that I agree that it’s genetic.  I’m sure there were signs in my childhood, but my dad wasn’t around and my mom was too busy working to recognize anything that wasn’t physically wrong, like she would have noticed a broken arm or something.  lol  

          But I don’t kill people.  I don’t hurt people.   I don’t see myself as a victim and I don’t think that everyone should suffer or pay for the hell my life has been.  However, from my years in support groups, hospitals, therapists, psychiatrists, I’ve come to realize that it’s really HARD almost impossible for a lot of people with my disorders, especially the borderline disorder, to come to a place of complete, inner self-honesty and be willing to take on the full responsibility of coping with and treating their disorder(s).  I’m not perfect.  There are a lot of things I’ve done that I regret and am ashamed of.   But I am not a victim of my illness, and I don’t use it as an excuse to be a total shit to other people.  I consider myself a survivor and feel that I am doing the best I can to be the best person I can be.  But too often, those with mental illnesses like mine that allow them to be lucid the majority of the time, continue to bitch and moan about what a rough lot they got in life and continue to play the victim, using their childhood trauma or their mental illness as an excuse for them being a scourge on society.  Those people look for excuses for their behaviors and actions, rather than coming to terms with the fact that regardless of their life, they made choices that they maybe didn’t have to have.

          And that’s not to negate what I said earlier when I said that all the most evil criminals in the world have a history of horribly traumatic childhoods.  I still stand by that statement.  But, as we all know, not all who experience childhood abuse and bullying become mass murderers.  All serial killers had crappy childhoods, but not all people who’ve had crappy childhoods became serial killers.

          • Isilzha

             
            Actually, “evil” behavior can absolutely have a completely organic origin:

            http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/4022.php

            • http://profile.yahoo.com/RHLPQ6W2FKL6G3KPNCJFWKVZPI Cheryl

               Indeed, that’s why I said “rarely” and not “never”.  lol   And that’s also why I’m a huge supporter of medical and neurological research.  The fact of the matter is that we actually do not know everything there is to know about the human brain and its functioning abilities.

              I honestly do try to never say never. :)

      • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

        Whether he was a “believer” or not has very little to do with anything.  

        It has a lot more import than you think.

        If it turns out he’s a believer the media will paint him as a crazed whack job who is in no way affiliated with any modern organized religion.  Many religious pundits will voice the same old standbys, “He’s not a True Believer because True Believers would never do that.”  Basically they’ll all go into “Religion Protection Mode” and do everything they can to convince everyone that he’s an outlier, that his faith is impure, untrue, and unrecognizable to any other religious belief.

        If he turns out to be an Atheist the religious, especially Faux News, will start screaming about how all our talk of morality and goodness without God is just a smokescreen and that we’re all a bunch of immoral individuals waiting to ambush unsuspecting people everywhere they go.  That only the fear of the law and God, remember that according to them we still believe but say we don’t so we can rebel against God and not follow his rules, keeps us from doing so en masse.   All Atheists will be constantly and collectively vilified for the actions of a single individual.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
        • http://profile.yahoo.com/RHLPQ6W2FKL6G3KPNCJFWKVZPI Cheryl

          Well, but that was pretty much my point about his “believer” status not really being anything but incidental.  The members of Westboro Baptist Church are “believers”, who truly think they are doing the work of God.  In MY opinion, they are a bunch of self-righteous, hateful ass hats who are using God as an excuse to wreak havoc on society.

          Then there are people who go through life, knowing somewhere in the back of their mind that God exists but living a mostly pagan and secular life (“believer”, but not an active participant in religion).  In other words, they just don’t really think of God all that often.

          And there are agnostics, of course, who are unsure and waiting for that one true sign to tell them for sure.

          And then there are atheists, non-believers.  The problem with many Christian believers is that they automatically think if a person is an atheist that it’s basically the same thing as satanism.  What they fail to realize is that without God there is no Satan.  If atheists don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in Satan.  Immorality and evil have nothing to do with being atheist.  A million people across the globe are atheists, but they make up a very small percentage of violent offenders, from what I can tell.  Partly because of the population demographic ratios involved, of course.  But I also just don’t believe that atheists are inherently bad people just because they don’t believe as I or other religions do.  Just like I don’t believe that professed Christians are always good people. 

          The fact is that people are people … we are all human.  In my personal belief system, I believe that God gave us all free will to live our life as we choose, and gives us the opportunity to come to him on our own decision.  But outside the religion arena, we are still human and we all possess good traits and bad traits.  We all make mistakes. We all are not nor will ever be perfect.  But I think the majority of us, regardless of our belief system, are content to be a part of society without a malevolent agenda toward our fellow inhabitants.

          So regardless if this kid was a “believer” (devout or absent-minded), or  if he was agnostic or atheist … to me that has no bearing on the fact that neither are likely the core reason for him doing what he did. 

          • Info

            God has done what he has always done through out history… NOTHING.  If it is to be… it is up to me.

            You cannot convince
            a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it is
            based on a deep-seated need to believe.

            Carl Sagan

      • Isilzha

        However, being a “believer” and being an active participant and follower of a religious deity are completely different.

        However, those who have a true understanding of who God is and what he
        wants from us aren’t usually religious radical fanatics who have violent
        tendencies.

        Oh, yes, it’s very common for xians to say this type of thing.  The problem is, there really isn’t a ‘true’ xianity except in the sense that it’s exactly what each person believes it to be.  No two xians actually really believe exactly the same thing.  Amazingly though, god and religion seem to frequently line up neatly with what they already believe and what they WANT to be true.  God’s a funny chameleon like that.  Sometimes he hates gay people, sometimes he love them and hates the sin and sometimes he just hippie-dippy loves EVERYONE!  However, for you to not believe that xianity isn’t violent, immoral and just downright nasty is so funny considering all the horrors your dirty, evil book contains!

        No one who ever had the stereotypical ozzie and harriet childhood grew up to be a mass/serial murderer.

        I doubt ANYONE has ever had a childhood like that and if they did, I’m not sure it would actually be a very healthy one.  BTW, it’s not just environment that makes a person who they are, genetics and basic biology have a huge impact too.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/RHLPQ6W2FKL6G3KPNCJFWKVZPI Cheryl

          I understand what you are saying.  I guess I was speaking to my own views and my own beliefs.  I choose to see my God (chameleon that he may be, lol) as a loving ,forgiving and blessing God.  And I suppose as you’re saying, I somewhat project my thoughts and my beliefs onto others as to whether they are “true” believers or not.  That was a wrong choice of words, I suppose.  I’m certain that most cult members and members of Westboro Baptist Church are extremely strong in their beliefs that they are following God the way they should.  But I certainly do not mean to say, and I am sorry if I did, that TRUE believers aren’t dangerous, immoral, violent.  ANYONE at any time can be a horrid person, blame on their religion or use their religion as a basis or whatever.  But from my own belief system, I think that those people are warping and distorting the God that I believe in, but of course, you are right … we all have different perceptions of who God is to us.

          As to that dirty/evil book, I have to say that I’m not a Bible thumper.  I would LIKE to believe that some of the larger generalities have some truth to them, but the Bible has been interpreted so many times by so many different people with likely very differing agendas and perspectives, that I hold scant hope that the Bible is word-for-word accurate.  We all know stuff gets lost in translation, distorted in the retelling, subtle changes made either knowingly or not.  Just do the Secret Game (assemble a group of people, tell one a detailed secret and tell them to pass it along, and it’s totally different by the time it gets to the last person) and the proof is right there.  To think that the Bible would have survived countless translations over the last 2000 years is really kind of absurd. 

          I’m not very popular among most Christians because I try very hard NOT to pass judgment on others.  I am in support of the separation of state and church.  I am pro-choice.  I am opposed to the death penalty.  I am a Constitutional Libertarian and mistrustful of my government.  I am not racist or bigoted.  I think this war on terror is a joke and the war on drugs is a bigger joke.  My wishful prayer is that we could all live in peace, harmony and equality, respecting of our differences and not hell bent on converting anyone to our personal belief system.  Because regardless of who God turns out to be to us believers, we are all only accountable for ourselves and how we lived our own lives come judgment day.

          (and the ozzie harriett comment was tongue in cheek.  I know no one’s life was that picture perfect.  However I do know that as “normally” dysfunctional as one person’s life may be with divorced parents, weekend visits, parents who hate each other and being caught in the middle, etc.  most of those do not compare to some of the horrors of constant and repeated sexual abuse, vicious beatings, cruel manipulations exerted by the parents a child is supposed to trust to love and care for them)

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

         On the contrary, sociopaths and psychopaths ARE, in fact, born that way.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/RHLPQ6W2FKL6G3KPNCJFWKVZPI Cheryl

           Having a degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on abnormal psych, I respectfully disagree.

          • nickandrew

            Don’t just tell us your qualifications, point us to peer reviewed papers which back up your disagreement.

            • snoofle

               As wmdkitty made the original statement, shouldn’t she have to back it up first?

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                No, because I did not make the original claim, that is, that psychopaths and sociopaths are somehow “made”.

                Cheryl needs to back up her assertion that these people aren’t born damaged.

  • Guest

    I don’t know about this. My opinion usually lines up with this blog, but this post just seems brash and anecdotal. Can we just leave this one alone for a while and let people grieve for a bit (and maybe get some actual facts about the guy) before we start being inflammatory for once? I received two emails today, both trying to get me to give monetary support to both political parties, with this incident as the basis for the need for their support. It makes me want to not support either, and this article makes me not want to support you.

    • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

      I believe you don’t understand the intent of this post. Religion in general and Christianity in particular are not being attacked or blamed here. What is being given is a reasonable response to baseless and spurious comments made by Louis Gohmert claiming that secularism is the cause of this tragedy and pointing out their invalidity. In spite of the establishment clause, god is not absent from our schools in general and this school in particular. Religion is almost certainly not the cause of this tragedy but a lack of religion is not the cause.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

    I just find it interesting that Gohmert believes that God’s “protective hand” is only present if you tack up posters and make references mandatory. This also alludes that only non-believers would be shot or killed, ever.

    • Randomfactor

       Could be worse.   It used to be only lamb’s blood would work.

  • SpaceChief

    Louie Gohmert is such a Christian, he casts votes in Congress that hurt veterans and troops – though he wasn’t shy about supporting our wars either.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    “If you believe there’s a link between religion in schools and how the
    students do later in life, here’s even more proof that you’re wrong.”

    Well, there IS a link, it’s just not what Gohmert thinks it is. (In fact, it’s rather the opposite of what he thinks it is.)

  • Me

    I almost hope this nutcase tries the Zimmerman defense “It was all God’s plan” just to see how  Gohmert and the rest react to it

  • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

    FAIL,lol.

  • Mbbski

    It seems that the “Peer Review Paper” is this blogs bible.  Hmmm.  Just a man’s interpretation of nature…..interesting….so a ‘scientist’ (especially an atheist scientist) can write his observations in report form and it becomes “gospel”…..but what if I see it differently?  My observations may not be your observations…does that make his observations or my observations less true?  Just asking…….

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      A scientific paper doesn’t become “gospel”. It presents evidence that others can test for themselves (and for anything controversial, almost certainly will). Peer review does not ensure that the contents of a paper are true, only that the author has not made any obvious errors in methodology. It is nothing more than a screening mechanism to ensure a minimum standard of quality.

      It does not matter how you, or anybody else, “sees” things. It matters what evidence you can present that supports your views.

      The simple fact is, when it comes to understanding nature, nobody has come up with a better way than the scientific method, or the current publishing model for supporting that method.

  • laughingatsilliness

    Lame, and really tenuous at best.

  • Oxburgerd

    If God being out of the picture is a contributor, than why are the palestinians and israelis still killing each other in Gods name? Where is God when those atrocities are being committed.

  • Hyster

    You won’t find many atheists saying that this killing spree (or any other) was “God’s will.”  

  • coreypaul

    Id like to petition congress. I am trying to inact a law that allows someone the right to defend oneself if they feel threated…oh wait, this is that law already in place where I can “Stand My Ground” if somene looks at me side ways, or intimidates me in anyway where I believe they may cause me harm. Well, supporting laws that make me a second class citizen, supporting US actions that create more Middle Easterners to hate me, to treat me different because of my beliefs…these all have the scent of “Tiller the Killer” vibe that scars me. Don’t I have more of a right to defend myself against people like Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert than some misguided young person has about life? Don’t I and shouldn’t I have the right to make sure those who desire to harm me are stopped? Damn….where did I put that gun of mine….oh wait, I don’t own one, because I know I have the right to defend myself against those ‘Gohmerts’ of the world, that I may actually have to pay him a visit, not only for myself but for the nation and the world. (Sounds a bit crazy huh? Just using the same mindset conservative Christians do to show how very insane they are)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HLHT7QC663JMYVBNWSEQDUWEBI BuBaH

    Was I the ONLY one who read the referenced/cited articles? Mr. Mehta needs to retract this story, immediately:

    James Holmes graduated this highschool in 2006 (see article Mr. Mehta referenced). The God praisin’ teacher didn’t attend the school until 2007 (see Mr. Mehta’s *own* article). When he put them up in Holmes’s *former* school, the teacher was told by the school to take them down. He sued. He won. Then Atheists sued. in 2011, They won, and God got taken out (again, Mr. Mehta’s *own* article).

    Rest assured, James Holmes never had that man as a teacher, and he had a perfectly secular, non-Godly public education, and that paritcular school never willingly allowed those signs to begin with. I haven’t heard of a shooter coming from the schools that did allow them - but that’s not proof of anything, right?

    This is extremely embarassing for anyone who calls themselves a “Free-thinker” or “Skeptic” and just blindly posted bigoted/religious bashing remarks accepting the author’s ill-reasoned, and irrational premise – considering his OWN evidence does not support his conclusions AT ALL.

    Please Mr. Mehta, post a retraction – a correction – anything to keep yourself intellectually honest. Your own words will ruin your credibility if you do not correct this upon the error being pointed out. I was linked to this article via the Religious News Service, who is convinced you have a point, and will be informing them of this massive fact-checking error as well.


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