Why Religious Explanations of the Newtown Shooting Fail

This is a guest post by Brent Brookhouse. Brent is a boxing and mixed martial arts writer living in Southwest Michigan and a longtime reader of The Friendly Atheist.

***

The “pray for the victims and their families” posts that fill my timelines on Facebook and Twitter in the wake of a massive tragedy always leave me somewhat baffled. I suppose it’s the idea of praying to a deity who had just allowed the tragic events to happen to ease the pain of those affected.

While that confusion isn’t unique to me, I don’t go out of my way to be offended by the idea of Christians praying to ease suffering. I understand the idea of wanting to offer some sort of help to families and a community suffering from unbelievable amounts of anguish. And, assuming you believe in a God who can help those people, I understand asking God to be there for them as there is really no other “help” you can offer (although Ericka offered a great list of things an atheist can do in these situations).

There’s another side to the Christian response, though, and it’s one that gets to the core of why a non-believer’s lack of faith is strengthened in these horrible moments.

In the days before the shooting there was one of those obnoxious self-made e-cards floating around, blaming crime on a lack of Bibles in schools. I saw this no less than four times on my Facebook feed:

This is, of course, inaccurate on a number of levels. Bibles are not banned from schools. Similar to the Harry Potter series or Animal Farm or any other books, they can be read by students at lunch, on break, between classes, and any other time as long as it doesn’t interfere with classroom learning.

Then, there’s the fact that prison population studies certainly don’t seem to bear out anything that would lead someone to believe that a lack of good ol’ Bible-reading is what is landing people in jail. Lack of religion simply doesn’t correlate to an increase in criminal behavior — and you can’t cure mental illnesses by being reminded of the Ten Commandments.

What did the prevalence of these sorts of ideas do in the wake of the horrible tragedy in Newtown? You had extreme right-wingers coming out of the woodwork to say that God couldn’t come to the rescue of those kids because he doesn’t go “where he is not wanted.” (I’d like someone to share that information with all those evangelists who claim they’ll pray for Jesus to enter my heart.)

As a result of those kinds of comments, you have memes like the above e-card spreading online. Once you plant those seeds, it only takes a single incident for them to grow. Unfortunately, the most recent tragedy was one of the worst in American history.

The “problem of evil” (a.k.a. theodicy) has always been used to illustrate the failings of the concept of God, but to frame it in this discussion:

  • An omniscient God would know that the incident was going to happen.
  • An omnipotent God has infinite power to stop the incident from happening.
  • An omnibenevolent God — or even just a basic “loving” God — would want to prevent the slaughter of innocent children.

So trying to reconcile the idea that God was apathetic because he is “not wanted” in school, or angry because school-led prayer/Bible study is no longer allowed, doesn’t seem to line up with any sort of concept of a “loving God.” To suggest that God could have intervened to protect children but didn’t because of anger at decisions made by people those children have no concept of or control over is so disgusting, it serves to drive many atheists (or those sitting on the fence) further away from faith.

The defense Christians often give to this argument is that God couldn’t intervene because he gave man free will. But couldn’t God have allowed the shooter to enter the school with guns but jammed all of them so that he couldn’t harm anyone? Couldn’t God have saved the children through any means that didn’t involve changing the motivations of the shooter?

If the answer is “no,” then you forfeit all right to claim that this same God “protects” or “saves” lives in any other situation (like car crashes, drownings, heart attacks, etc). God either does or does not have the power to protect the innocent. And saying that “his ways are beyond your understanding” is the mother of all cop-outs.

The fact that it’s impossible to reconcile something like what happened on Friday with any God deserving of worship is why atheists are, in my opinion, able to handle these situations with more perspective. By understanding why the concept of God doesn’t work in these tragic scenarios, we aren’t stuck focusing on the “work of the Devil” or trying to take advantage of the tragedy to push an agenda of exclusionary religious politics in public institutions of learning. We can look at this as what it was: an extremely troubled young man committing horrific acts against innocent victims. We can push for a need for better access to mental health services. We can push for better gun control laws. We can look to science to try to better understand the way the human brain works. But we don’t have to waste time promoting God.

Living without God allows us to focus on pursuing realistic explanations and solutions to societal issues. That should always be the focus, not agenda-driven nonsense.

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.

  • Birdie1986

    Excellent post!  I can’t tell you how many comments I have typed and then erased when my friends have posted BS comments on FB about God and Jesus.  The worst was one with a picture of a teacher reading the Bible to a group of school kids while Jesus was sitting there and had some inane verse about 20 children storming through heaven’s gate and meeting Jesus.  I wanted to say something like this, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with the flack or getting comments about being a “heartless” “angry atheist.”

    • http://IAmDanMarshall.com/ Dan Marshall

      I saw that, too… but on reddit, not on my actual facebook feed. I’m fortunate enough to not know anyone quite that callous and stupid.

    • Miss_Beara

      I would have deleted the people long ago. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. 

    • OverlappingMagisteria

       I got that one too and wanted to write “I’m sure the 20 children are just thrilled that they were shot last Friday!”  but i don’t want to be a jerk. Let them have their comforting delusion during a tragedy like this.

    • Octoberfurst

       I can totally identify with you on this!  My religious friends have been posting nonsense about this tragedy and it keeps showing up on my Facebook feed.  It’s all, “The children are now in the loving arms of Jesus” or “We have taken God out of our schools so should we be surprised when things like this happen?” It drives me nuts and many times I have started to reply but then stopped because I realize that by injecting sanity into the discussion that I would be blasted as a “heartless atheist.”  I’d get things like, “How DARE you mock people’s faith at a time like this?”  So I figured it would be better just to not say anything.  But it really is hard not to.

      • Kscauzillo

        Agreed. Not only is that nonsense utter crap, it is sappy and maudlin on top of that. And the worst part, for me, is that I feel like people resort to this kind of “spiritual comfort” to kind of paper over the reality and that’s part of the reason nothing meaningful ever changes.

        You can say some prayers, attend a vigil and post the “angels in heaven” picture and then feel like you’ve done your part and go back to ordinary life. Meanwhile the outrage and determination to get political action movement never goes anywhere.

        • Octoberfurst

          Indeed, they say their prayers in church , post some maudlin script about how the kids are all happy in heaven now on Facebook and go home thinking they have done something.  But actually DOING SOMETHING to prevent this from happening again? Hell no, they’ve done their part!  It just makes me roll my eyes.

      • allein

        I posted something about this yesterday in another thread. My cousin’s daughter (she’s 19) quoted that disgusting Mike Huckabee video on Facebook and I really wanted to say something but I am just not good with confrontation and I can’t even come up with a coherent set of words to say what I think of it. I also saw one from another friend who said something about how the kids have been shown “grace we do not know,” and they were “souls called home” and not “taken”…makes me want punch something.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Even if you entertain free will as a justification for allowing this to happen, what kind of loving God would favor the will of the shooter to shoot children over the will of the children not to get shot? Nobody ever talks about the free will of the victims.

    • Miss_Beara

      THIS  is exactly what bothers me in the “god gave us free will” argument. The “free will” always is in favor of the one doing the violent act. A murderer and the victims. The murderer has free will to murder people, even children, the victims have no say in the matter. A rapist and the victim. The rapist has free will to rape women, men and children, the victims have no say in the matter. It makes me sick, this “free will” bullshit. 

      Is it God’s Will™? 

      Is it because Everything Happens for a Reason™?

      Or maybe because God Works in Mysterious Ways™?

      Or Jesus Was Calling Them Home™? 

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

        Jesus keeps trying to call me home, but I have caller ID and don’t pick up.

    • JustSayNo

      To the Theists AND Atheists who could not wait to score internet point off of all this…you are all scum.

      Look at this article, its almost bubbling over with glee at the chance to take swipes at believers…never mind that science and doctors undoubtedly provided the SSRI’s that put the shooter in his psychotic state.

      Mehta, you have nothing to offer the victims or their families, I mean that most sincerely.

      • Pedro Lemos

        Actually, Hemant made a post specifically questioning what could be done for the victims or their families. In a practical manner, instead of, you know, praying, which is as good as nothing: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/12/15/what-can-atheists-do-when-horrible-things-happen/

        Let us know what you´ve been doing for the victims and their families these days…

      • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

        Yes.  This.  I agree.  Because responding to disgusting political opportunism with public disagreement supported by careful reasoning and cited facts is . . . somehow . . . the same as . . . 
        No, wait, that’s wrong and I don’t agree.  Never mind.

    • Bad_homonym

      I don’t buy the free will argument when god is concerned. He is omniscient, so he knows that one of his creations will be a murderer. He is the creator/designer, therefore he is responsible. After all, a little tweaking and his creation wouldn’t do this. If there were an omniscient, and omnipotent god, his creations could only work as they were designed to! It’s not a flaw in my decision making or free will. I am functioning as made!

  • Larry L.

    Well said!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=673639291 Ignacio Valdez

    besides…when it comes to gods, they’re pretty badass and no one can stop them from going where they are not wanted. I woild refer you to Egyptians, Sodommites, Gomorrahns, citizens of Jericho and i would refer to gods like Zeus, Mixcoatl, Anhur, Ares, Freyja and even Playstation’s Kratos…i think these people were thinking vampires. Vampires are beings that cannot enter where they are not wanted.

  • Jon Peterson

    One guy shoots ~30 kids and adults in a school: it’s because those damned dirty atheists stopped some teachers who were mandating that their students participate in religious activities.

    A whole crew of guys hijack and fly 4+ planes into various buildings (or get stopped in midair by some exceptionally heroic individuals), killing more than a hundredfold that number on privately owned property where there are no laws prohibiting privileged promotion of a single religion (just anti-discrimination laws): it’s because of …………?

    A natural disaster of a type that’s been occurring repeatedly as long as the earth has existed occurs in a place that is now occupied by humans: it’s because those damned dirty atheists mumble mumble mumble obviously at fault.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the Christian Right mentality.

  • Quintin

    I must point out a semi-fatal flaw in the second paragraph after the image. It’s a fact well known among atheists that having read the bible thoroughly and above all critically and the chances of being in prison are inversely correlated.

    • Artor

      Yup. If I recall, atheists are significantly under-represented in the prison population.

  • MartyM

    Yeah I couldn’t take the posts that “God was banned from public schools” on my FB feed.  I wrote a semi-lengthy post attempting to put some reason into the topic.  I got some good feedback and one negative one.  Most of my conservative evangelical friends probably read some of it and passed over the reset.  Much like I do to their posts of “Like if you love God, pass if you don’t”.

  • Bastionofsass

    Those trying to reconcile the beliefs of Christians about a loving, all powerful and all knowing god with terrible tragedies like the murder of these children is “God works in mysterious ways and we cannot really understand it.”

    So one one hand, they claim to know exactly what their god wants on a long list of subjects, but on the other hand, really, we can never understand him. Um, yeah.

    • Bastionofsass

      Ugh. That first sentence makes no sense.

      I meant to write:

      Those trying to reconcile the beliefs of Christians about a loving, all powerful and all knowing god with terrible tragedies like the murder of these children is to realize that these same people also believe that “god works in mysterious ways.”

      • Bastionofsass

        Well, that also doesn’t make sense. I give up.

        • Antinomian

          That’s OK… Who among us can make sense of the senseless?

  • Call The BS

    There’s something else that really bothers me about all the well meaning but completely useless  prayer that followed the shootings: it somehow seems to shift the discussion away from the issue of gun control and makes people inadvertently turn to the supernatural not just for healing but also for preventive solutions – it instills an attitude of “I’ll pray for this to never happen, but do… well, not much else since I’m leaving it in the hands of god to protect us in the future”. It’s a subtle phenomenon but it’s powerful.  

    • PegK

      All the nonsense talk about the babies being angels now and in heaven really gets to me too.  It totally devalues human life when people are deluded into believing this is just a dress rehearsal.  I can understand how tempting it is to tell little children their friends are in heaven but a far better and more honest answer would be “I just don’t know.”  If more people believed that this is the only life we get there might be far more outrage and way more effort put into preventing this from happening again.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        that is a wonderfully concise statement on the problem and why atheists and non-theists MUST speak out at a time like this. a society that sticks its head into invisible sand each and every time when events like these happen for “answers” is doomed to suffer more and more like them in the future. 

        right wing (and much of center and leftish wing) america has been doing this since the 80s and before, but the volume really got turned up during the bush 2 years and this is the result. every time a progressive wanted or demanded at least a sane, reality based conversation on topics like the need for more and better mental health facilities/access, a discussion about the state of bullying in our schools, or the lasting effects of unregulated home “schooling,” or the need for more math and science education, or FSM help me, sensible gun regulation and safety, we were met with screams of “but what about jeebus??? jeebus wants me to have as many guns as i want! it says so in the bible, our nation’s constitution!”

        and 75% of not batshit crazee america and its media sighed silently, and sagely nodded their heads in agreement. “yes, we must include this valuable perspective. forgive us for being inconsiderate of your beliefs. please, explain more, in detail.”

        this is why i am a proudly MILITANT atheist, and yes, i’m being “rude.” i don’t own a weapon and i don’t want to kill anyone, ever. but i’m not going to shut up about how these ridiculous beliefs are literally KILLING OUR CHILDREN. 

  • Troels Jakobsen

    The defense Christians often give to this argument is that God couldn’t intervene because he gave man free will.

    That is the common excuse, and the cliché explanation for why God allows evil. Of course, it doesn’t prevent those Christians from simultaneously claiming that God performs miracles all the time. So much for consistency.

    • Gary

      Yes.  Religion is like clay, it can be massaged and molded as needed to fit the situation and from what have observed,  God is only responsible for the desirable things that occur and has no control over the others.  That sounds reasonable. Doesn’t it?  uhhhhmmm

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Minor nitpick:  Theodicy is not synonymous with the problem of evil. A theodicy is a solution to the problem of evil. (Or, more accurately, an attempt at a solution.)

    For example, “God does not interfere with free will” is one very popular theodicy.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    You know, I think most of these people could resolve the “problem of evil” by giving up the idea that their god is omnipotent. I’ve seen some of the more liberal theists say things to that effect. They’re left with a loving, but weak, god who can’t prevent tragedies but cries with the victims afterwards. Nonsense, sure, but it’s got to be more comforting to believers than thinking their god is vengeful or callous.

    • AJG

      One of the more interesting ideas that has popped up in evangelical circles in the past few decades is the idea that God does not know everything that will occur, or that the future does not exist for God to know.  It’s called open theism.  Calvinists absolutely despise it because it robs their god of some of his awesomeness, but it does address issues of theodicy better than anything I’ve seen in Christianity.

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        That makes a lot of sense. It baffles me why people try to hang on to a “four-omni” deity when so many of their problems could be solved by giving up one of the attributes. Obviously, they wouldn’t want to give up omnibenevolence, but omniscience or omnipotence seem like good compromises, and it would stop people from torturing themselves over why their deity allows innocent children to be massacred.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    That image lead to the severing of my FB ‘friendship’ with a relative who has been driving me nuts.  So, it hasn’t been all bad.

    (Said relative, as an adult, thought it was great fun to see how quickly he could make an 8 year old cry.  Go Team Jesus!)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I have a very religious
    neighbor and he keeps saying this happened because we took his god out of
    schools. When I remind him that a school shooting took place at an Amish school
    or people have been gunned down in churches he will play the free will card.

    He has also
    been parroting Huckabee since he opened his mouth and he was a tad surprised
    that I already knew the bullshit he was spewing but he is the kind of person
    that wished Huckabee had become President.

    Sad part about
    this neighbor is he really is a nice guy and if I asked him for a favor he
    would gladly help if he could. He is a good person but his views about the
    world are very warped.

    • Artor

      It’s frustrating to watch religion do bad things to good people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

      Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug. Your logic won’t work because him admitting those things would shake the very base of who he thinks he is, and he likely doesn’t want to or can’t handle that.

  • ortcutt

    Theology is Calvinball.  The rules are made up along the way in order to get the outcome that is desired.  God can do whatever it is convenient for the theologian that He be able to do.  Anything bad is the fault of human free will or Satan.  When we ask why God allows natural evil, like tsunamis, it’s because the Japanese are wicked or something (or maybe it’s Satan).  And when all else fails, they can always pull out the ultimate non-explainer and say “God works in mysterious ways.”  But remember, that all of this is deeply, deeply intellectually serious stuff so when you point out that it’s Calvinball, you’ll be told that you’re ignoring “Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope.”  

  • Boiled_Onions

    For atheists, the tragedy is much more tragic, because for the victims, that’s it; That’s all the life they get. It was a Christian who said something along the lines of “kill them all; let god sort them out”. It is in situations like this that one can understand the draw of a religious conception of the universe: a comfort and a “god of the gaps”.

    I would counsel against dismissing the ‘free will’ argumen. It needs serious thought and argument. It is a powerful technicality that allows for an all powerful benevolent god, and for gruesome actions to take place. It’s kind of like the prime directive in Star Trek. Free will is a conceptualization of autonomy, intelligence, that allows people to think of themselves as better than animals and even angels.

    • Patterrssonn

      I can’t see it as a very compelling argument myself. What is the point of free will if in order to make the right decision we have to abandon rationality and choose superstition and myth over reason. And then,once we’ve decided on religion over rationality, we have to guess which, among countless improbable religions, is true.

      Not to mention that God supposedly engineered the software and the hardware we use to determine what is or isn’t true. Don’t forget that god not only created the universe and everything in it but also but also the possibilities for every event including all our actions.

      And this doesn’t even take into account that our ability to make the right decision depends upon a collection of stories upon the meaning of which no one can agree. So no, for these reasons and many others I haven’t even started to mention, the free will argument is not only not powerful it doesn’t rise above absurdity long enough to be considered weak.

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      I don’t find the “free will” theodicy even remotely compelling. Actually, it’s an evasion.

      Keep in mind that not all suffering is human-caused; some of it comes in the form of earthquakes, tornadoes, plagues, pestilence, drought, and much more. These sorts of things have nothing to do with human “free will” because humans don’t cause them, meaning there’s no human decision-making behind them.

      Really, if one is absolutely convinced the universe was created by an omnipotent being, there’s no possible way to avoid holding him accountable for any and all suffering within it. He created the universe, therefore anything and everything in it … including suffering … is ultimately his doing. Had he not wanted a universe with suffering in it, he could have chosen to create it instead. But he chose to create this one, which has suffering in it.

      No theodicy works, because if the putative creator-being is assumed to be truly omnipotent, he can never logically be absolved of the existence of suffering. It’s just impossible.

  • Belle6977

    Could not have written these feelings better myself and I tried twice today with FB posts. Thank you for writing this.

  • Jenprohaska

    There was also a fatal shooting at a casino.  Is it because we’ve taken God out of the casinos?  And what about the shooting in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham?  Perhaps God was taken out of the Catholic hospital as well.

    All this has made me sick to my stomach on top of the overwhelming grief I’ve felt over the shooting.

  • Lloyd Braun

    I appreciate you exposing the flaws in the beliefs of those that think they are helping. However, bad things, however you define them are orchestrated by an omnipotent God. Fundamental to Christianity is the belief that God predestined his Son to die a brutal death on the cross. So it is not a cop out to say his ways are not our ways. It is reality

    • Patterrssonn

      Christians deciding when god does or does not make sense, merely for the sake of theological convenience, is as big a cop out as you can get.

      • Heidi0523

        People make decisions and have beliefs according to your own worldview.  Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  That is where their value system comes from.  

        I believe that God is bigger then my understanding. If I understood everything about God I would be a god or equal to god. I am not and I can accept that. 

        It has nothing to to with “Theological Convenience”.  Perhaps denying the existence of any god (s) or making up ones own code is a bit more Theologically Convenient” then trusting in the God of the Bible.  Just a thought. An Atheist can change what you believe according to any whim or pleasure.  A committed Christian cannot. So what is more “Theologically Convenient”

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

          Christians change their beliefs all the time, to fit with changes in culture.  No more polygamy.  No more slavery.  Women speaking in churches.  Anyone and everyone changes their beliefs for a multitude of reasons.  

        • Patterrssonn

          “An Atheist can change what you believe according to any whim or pleasure” Unfortunately or fortunately reality is not quite so fickle. Just try not believing in gravity and see how far that gets you. “A committed Christian cannot.” Sure they can, in some instances god is omnipotent but in others, ie evil and suffering, strangely impotent. He’s responsible for everything and nothing, Christians give thanks for surviving a plane crash as though god actually acted to save them but no Christian would claim that god actually caused the plane to crash. Also apparently god makes good things happen because he/it loves humans but bad things? That’s a mystery beyond our understanding, we just have to accept there’s some kind of plan. I realize part of the problem is Christianity has inherited a bunch of myths and stories from a bloodthirsty xenophobic bronze age tribe along with their angry murderous warrior god and somehow has to reconcile this god of hate with the god of love they like to picture the new testament god to be. It leads to confusion, schisms and endless cherry picking, how to decide which parts of the “Word of God” to follow and which to sweep under the rug. For example god is still against homosexuality but stoning children to death at the city gates for disobedience? Apparently he’s changed his mind on that. And how do we know this? Well we just do, because again sometimes we know what god is thinking and sometimes we don’t. Lets face it stoning disobedient children to death is just no longer theologically convenient.

    • Artor

      Reality? Did you actually say “reality?”

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “So trying to reconcile the idea that God was apathetic because he is “not wanted” in school, or angry because school-led prayer/Bible study is no longer allowed, doesn’t seem to line up with any sort of concept of a ‘loving God.”

    Not only that … it doesn’t line up with any concept of an omnipotent God. I ask this in all seriousness: Why would an omnipotent being care whether or not anyone prays to him? How could s/he/it possibly be affected by anything his/her/its creations say or do? It makes no sense to me that s/he/it would even want to be prayed at; it makes even less sense that s/he/it would become angry at a lack of prayer; and it makes still less to think s/he/it would actually destroy anyone or anything because of it.

    Believers take it as a given that their God wants to be adored and praised and worshipped and prayed to. But I seriously question why s/he/it would even want any of that. By definition, there can never be anything an omnipotent and infinite being needs, that adoration and prayer by other creatures or beings could provide him/her/it.

    To date no one has ever been able to explain this to me in any kind of meaningful way, not without having to resort to comparing their God to human beings who long for love and companionship. But assuming their God is anything like a human being with human social impulses, is an assumption whose basis is nowhere in evidence.

  • NoYourGod

    The paragraph “If the answer is “no,” then you forfeit all right to claim that this
    same God “protects” or “saves” lives in any other situation (like car
    crashes, drownings, heart attacks, etc). God either does or does not
    have the power to protect the innocent. And saying that “his ways are
    beyond your understanding” is the mother of all cop-outs” reminds me of one of my favorite Bill Maher statements:

    “Stop calling disasters with a single survivor ‘a miracle’.  When 103 people die but 1 lives, that’s not a miracle – that’s god blowing a no-hitter in the bottom of the 9th.”

  • Ibis3

    After watching Huckabee’s first comment (the one they keep replaying on the US news) , she made a point about it that I hadn’t thought of myself and hadn’t seen anyone else make. She said “That’s horrible. He’s making an excuse for someone to do it again.”

    Yep. If God wants to punish you Americans for having an anti-establishment clause in your constitution by allowing mass shootings of kindergartners and first graders, it seems not too far-fetched to think that you, yes, you have been chosen to do the punishing.

    • Jas.

      Or if you know someone is about to shoot up a school with a Bushmaster rifle, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”  As long as we don’t have compulsory prayer in schools, I guess you don’t have to do anything.

      • Patterrssonn

        So according to fundie logic acting to prevent a massacre would be going against god’s will, unless children are forced to pray in schools.

  • roberthughmclean

    This dodgy god has failed again. Failing is all god/babyjesus/ghostthingy seems to do, or seems to do well. Every unpleasant event is more proof that there’s no god/baby jesus etc or that is if he’s there, he/she/it is completely useless, like a detergent washing out red wine (or jesus blood) stains.
    When a totally failed god remains useless after thousands of years of pious praying would suggest to most that worshipping the thing is a really a criminal waste of time.

  • Aspieguy

    I found it easier to process this horror without the trappings of christianity. I didn’t need to defend an imaginary god, hope the gunman would suffer in hell, or need to imagine children magically becoming angels. I truly want to see meaningful action on gun control, addressing the violence inherent in our society, and increasing mental health services.
    I certainly have no problem with people turning to religion in order to find answers to this tragedy. However, I fear that mythology and empty platitudes eventually won’t work. 

    • Heidi0523

      I don’t feel trapped  my faith at all. I don’t need to defend God. I don’t beleive people become angels when they die. I leave the judgement for the gunman to God. He knows the whole story. 

      I want to see meaningful action. I want to see mental health issues addressed. I want to see less violence in movies, TV, music, video games.  

      I want to do all I can to make the world a better place. Why? Because the love of God compels me.  Not myths, not empty platitudes, a true and living God.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

        I too want to make the world a better place.   Simply being human and having empathy for others compels me.  

      • Aspieguy

        Why are you trolling an atheist blog? Is it perhaps your religion isn’t offering you convincing answers?
        If your god knows the whole story, perhaps he would like to tell the FBI and other investigators. That would save them a lot of trouble. As it is, to keep knowledge of a crime to yourself is a crime in itself. Are you suggesting god is a criminal?
        Of course you don’t need to defend god. There is no evidence he exists in the first place. A “true and living” god failed to protect innocent little children. An omnicient, omnipotent god consistently fails to protect children. This makes him malevolent and capricious, completely unworthy of our worship.
        Atheists are not compelled by any gods to make the world a better place. We believe people are capable of doing that without divine help.
        You may wish to review Occam’s razor. A review of logical fallacies would help, also.
        Again, why are you trolling this site?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    shorter version of this post: god hates amputees. every last one of them. read that one a while back and i’ve used it ever since. the argument is mostly the same as yours.

    i took a whole class during my mdiv years on “the problem of evil.” which was their way of saying “why is god(s) so mean and how can we use our faiths to get people to forget that fact.” it was actually a really good class for me to take, because it covered lots of religious “answers” to the problem of the fact that despite all sorts of prayer by all sorts of people across all of time, evil remains and shit like a mess of dead kids happens on a daily basis, regardless of their or their killer’s faith. globally it is nothing more than cold hard fact to say “only 20 today? you’re doing pretty darn good there, America.” -The Sudan. 

    of course, as the wingnut apologists are showing us, the one thing religion is really, really good for is helping people learn to ignore even the  harshest of reality and “turn inward for Truth” (which usually entails muttering a bunch of mumbo jumbo while closing the eyes and lowering the head). dead kids in a peaceful new england town shot and killed senselessly by a loner in a house full of guns? i can’t talk about that right now, i’ve got to speak in tongues with an invisible sky fairly because i’m butthurt inside. that’s the important thing, and if i don’t he won’t ‘help’ me anymore!

    it was Job that did it for me. i read some of the most brilliant apologetics ever on that book, and they all failed to explain to me: why did god kill *all* the kids? wasn’t even one, maybe the youngest or something like that, “innocent enough” to warrant his mercy? there just is no satisfying reason why not. 

  • Patterrssonn

    “Why religious explanations of the Newtown shootings fail”. Because religious explanations fail.

  • Bruce

    By capitalizing on a tragedy to spout your own beliefs, you’re no better than the hard right christians you so loathe. Ladies and gentlemen, the mind of the hard left atheist. 

    Classy.  

    • Patterrssonn

      So because we’re criticizing Christians because they’re using the tragedy to promote Christianity we’re capitalizing on the tragedy too?

      But but, that must mean that by criticizing us you’re also capitalizing on the tragedy. Oh no now that I’ve pointed that out I’m capitalizing on the tragedy all over again.

      Aaaarrrgghh we’re trapped in an endless cycle of tragedy capitalization!

      • Scottlabbe

        Actually had you read what I said you would have understood
        you created the agenda from your own hearts. We are not criticizing you for saying
        Christians promote Christianity but creating a soap box for yourselves on less
        than what 2% of what Christians are actually talking about. So little of what
        is in this article is actually what is talked about among the mainstream which
        makes it a joke and Mehta driven, (Alla, his agenda). Therefore, no one is
        incorrectly criticizing you but trying to pull you off your soap box and get
        back to the real issue at hand…..Besides your argument is weak. Don’t correct
        somebody because we will be in a never ending cycle? Really!….Sounds like don’t
        Judge me……I simply said stop your agenda and work together…..I don’t feel the
        need to attack your none-existent god or your belief’s when something like this
        arises and you should leave my God out of it as well. I don’t feel the need to
        go find some magazine and now point out that atheist are attacking Christians
        for their views about God in regard to this tragedy. Which is probably 1 to 2%
        of you which actually discussing this issue. Let’s work together to help care
        for these families. This is not a circle….this has been someone’s personal
        agenda……and its not been a friendly atheist….He needed to be corrected as well
        as your reciprocal argument which is not reciprocal because it will now stop
        with me even if you continue to respond…You stand corrected just like Mehta…

        • Patterrssonn

          Oh the inanity!

  • Heidi0523

    I disagree. God is a just and a loving God. You don’t believe in God and that is fine. In an earlier day I would say with confidence - God believes in you:-) And mean it from my heart. In my older day, I know that sound very corny –  do people even say that any more? Anyways, I get irritated too with many of the Christians speaking for God. Perhaps there are many shades of atheism as there are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religions. I don’t know. But God is good and just. He could have stopped it – he didn’t. I don’t know why. I do believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love God. I have seen God use tragedies to do great things. I don’t know what kind of comfort that gives to anyone involved in the shooting. However, I can say that with many terrible things in my life, I have had a peace that passes understanding when those around me are  angry about what has happened to me. This is a great evil on a community.   I think people will find comfort in what they believe, no matter what that belief is.  I have not found Atheist reasoning any more logical or comforting – why? Probably because I am not an Atheist 

    • Oogieboogie

       “But God is good and just. He could have stopped it – he didn’t. I don’t
      know why. I do believe that God works all things together for the good
      of those who love God.”

      How can you say that with a straight face?  How is a 6 year old getting shot in the head “good”?

      • Heidi0523

        When and where did I say that? 

        • Oogieboogie

           “I do believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love God.”

          Let’s assume that at least some of these kids were indoctrinated by their parents to “love god”.  Ergo, your opinion is that this was done “for the good”.

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      Re: “God is a just and a loving God.”

      And what objective, verifiable evidence demonstrates this conclusively?

      Re: “He could have stopped it – he didn’t.”

      That he could have stopped the shooting, but purposely chose not to, is evidence that your God is neither “just” nor “loving.”

      Re: “I don’t know why.”

      You don’t know what the reason is, but you assume there is one? Really? How, exactly, does that work? Perhaps the “reason” is because your God is a malevolent creature who liked watching the slaughter. If, as you concede, you don’t know what the reason is, then you must also concede that might have been the reason.

      Re: “I think people will find comfort in what they believe, no matter what that belief is.”

      Obviously people are determined to “find comfort,” but that doesn’t mean the rationales they cook up in order to find “comfort,” actually have any validity or veracity.

      Re: “I have not found Atheist reasoning any more logical or comforting – why?”

      Just a wild guess, but I think it’s because you’re more interested in emotional “comfort” than you are in veracity or fact. You prefer whatever unfounded assumptions you and your fellow theists fabricate, to the cold fact that there is no logical way the Abrahamic God can ever be called “just” or “loving.”

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      But God is good and just. He could have stopped it – he didn’t. I don’t know why.

      And that should trouble you, but apparently it doesn’t.

      I do believe that God works all things together for the good
      of those who love God.

      And what about those of us who don’t believe in your god? We’re out of luck? Maybe your god will murder us in order to “work all things together” for those who love him?

  • Scottlabbe

    Wow, your ignorance defiantly forgoes you; linking most if
    not all Christians together in a hand basket well done. I have been a Pastor
    for over 17 years and a Hospice Chaplain for over 10 years and never once had
    the thought that this should be a call for prayer in school or for the Bible to
    read more now that people are becoming more violent……..I am also a clinical licensed
    counselor and therapist as well. I actually thought the same way you did just
    as a believer in God and Jesus Christ. But I suppose that makes me have an
    agenda and driven by none-sense. However believing in God just gives me the
    same thoughts as you but with just one other option……….I see you took the time
    to make an agenda and germinate the seed inside your own heart, rather than
    focus on the real issue at hand. You condemned others for doing the very thing
    you did. Forcing your own personal belief and agenda into the spectrum of a
    tragic moment rather than let the victims and families have their moment of
    grief and loss. You pretty much took the time to bash Christians over one tiny
    little article you picked up through the internet and then stood on your soap
    box. Sounds like a delusion Christian wanting to force the Ten Commandments to
    be thrust back in school or for people to read the Bible more in school. That’s
    sarcasm if you didn’t get it. I have yet to hear any of this garbage you state
    in your article on the news or internet and if it has been stated it is probably
    less than 2% of an aristocrats agenda. At first glance you may fool others or
    people who lack some training to read between the lines but your true colors
    show like a rainbow in the sky. Instead of bashing atheist I just consider you
    to be a fool making it worse on others who believe like you. Please before you
    speak for all atheist don’t condemn others for what you do yourself. I will
    pray for you and feel free not to pray for me……trust me I’m good with that and I
    think we should both seek what’s best for these families and leave our personal
    agenda’s out of it. Christians and atheist can work side by side for the
    benefit of all……Feel free to not believe in a God just don’t speak for me or my
    God that you know nothing about or very little about…… and I won’t go about
    calling you a fool for tell your children that they came from some soupy
    biological amalgamation that started from a big bang billions of years ago. Even
    though that takes a leap of faith as well…..Oh by the way spoons make people
    fat….Cars make drunk drivers and pencils misspell words….just like guns jam
    when they are pointed at people…..now that’s logical science….and yes its God’s
    fault we kill each other…..again this is sarcasm 

  • John Oberholtzer

    An event like this rocks all of us to the core, and the question of theodicy is inescapable for us all.  We are left groping in the dark, trying to find a handhold, a reason to latch on to.  As a Christian, I too flail in the dark, and in my confusion God gives me a slender, luminescent thread, and though it is small, it is sure.  That thread is hope.  “We are saved by hope” said the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:24).  This hope is not in my own reason (or delusion) or religion, but in a person, Jesus Christ.  We cry out in self-justified furor, “How could a loving God allow those children to die!”  This is the wrong question, the question we must ask is, “Why would a just God allow His Son to die?”  God loves you so much He sacrificed His child to save you.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  This is my thread of hope in the dark, what is yours?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

      Sacrificing his son to save us never made one whit of sense to me.  Some love. 

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        It doesn’t even make the least bit of logical sense. He didn’t allow his son to die. He created him to die. We’re talking about an omniscient deity who created a child specifically so that he could be ritually murdered. He was in control of the whole thing the entire time. If he didn’t want to to happen, he could have stopped it.

        Of course, the situation is morally twisted enough, but to pretend that their deity actually suffered for something he chose to do is ridiculous. Their deity didn’t lose anything. His knew his son was immortal, so after his son suffered a few days of inconvenience, they met up in the afterlife. So how was it any kind of sacrifice for their deity? Sounds like a win-win situation for him.

    • cool

      So your hope is in no evidence to support it. Not really a good thing to base your life upon.  The reason you have a belief/faith/hope/trust, as you have no knowns/facts/evidence/truths. Base your life on facts, not beliefs

      Freewill is a major problem for your man made god. Your god would be like a cop who failed at the police academy first training exercise

      Exercise 1 –  protect and serve

      A kid gets shot,  a kid gets run over by a truck…..Oh says the god, I cant intervene in someone’s freewill, so in the end your god only looks like a delinquent/irresponsible parent/ cop that failed his duty/job. Not someone you really want to put any trust in

    • cool

      So you have hope in a god who murdered his own son/innocent person to forgive. Then asks you to partake in this immoral exchange, of a killing of a innocent. Your god should know killing innocent people is wrong. Clearly he doesn’t

       “How could a loving God allow those children to die!”

      Simple really your god is a delinquent/irresponsible parent. He really needs to take some advice on parenting. Your god could get advice from the teachers such as Victoria Soto  that actually tried to intervene the gunman. But your god was more interested in being a voyeur or maybe he just gets a kick out of kids being shot, rather than intervening

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Here’s an interesting graphic about prayer in school that I hadn’t seen before

    http://i.imgur.com/oYB7z.jpg

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Although looking through the list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States most of the early cases were single victim targeted, or accidents.  Other than the 1902 bombing incident, there aren’t any ‘body count’ cases until the University of Texas Massacre in 1966.   I still think it’s ludicrous to try to draw a connection between school prayer and mass shootings, but all the pre-1962 single victim events aren’t relevant to that debunking IMO.

  • sick and tired

    You people are so full of shit. People kill because they can. The guns was a means. You self serving people act like your shit doesn’t smell. If you don’t believe in a God, good. If you do believe in a God, good. Just call it what it was. Oh I’m sorry, because I’M an atheist, a hug, a service to my fellow man, financial contributions, any and all of us could ever do means a whole more because of what we believe. Fuck you and your horse you rode in.

    • Noudont

      I hope you’re looking in a mirror for that speech. Assuming it didn’t break first.

  • Defiant

    God and Jesus AWOL at Newtown

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      Unfortunately, religious people will argue that their god was there. They’ll just make excuses for why it allowed all those children to be murdered.


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