Last week, I wrote about the wrongheadedness of describing Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of the Newtown massacre, as “Evil.” The word “Evil” very often connotes not merely moral judgment, but divine judgment, so as much as secular people might want to appropriate the word for nonreligious ends, most Americans will inevitably associate it with hazy notions of sin, the immaterial soul, eternal punishment, etc.
On Friday, NRA president Wayne LaPierre went on a rambling tirade, some of which I quoted in a post. Here are another few telling lines:
The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?
This shtick is obviously intended to stoke fear, in part because fearful people are more likely to purchase firearms, which benefits the gun industry on whose behalf LaPierre lobbies. But also note how LaPierre characterizes Lanza: an “Evil” monster who is “driven by demons.”
No one yet knows how to explain Adam Lanza’s actions, but it is highly doubtful that demons are what drove him to carry out the massacre. In fact, there is no good evidence for the existence of demons to begin with, just like there is no good evidence for the existence of any other supernatural entity.
When “Evil” is treated as a satisfactory explanation for aberrant human behavior, there is less incentive to discover the true cause of the behavior.