Is the God of Fundamentalists Worthy of Worship?

Daniel Fincke posted this collage of responses to the Connecticut shooting. It’s a lot of “atheists are evil,” but with quite a few “God’s banned from public school” rants thrown in:

In the wake of the shooting, Mike Huckabee, Kent Hovind and Bryan Fischer have all echoed the sentiment that God did not protect the children because teacher-led prayer has been banned in public schools. You can say many things about this view of God, but as James McGrath points out, you can’t call it Biblical:

I am glad that fundamentalists are finally being a bit more honest about what they mean by “God.”

They clearly do not mean an omnipresent being who cannot be excluded from any place. It’s quite a different notion from that encountered on more than one occasion in the Psalms, for instance. The ancient Israelite author never said “Where shall I go to flee from your presence? I know – a public school!” And in the Book of Jonah, the main character’s attempt to flee from the one who he himself says “made the sea and the dry land” on a boat is depicted as a fool’s errand. And could you imagine any ancient Israelite or Christian author taking seriously the notion that God could be kept out of somewhere?

I can see believing in a God who cannot act in an area that people have not consecrated by prayer. Or I can see believing in a God that is so vindictive that he would allow children to die in that place rather than act. What I can’t see is why you’d want to worship such a being. In a universe with a God like that it seems far, far better to be a misotheist.

So Long, And Thanks For All The Memories (From Dan)
Bob Cargill on the Holy Grail
All Cycles Come to an End
You Can’t Keep a Bad Man Down
  • Lester Ballard

    School shootings before the removal of prayer from schools in 1962:

    November 12, 1840: Charlottesville, Virginia. University of Virginia student Joseph Green Semmes shot law professor John A.G. Davis when Davis attempted to unmask Semmes and another student, both of whom were wearing masks and carrying pistols. Professor Davis died three days later.

    November 2, 1853: Louisville, Kentucky. A student, Matthew Ward, bought a self-cocking pistol in the morning, went to school and killed Schoolmaster Mr. Butler for excessively punishing his brother the day before.

    June 8, 1867: New York City. At Public School No. 18, a 13 year old lad brought a pistol loaded and capped, without the knowledge of his parents or school-teachers, and shot and injured a classmate.

    December 22, 1868: Chattanooga, Tennessee. A boy who refused to be whipped and left school, returned, with his brother and a friend, the next day to seek revenge on his teacher. Not finding the teacher at the school, they continued to his house, where a gun battle rang out, leaving three dead. Only the brother survived.

    March 9, 1873: Salisbury, Maryland. After school as Miss Shockley was walking with four small children, she was approached by a Mr. Hall and shot. The Schoolmaster ran out, but she was dead instantly. Hall threw himself under a train that night.

    May 24, 1879: Lancaster, New York. As the carriage loaded with female students was pulling out of the school’s stables, Frank Shugart, a telegraph operator, shot and severely injured Mr. Carr, Superintendent of the stables.

    July 4, 1886: Charleston, South Carolina. During Sunday school, Emma Connelly shot and killed John Steedley for “circulating slanderous reports” about her, even though her brother publicly whipped him a few days earlier.

    June 12, 1887: Cleveland, Tennessee. Will Guess went to the school and fatally shot Miss Irene Fann, his little sister’s teacher, for whipping her the day before.

    June 13, 1889: New Brunswick, New Jersey. Charles Crawford, upset over an argument with a school Trustee, went up to the window and fired a pistol into a crowded school room. The bullet lodged in the wall just above the teacher’s head.

    April 9, 1891: Newburgh, New York. 70 year old James Foster fired a shotgun at a group of students in the playground of St. Mary’s Parochial School, causing minor injuries to several of the students.

    February 26, 1902: Camargo, Illinois. Teacher Fletcher R. Barnett shot and killed another teacher, Eva C. Wiseman, in front of her class at a school near Camargo, Illinois. After shooting at a pupil who came to help Miss Wiseman and wounding himself in a failed suicide attempt he waited in the classroom until a group of farmers came to lynch him. He then ran out of the school building, grabbed a shotgun from one of the farmers and shot himself, before running away and leaping into a well where he finally drowned. The incident was likely sparked by Wiseman’s refusal to marry Barnett.

    February 24, 1903: Inman, South Carolina. Edward Foster, a 17-year-old student at Inman High school, was shot and fatally wounded by his teacher Reuben Pitts after he had jerked a rod from Pitts’ hands to resist punishment. According to the teacher, Foster struck the pistol Pitts had drawn to defend himself, thus causing its discharge. Pitts was later acquitted of murder.

    October 10, 1906: Cleveland, Ohio. Harry Smith shot and killed 22-year-old teacher Mary Shepard at South Euclid School after she had rejected him. Smith escaped and committed suicide in a barn near his home two hours later.

    March 23, 1907: Carmi, Illinois. George Nicholson shot and killed John Kurd at a schoolhouse outside of Carmi, Illinois during a school rehearsal. The motive for the shooting was Kurd making a disparaging remark about Nicholson’s daughter during her recital.

    March 11, 1908: Boston, Massachusetts. Elizabeth Bailey Hardee was shot to death by Sarah Chamberlain Weed at the Laurens School, a finishing school in Boston. Weed then turned the gun on herself and committed suicide.

    April 15, 1908: Asheville, North Carolina. Dr. C. O. Swinney shot and fatally wounded his 16-year-old daughter Nellie in a reception room at Normal and Collegiate Institute. He then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

    February 12, 1909: San Francisco, California. 10-year-old Dorothy Malakanoff was shot and killed by 49-year-old Demetri Tereaschinko as she arrived at her school in San Francisco. Tereaschinko then shot himself in a failed suicide attempt. Tereaschinko was reportedly upset that Malakanoff refused to elope with him.

    January 10, 1912: Warrenville, Illinois. Sylvester E. Adams shot and killed teacher Edith Smith after she rejected his advances. Adams then shot and killed himself. The incident took place in a schoolhouse about a mile outside of Warrenville after the students had been dismissed for the day.

    March 27, 1919: Lodi Township, Michigan. 19-year-old teacher Irma Casler was shot and killed in her classroom at Rentschler school in Lodi Township, Michigan by Robert Warner, apparently because she had rejected his advances.

    April 2, 1921: Syracuse, New York. Professor Holmes Beckwith shot and killed dean J. Herman Wharton in his office at Syracuse University before committing suicide.

    May 22, 1930: Ringe, Minnesota. Margaret Wegman, 20-year-old teacher at the local rural school, was shot and killed in the school by 24-year-old Douglas Petersen.

    February 15, 1933: Downey, California. Dr. Vernon Blythe shot and killed his wife Eleanor, as well as his 8-year old son Robert at Gallatin grammar school and committed suicide after firing three more shots at his other son Vernon. His wife, who had been a teacher at the school, had filed for divorce the week before.

    September 14, 1934: Gill, Massachusetts. Headmaster Elliott Speer was murdered by a shotgun blast through the window of his study at Northfield Mount Hermon School. The crime was never solved.

    March 27, 1935: Medora, North Dakota. Emily Hartl, 24-year-old teacher at the Manlon school northwest of Medora, was shot and killed at the school by 28-year-old Harry McGill, a former suitor.

    December 12, 1935: New York City, New York. Victor Koussow, a Russian laboratory worker at the School of Dental and Oral Surgery, shot Prof. Arthur Taylor Rowe, Prof. Paul B. Wiberg, and wounded Dr. William H. Crawford at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, before committing suicide.

    April 27, 1936: Lincoln, Nebraska. Prof. John Weller shot and wounded Prof. Harry Kurz in a corridor of the University of Nebraska, apparently because of his impending dismissal at the end of the semester. After shooting Kurz Weller tried to escape, but was surrounded by police on the campus, whereupon he killed himself with a shot in the chest.

    June 4, 1936: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Wesley Crow shot and killed his Lehigh University English instructor, C. Wesley Phy. Crow went to Phy’s office and demanded that Mr. Phy change his grade to a passing mark. Crow committed suicide after shooting Phy.

    September 24, 1937: Toledo, Ohio. 12-year-old Robert Snyder shot and wounded his principal, June Mapes, in her office at Arlington public school when she declined his request to call a classmate. He then fled the school grounds and shot and wounded himself.

    May 6, 1940: South Pasadena, California. After being removed as principal of South Pasadena Junior High School, Verlin Spencer shot six school officials, killing five, before attempting to commit suicide by shooting himself in the stomach.

    May 23, 1940: New York City, New York. Infuriated by a grievance, Matthew Gillespie, 62-year-old janitor at the junior school of the Dwight School for Girls, shot and critically wounded Mrs. Marshall Coxe, secretary of the junior school.

    July 4, 1940: Valhalla, New York. Angered by the refusal of his daughter, Melba, 15 years old, to leave a boarding school and return to his home, Joseph Moshell, 47, visited the school and shot and killed the girl.

    September 12, 1940: Uniontown, Pennsylvania. 29-year-old teacher Carolyn Dellamea was shot to death inside her third grade classroom by 35-year-old William Kuhns. Kuhns then shot himself in the chest in a failed suicide attempt. Kuhns had reportedly been courting Dellamea for over a year but the relationship was ended when Dellamea discovered that Kuhns was already married.

    October 2, 1942: New York City, New York. Erwin Goodman, 36-year-old mathematics teacher at William J. Gaynor Junior High School, was shot and killed in the school corridor by a youth.

    June 26, 1946: Brooklyn, New York. A 15-year-old schoolboy who balked at turning over his pocket money to a gang of seven youths was shot in the chest at 11:30 A.M. in the basement of the Public School 147 annex of the Brooklyn High School for Automotive Trades.

    February 5, 1947: Madill, Oklahoma. 1st grade teacher Jessie Laird, 40-years-old, was shot to death in her classroom, during recess, by her estranged husband, Ellis Laird, 62-years-old. Laird then fatally shot himself.

    November 13, 1949: Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State University freshman James Heer grabbed a .45 caliber handgun from the room of a Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother and shot and killed his fraternity brother Jack McKeown, 21, an Ohio State senior.

    April 25, 1950: Peru, Nebraska. Dr. William Nicholas, 48, president of Peru State College and Dr. Paul Maxwell, 56, education department head, were shot to death at their desks by Dr. Barney Baker, 54-year-old psychology professor. Baker was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot at his home on campus.

    July 22, 1950: New York City, New York. A 16-year-old boy was shot in the wrist and abdomen at the Public School 141 dance during an argument with a former classmate.

    March 12, 1951: Union Mills, North Carolina Professor W. E. Sweatt, superintendent and teacher at the Alexander school, was shot to death by students Billy Ray Powell, 16, and Hugh Justice, 19. The assailants had been reprimanded by Sweatt, and they waited for him as he locked his office door.

    November 27, 1951: New York City, New York. David Brooks, a 15-year-old student, was fatally shot as fellow-pupils looked on in a grade school.

    April 9, 1952: New York City, New York. A 15-year-old boarding-school student shot a dean rather than relinquish pin-up pictures of girls in bathing suits.

    July 14, 1952: New York City, New York. Bayard Peakes walked in to the offices of the American Physical Society at Columbia University and shot and killed secretary Eileen Fahey with a .22 caliber pistol. Peakes was reportedly upset that the APS had rejected a pamphlet he had written.

    September 3, 1952: in Lawrenceville, Illinois. After 25-year-old Georgine Lyon ended her engagement with Charles Petrach, Petrach shot and killed Lyon in a classroom at Lawrenceville High School where she worked as a librarian.

    May 15, 1954: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Putnam Davis Jr. was shot and killed during a fraternity house carnival at the Phi Delta Theta house at the University of North Carolina. William Joyner and Allen Long were shot and wounded during the exchange of gunfire in their fraternity bedroom. The incident took place after an all-night beer party. Mr. Long reported to the police that, while the three were drinking beer at 7 a.m., Davis pulled out a gun and started shooting with a gun he had obtained from the car of a former roommate.

    January 11, 1955: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. After some of his dorm mates urinated on his mattress Bob Bechtel, a 20-year-old student at Swarthmore College, returned to his dorm with a shotgun and used it to shoot and kill fellow student Holmes Strozier.

    May 4, 1956: in Prince George’s County, Maryland. 15-year-old student Billy Prevatte fatally shot one teacher and injured two others at Maryland Park Junior High School in Prince George’s County after he had been reprimanded from the school.

    October 20, 1956: New York City, New York. A junior high school student was wounded in the forearm yesterday by another student armed with a home-made weapon at Booker T. Washington Junior High School.

    October 2, 1957: New York City, New York. A 16-year old student was shot in the leg yesterday by a 15-year old classmate at a city high school.

    March 4, 1958: New York City, New York. A 17-year-old student shot a boy in the Manual Training High School.

    May 1, 1958: Massapequa, New York. A 15-year-old high school freshman was shot and killed by a classmate in a washroom of the Massapequa High School.

    September 24, 1959: New York City, New York. Twenty-seven men and boys and an arsenal were seized in the Bronx as the police headed off a gang war resulting from the fatal shooting of a teenager Monday at Morris High School.

    February 2, 1960: Hartford City, Indiana. Principal Leonard Redden shot and killed two teachers with a shotgun at William Reed Elementary School in Hartford City, Indiana, before fleeing into a remote forest, where he committed suicide.

    March 30, 1960: Alice, Texas. Donna Dvorak, 14, brought a .22 target pistol to Dubose Junior High School, and fatally shot Bobby Whitford, 15, in their 9th grade science class. Dvorak believed Whitford posed a threat to one of her girlfriends.

    June 7, 1960: Blaine, Minnesota. Lester Betts, a 40-year-old mail-carrier, walked into the office of 33-year-old principal Carson Hammond and shot him to death with a 12-gauge shotgun.

    October 17, 1961: Denver, Colorado. Tennyson Beard, 14, got into an argument with William Hachmeister, 15, at Morey Junior High School. During the argument Beard pulled out a .38 caliber revolver and shot at Hachmeister, wounding him. A stray bullet also struck Deborah Faith Humphrey, 14, who died from her gunshot wound.

    • smrnda

      Thanks for doing your homework and posting this – I’d been wanting to make the point that school shootings are no new thing but didn’t have the facts to back up my claim.

      The body counts seem smaller, but it’s probably just a factor of limitations of gun technology back then.

      • Sunny Day

        It could also be the instant fame element now that encourages them.

    • Grumpy girl

      Excellent homework! Also shows that if you don’t have assault weapons, there are a lot fewer people killed.

  • vasaroti

    The idea that there wasn’t any prayer in that school is ridiculous. The community seems so religious that I have to wonder if the media isn’t exaggerating it. Prayer may not have come over the intercom, but you can bet plenty of people were saying grace before lunch, displaying their religious items on their desks, etc. Perhaps the commenters don’t consider Catholics Christians. Anyway, we can all list hundreds of incidents where devout Christians have died by the dozens while frantically praying- as in every slaughter and natural disaster in the Christian world before 1910 or so.

    What do these people think they’re achieving to speculate about the religion or lack of same of a mentally ill person? Atheists can bring up Andrea Yates, who drowned her 5 kids, and plenty of other murderous Xians.

    • Kodie

      I can’t speak for Newtown, but my public school was in a heavily (apparently) Catholic area. I imagine if someone shot down one of our schools, the town would seem religious to you too, but I never saw anyone pray at school, except for this super-Christian very cheerful “new wave” guy with spiky hair in high school who carried his bible everywhere, and I didn’t even notice that he was until he signed my yearbook with a caption about his bible. That could be that children prayed at school discreetly, but most of my experience living there was that I didn’t know what religions anyone was or how seriously they took it, since they never talked about it, in or out of school. That is halfway between Albany and NYC area of NY state. People didn’t express their religiosity in a normal everyday settings like they seem to like to do in the South, so I didn’t even know they were mostly Catholic until I asked my mom about a month ago.

      • Kodie

        She says predominantly Catholic, while I would have guessed a wider variety of Christian denominations including Catholics predominated. Methodist, Episcopalian, whatever.

  • Noelle

    Some hold their god to be like JK Rowling’s magic. All wards and protective spells must be officially redone regularly, else the Muggles or Death Eaters will discover you.

    Some hold a weak but loving god. Kind of like the good fairies in Sleeping Beauty. They can’t undo the evil witch’s death spell for the princess, but they can soften it into a sleeping until your true love kisses you spell. And they can love her and make her feel safe in the meantime. But they can’t beat the more powerful evil spell.

    Some see god as a sort of forgetful old man. If you don’t constantly remind him what to do, he might wander off into the woods. And you have to speak to him loudly, preferably with 2 or more people, because he’s hard of hearing. Really he just wants to be left alone to enjoy his sports. And he likes it if you remind him often that you love him, because he gets lonely.

    Some see him as a spiteful child who will storm off in a huff if it doesn’t get its way. Or come back to smash all of its previously beloved toys because it’s in a mood. You also have to praise and love this God often, because you can’t punish him or set up a sticker reward chart.

    For some, he’s the watchmaker who set the universe in action and either sat back to watch the show, or wandered off a long time ago.

    For awhile, while I still believed but there was too much evidence in my life to consider him very useful, I think without realizing it that I demoted him to a comforting but not very powerful presence. Kinda like the Sleeping Beauty fairies.

    Blaming people who don’t believe in God for a tragedy that a useful God could’ve prevented shows you don’t think much of God.

    • Elemenope

      That’s an awesome taxonomy. I’m stealing it. :)

      • Gwynnyd

        Me, too1 It’s brilliant!

      • Noelle

        Thanks, I’m flattered. And go right ahead and steal it.

        • rj

          I’d like to put this on Facebook. Should I just say “a commenter named Noelle,” or would you like formal attribution?

          • Noelle

            Hmmm, dunno. No one’s ever asked me that. Not formal, definitely. Using quotation marks: blog commenter “Noelle”, or commenter “Noelle”?

            • UrsaMinor

              I think you should bill yourself as The First Noelle. It would make a great stage name.

            • Noelle

              It would also set me apart from The Second Noelle, and The Amazingly Great Noelle-ini

  • Kodie

    These people are assholes.

    • JohnMWhite

      A lot more succinct than your usual response, but no less reasoned or accurate. This is what faith does to the mind – even horrible tragedies become an excuse to turn on one’s perceived enemies and whine about supposed persecution, because that’s exactly what god wants – pretense to piety making you stand out in his petty eyes.

      • Kodie

        I was thinking this whole bullshit about god not going where he’s not wanted is the stupidest excuse for a lord yet I have seen.

        • JohnMWhite

          Definitely. Either he’s a petty, vindictive childgod or he’s kinda pathetic and useless. Either way, not worthy of worship.

        • FO

          He doesn’t seem to appear a lot where he’s wanted either.


    As a group, no one tends to know less about religion than believers. They also have a profound tendancy to have a weak grasp of history generally. There is no horror that cannot, and has not, been justified in the name of religion.

  • FO

    So what about all schools in non-Christian countries?
    What about the overwhelming majority of schools in non-US Christian countries where they don’t pray?
    It seems that the less you give to this God guy of theirs, the less he has to get vengeful about.

  • Andrew

    The type of god who could be kept out of school because of a court is the type of god who could be kept out of the valley by iron chariots.