A man has gone on a killing spree in Norway. The death-toll is at 91 right now. If you want all the gory details along with some solid commentary, Ellen Lundgren has a good post up at Skeptic Freethought.
It always seems insensitive to write about things like this so soon, but I think we must talk about them so we can grow. So…here we go.
Police were searching a remote farm that was the most recent home of the man suspected of twin attacks on Norway that killed at least 91 people, Norwegian police said Saturday.
They charged a 32-year-old Norwegian man with planting explosives in central Oslo on Friday and a shooting spree on an isolated island hours later, in what added up to the largest attack on Norway since World War II. The death toll rose dramatically overnight and appeared likely to continue to rise, as authorities searched for victims on the island northwest of Oslo.
“What we know is that he is right wing and he is Christian fundamentalist,” deputy police chief Roger Andresen said Saturday morning at a televised news conference.
Christians will go ape shit trying to say this guy wasn’t a True™ Christian. He was. He was very much a true Christian. He knew the bible backwards and forward, endeavored to live by its muddled and contradictory word, and believed, quite completely, that Jesus died for his sins.
Of course, it would be foolish to say that Christianity drives people to mass murder. That is not at all what I am saying. What I am saying, with ear-splitting fervor, is the obvious: we are often told that having Jesus at one’s side is the key to making a person moral. This is horseshit you could smell from Pluto. Every day people who believe in Jesus provide us with evidence that this is not the case, and the more completely they believe it, the more grizzly and inhuman are the reminders. They are the parents whose uncorrupted belief in the healing power of Jesus compels them to wait for his interjection as their children die of curable diseases. They are the missionaries telling the occupants of countries devastated by AIDS that the use of condoms will relegate them to the fires of hell.
I will not be the one to say, “look here! This man committed mass murder and was a Christian! Look what Christianity causes all people to do!” Nor am I saying the tenets of Christianity are without fault on all occasions. The idea that regardless of the pain you inflict, the lives you end, the suffering you bring, that paradise awaits you and that you are forgiven for your actions immediately, not because of remorse for the suffering you’ve caused, but because you believe the proper story of a man rising from the dead; this is certainly one of the most foolishly immoral and lunatic concepts to ever escape the imagination, and it has undoubtedly played a role in enabling slaughter throughout our history.
Christians commit horrors. Muslims commit atrocities. And yes, atheists also can be delegates of evil. The poison that infects them all is an unreasonable belief about something, erroneously convincing them that their actions are somehow beneficent or acceptable. Unreasonable beliefs, inaccurate beliefs, prompt people to do unreasonable, sometimes wicked deeds.
The faithful will retort at this point, as they always do, that irrationality (their specific brand of irrationality, of course) does make people better on occasion. I cannot argue otherwise. However, it seems perfectly silly to argue that we should wish to stay unreasonable because it gets people to be more kind sometimes. After all, the believer presumably accepts the story of Jesus because they believe it’s true, not because they believe it’s a useful fable. Secondly, once the door is opened to believing things for bad reasons, people do not believe only beneficial things for bad reasons.
This is my primary gripe: though they draw spectacularly different conclusions, the faithful all believe they know the will of god for the same (terrible) reasons, almost always reducing to faith. In this, they forfeit the power to police their own. A Christian cannot tell another Christian their beliefs are wrong on any grounds other than that the other Christian’s beliefs are different. Were they to offer a reason other than ‘because god told me so’, they would quickly find themselves digging out their own foundation as well. The believer who thinks god would never order the mass slaughter of the innocent has never perused the pages of his book. On what grounds does one Christian say that god truly speaks to them, and not to the Oslo killer?
Reasons give us the power to actually say a belief is wrong, not merely different from our own. Sound reasoning is how we condemn the atheist who commits evil because of misformed political conclusions. It is also how we shred the believer who commits evil born of misformed beliefs about the operation of the universe – which is precisely what religion is. It is bad reasoning we should criticize, not the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the delusion. Once it is accepted that irrationality should be purged from our society if possible, a conclusion one would think would meet with very little resistance (though it repeatedly does), it becomes apparent that all religions, being the maintenance of belief without good reasons, must die for their culpability to the corruption of the human race. That religions tell us to believe reasonless things to be rewarded, or that believing reasonless things is even ok rather than something to be ashamed of, is an insult to both our potential and to our well-being. Unreason results in people killing other people.
Faith, in the sense that religious people invoke it, is a terrible thing to have whether it’s applied to politics, academics, or god.