Did the “systematic removal” of God from public schools lead to the Connecticut massacre?

Posted on 12/15/12 98 Comments

Just this morning I had vowed not to blog until I finished my grading.

Then I heard about the horrific mass shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

And then I heard Mike Hukabee suggest that the shooting could somehow be explained by the fact that God is being “systematically removed” from public schools. While on Fox News Huckabee declared: “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means…” (You can watch Huckabee here: http://youtu.be/bc1k-Zi8w2M.)

This is a wonderful summary illustration of the kind of alternate universe that religious conservatives like Mike Huckabee live in. It is a universe in which Bible thumping pastor-politicians like Huckabee court the NRA by calling themselves “a gun-clinger and a God-clinger” as if Jesus came to set us free to pack heat without government restriction. It is a universe in which the Bible is read to justify the stoning of misbehaving children and the slaughter and sacrifice of misbehaving societies. And it is a universe in which any gun violence is then blamed on the removal of the Bible from schools.

I live in a country that is much more secular than the United States. (Heck, in terms of secular ethos Canada might as well be bordering Scandanavia.) Thirty years ago I heard the Bible read every morning in my public elementary school. The Bible was removed long ago, and interestingly we didn’t see a spike in gun violence as a result. What I do see when I visit my daughter’s elementary school is an institution that is much more aware — and intolerant — of bullying and racism than my Bible reading school was thirty years ago.

Will some rabid secularist suggest that schools like my daughter’s are better because they removed the Bible? Perhaps some might. But few people are that simple-minded. Well the narrative that gun violence is traced to the elimination of school Bible reading, prayer and creches is just as simple-minded. And simple-mindedness on an issue this serious is not only lamentable, it’s dangerous.

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  • chrisleduc1

    One cant help but notice the statics regarding crime and family issues in contrast to the removal of prayer and the Bible from public schools… Just a coincidence I guess..

  • http://twitter.com/dennis_jernberg Dennis Jernberg

    I think Pastor Mike’s got it backwards. Note that Southern states like his Arkansas that are the most religious also have the highest violent crime rates. If there’s any correlation, it’s that Southern religiosity is the consequence of Southern violence, because it gives violent people a socially accepted way out of the cycle of crime through redemption and forgiveness of sins. That may even explain the particular brand of Christianity that prevails in the South, too.

    And then this random murder spree happens in the secular Northeast, and the Huckster says it happened because the Yankees aren’t right with Jesus? That’s cult thinking right there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rocky-Morrison/100001552602936 Rocky Morrison

      How come atheists keep telling me correlation is not causation when I point out the mass muders carried out by atheists?

      • R0c1

        If correlation does not imply causation, what does?

        • Kerk

          All sorts of evidence that point at one particular cause.

      • R0c1

        What do you believe the murdering atheists are evidence for? Make an unambiguous claim and perhaps we can tell you if it seems plausible.

    • R0c1

      “If there’s any correlation, it’s that Southern religiosity is the consequence of Southern violence, because it gives violent people a socially accepted way out of the cycle of crime through redemption and forgiveness of sins.”

      Is that a just-so story, or do you have data to back it up? There are all kinds of variables unique to southern living that I could pick out of thin air. Why does the They-Believe-In-Redemption variable deserve special attention?

  • epicurus

    Get those papers marked! Mach Schnell! Los los los !

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1367402498 Amy Edmonds

    I wonder how Huckabee explains shootings in churches

    • chrisleduc1

      You obviously don’t understand Huckabee’s argument then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

    I think William Lane Craig summed it up best when he wrote ‘The claim is that we have no basis for saying that any evil we experience is not justly permitted by God.’

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/sceptical-theism-and-the-problem-of-evil

    That massacre was justly permitted by God.

    • anonymous coward

      How would WLC know that? And how do you know that? That seems like utter arrogance. The only way to really know that is if God says “I justly permitted the murder of those innocent children because I have good reason to”. (Which in reality thousands and thousands of children die daily of starvation, which I guess he’s “justly permitting” as well.)

      Has that God done that? Um no, which is why WLC is needed to defend that concept. That kind of justification for immoral behavior is one of the big reasons I’m not a Christian any more!

      • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        i think Steven is pointing out the ridiculousness. He is no WLC fan….

    • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

      Oh sweet Thor! That Craig article is priceless! He should have given the Newtown eulogy last night instead of Obama. At least WLC doesn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth like Obama. Obama tells the parents that they will never get over their loss and then consoles them that their momentary troubles “are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”.

  • Kathy

    What an embarrassment to Americans as well as Christians. I wish I could convey to Huckabee how much harder it is to talk to my friends who need to hear about Christ after a prominent “Christian” like Huckabee does what he did today. You are right – it is dangerous. Christians and non-Christians alike can sense when someone has a political agenda that takes precedence over not just logic, but mercy, grace, humility.

    I attended more liberal, secular schools in Falls Church, Virginia – no bible was ever read that I can remember. The other closest high school to ours was a Christian high school. Everyone knew that the behaviour of the students in that school was far worse than our high school. There is absolutely no connection to number of bibles in school to resulting ethics or behaviour, except in perhaps a negative way.

    Huckabee has much to be concerned about as he actually represented the exact opposite of everything Jesus stood for. When I listened to the clip, all I could think about when he said that God would be or was with the people after the shootings in the form of comfort from other people, that his theology is not even sound. A refresher course in the notion of omnipresence would be advisable.

    • R0c1

      If Huckabee is an embarrassment, then so are large portions of the Bible. He’s not spouting off original ideas here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rocky-Morrison/100001552602936 Rocky Morrison

    Whats the big deal? The atheists tell us we didn’t exist for infinity before we were born, and it was not a problem, and we won’t exist for infinity after we die, and it isn’t a problem.
    Death is nothing to fear, they keep telling us.
    So quit whining.

    • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

      Rocky, if you truly believe that this is the only life you get and that death truly represents the end, I suggest that you have plenty of motivation to make the most out of your only kick at the can. If you truly believe that, in the words of little Ana Greene’s father “Ana beat us to paradise”, you’d have to admit that premature deaths are, at worst, bittersweet. I suggest that you re-read the writings of Paul. Sometimes it sounds like he’s really having a tough time deciding whether to check out sooner than later so that he can get to meet his maker.

    • J_Riv

      Not that you deserve a response, asshole, but here it is anyway. (Warning to everyone else: if this doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re probably a Calvinist.)

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  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    Trying to draw a straight line between U.S. Supreme Court decisions about issues of faith and a tragedy like Sandy Hook is indeed problematic at best.

    I am surprised, however, that you would not acknowledge the broader view that over the last forty years society has become increasingly intolerant of allegiances to, and even references to, Christ in the public square…and that over this same period there has been a decline in societal morality. Even if a right-wing politician muffs this point and overstates his case by trying to parse the cause-and-effect too finely, does this mean that there has been no decrease in the fear of God among us…and no consequences flowing from this lapse?

    I can’t help but noticing that just as right-wing Christians often sound more like right-wingers than spokesmen for Christ, so left-wing Christians often sound more like left-wingers than spokesmen for Christ. You seem to be succumbing to this condition

    • Kathy

      You raise an interesting point, Mike. But I would argue that much of the “intolerance of allegiances to, and even references to, Christ in the public square” has been caused by Christians’ failures to present the love of Christ, which is very much a “beckoning” approach to people, as opposed to trying to force their views and sense of morals on everyone else, which is a form of violence that Jesus would abhor. That type of violence was expressed differently by Crusaders long ago, and though we may not see the weapons as plainly as they were seen in those days, the heart stance appears to be comparable.

      I remember when I read the bible for the first time 9 years ago. I thought, “so what book have the Christians been reading?” I knew Christians to be legalistic and moralizing and insensitive and unloving toward anyone who did not share their viewpoint. Yet Jesus did not seem that way at all to me. He did not concern himself with laws of the land as much as honing of the heart.

      How much more impactful Huckabee would have been for Christ if he had simply mourned with those who are mourning. Instead, he has taken the focus away from Christ once again and given further room for the violence of which Jesus has no part. Perhaps I sound extreme? I don’t think so – this is where the degradation of Christianity really resides.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Kathy, is your point that now is a time for mourning with those who mourn and not for trying to identify causes? If so, do you find as much fault with those who are currently talking about gun control instead of simply mourning with those who mourn?

        • Kathy

          Well, I think we know the cause. And it has nothing to do with the gun or Bibles being in or out of schools or laws associated with either of those things.

          I think that there will be alot of efforts to identify causes and then alot of activity to put laws into place to remedy a sickness that is not caused by any of the things that will be addressed. I’m suggesting that as Christians, we ought to mourn with the mourning.

          There is a distinction between the functions of the church and the functions of the state. The “state” was in disarray during Christ’s ministry, but his ministry did not focus on the state, nor do I get the sense that he would suggest that our ministry focus on the state. If he were to analyze the situation, I think that Jesus would say something like this “When you mourn with the mourning, you show love and love is far more effective for me than when you put any law into place.” We are told that people will know we are associated with Christ by our love – not by our political stances or laws. Hearts are not transformed by a focus on or implementation of laws. Our ministry is of the heart and so we should look to address the heart of the situation and the hearts in the situation. Let the state deal with the issues of the state, and in the meantime, why don’t we deal with the hearts instead of inappropriately attaching Christ’s name to our efforts to change laws?

          • Chrisleduc1

            You’re right – Christ’s ministry was summed up pretty well in Mark 1:15. We should preach the message He preached as we try to love as He loved. Sadly too many today don’t want share the Gospel though…

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Kathy, I agree with your emphasis on ministering to those who mourn in the name of Christ rather than focusing on affairs of the state. However, unlike Jesus and the apostles, we live in a democracy where citizens are expected to participate in the formation of policy and law. Does your emphasis lead you to the point of never voting, never expressing your opinion as a citizen?

            • Kathy

              Of course voting is important. Christians can have opinions. But suggesting that there is a Christian duty to vote for a particular candidate, as also happened in this last election is inappropriate again violates the principles by which Christ lived. I’m pretty sure Christ could function in the US whether Obama or Romney was in charge. And I’m pretty sure we can too.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                So, because “Christ could function in the US whether Obama or Romney was in charge” does it mean that it does not matter whether Obama or Romney is in charge? And if it does not matter, why vote or express an opinion?

                • Kathy

                  Well, it is interesting to me that the religious white evangelicals voted for Romney, but the evangelical minorities voted for Obama – in fact some would say that Obama won the evangelical vote – it is just that now, there are more evangelicals who are in a minority group as opposed to white. I would suggest you can have Christians on both sides. Of course it matters, but it is not of supreme importance which politician gets in – what is important is that we can rely on Christ no matter who gets in.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    So I presume you would have been just as comfortable if Mike Huckabee had won the Republican nomination and defeated Barack Obama in 2008 as you were that Obama won, since, after all, we can rely on Christ no matter who gets in?

                    • Kathy

                      He might not have been my choice, but I would have lived through it.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Then you and I are in full agreement that Jesus is Lord, and that this truth transcends any political arrangement in which we may find ourselves.

              • chrisleduc1

                Are you suggesting that “Christians” ie confessing disciples of Jesus Christ who have agreed to follow God’s commands, are they free to vote for candidates that vocally support and want to make laws that directly contradict the revealed will of the God the Christian has professed to follow?

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      “.and that over this same period there has been a decline in societal morality”

      Actually, you are empirically wrong. All crime rates are falling (apart from gun crime because you refuse to regulate it, allowing them to be more affordable and more accessible, and more automatic…), i believe. And there are better human rights than there have been in the history of humanity. Society is also becoming less violent.

      It always annoys me when people trot out this rose tinted glasses crap without looking into the stats – automatically assuming things are always getting worse. Can you imagine the actual rape stats in the middle ages when Christianity was at its height? the chances of being murdered? Steven Pinker’s book tries to look at this very idea.

      The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity

      What can actually be said is that there is a correlation between better human rights and less crime and a more secular society.

      eg

      “In 2009 America’s crime rate was roughly the same as in 1968, with the homicide rate being at its lowest level since 1964. Overall, the national crime rate was 3466 crimes per 100,000 residents, down from 3680 crimes per 100,000 residents forty years earlier in 1969 (-9.4%).” (FBI Uniform Crime Reports).

      Perhaps you need to more closely define “societal morality” – do you mean the shock of allowing more people better access to basic human rights. Including gays? Or is that an example of a moral decline? Of course, back then, a gay could hope for mental and physical abuse, social and familial ostracisation, to a huge degree, which must have been much more moral.

      etc etc

      • Kerk

        “Society is also becoming less violent.”- what society? Human? Western? American? And in comparison to what times? I actually can’t imagine rape stats in the middle ages, for I have no data, and neither should you, if you have non. That would be presumptuous. But if you do have some info, please share.

        As far as I’m concerned, human moral nature remains unchanged regardless of the scientific or cultural progress. What changes is the form of crimes it gets instantiated in. “Holocaust and Gulag”

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Hi there

          Given my quoting of US stats, and this being an OP about a US killing, and an assumption of moral decline with regards to these killings, one assumes the US society.

          On the Middle Ages we can have some educated guesses. Thomas Aquinas, for example, argued that rape was less unacceptable than masturbation or coitus interruptus because it was fulfilled… In this time, rape was not even really formally recognised, nor the age of consent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that stats must have been worse. Just read up on the history of rape. Quite eye-opening.

          “During the Middle Ages, however, neither intent nor a sense of personal responsibility was attached to rape: women had few if any advocates, living in a society that marginalized them and preferring to see rape as the product of carnal intentions or “diabolical desire.” Historians researching available records and literature demonstrate that punishments were comparatively mild and in many instances women, unable to press their accusations, were arrested on charges of false appeal….

          Historian John M. Carter, in his study of rape in Medieval England, writes that, “Clerics, or those claiming to be clerics, formed the largest percentage of rapists.” Carter’s study is confined to the 13th and 14th Century at a time English Common Law was still competing with separate Church courts. Ecclesiastical courts tended to treat an allegation of rape with less severity than evolving secular courts.”

          http://suite101.com/article/rape-in-the-middle-ages-a399883

          The fact that we have rape crisis centres and feminist activism and hopes of sexual equality should undermine the questioning of the assumption that there was probably more rape in the middle ages and that life probably wasn’t as morally progressive. The only reason you would see it as presumptuous in such a negative way is out of cognitive dissonance that it might undercut any argument that ‘society is going down the pan’ which conservatives have been complaining about for, ooh, centuries now.

          Yes, there are some serious problems, and yes, some of those problems are particular to the modern society we live in. The fact that you can commmunicate instantly across the world, access images, travel easily (making adultery very accessible – some say the bicycle was responsible for a sexual revolution) and so on COMPLICATE such simplistic assertions that society is getting worse. We need to think more deeply and more intelligently than asserting such agenda-laden soundbites, no?

          Your last paragraph is totally correct, however. The problem is your agenda, and not realising that if the Christian societies and conquistadores and so on had access to mass transportation, mass killing machines and so on, then deaths on 20th century scales would have been much more commonplace.

          This is the same old crappy argument apologists like D’Souza use in their debates.

          • Kerk

            Still presumptuous, Mr. Pearce… I have no agenda here, and I’m not interested in apologetics for Christianity, even though I am a theist. I’m merely saying that I see no good reasons to believe that moral nature of human beings is improving over time. There are many factors that contribute to crime rise and decline, of which the most influential one is economical stability of the state.

            • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

              Hi Kerk
              I propose they did not have access to mass transportation and weapons of destruction to the tune of the evil atheists suggested in the other post.

              “I’m merely saying that I see no good reasons to believe that moral nature of human beings is improving over time.”

              Please can you support this with data or at least something more than assertion?

              Whilst economic rise and decline is surely a causal factor, it is by no means the only one as can be seen by stats. Also, if it does hold that much importance, that would undercut your own argument, since we would be placing the blame of such moral outrages on economic stability, not the loss of religion.

              • Kerk

                What argument, Mr. Pearce? I’m not arguing that the loss of religion is one of the main reasons of moral decline. I’m not even arguing that there is a moral decline!

                You want me to provide you with evidence in support of me being agnostic about human moral growth over centuries? Strange request…But alright. My main reason is like I said, if there was a significant growth, there wouldn’t be Holocaust and Gulag in the 20th century.

                But it gets worse – two years ago I was really interested in the topic “religion v crime” and I dug up all sorts of related studies. Pretty much all of them indicated that in comparison religious communities are better at crime inhibition than secular communities. If you want a particular example, read the bestselling book “American Grace”, by R.Putnam and D. Campbell. Same thing – crime, drug use, divorce, suicide – all lower in religious communities than in secular communities.

                If you don’t believe my word, I will try and dig up those articles for you. Some of them have to still be in my files somewhere.

                I don’t doubt that you’ll have a bunch of your own evidence against religious inhibition of crime, and that’s exactly what makes me an agnostic in this case. There are simply no decisive grounds.

                • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                  Mike is arguing this and this is the thread upon which you are contributing. It seems the book you reference is heavy on the stats and light on the analysis, which is the main thing, but also the terribly difficult thing. Any reading of a study in the difficulty of isolating causality in in social science will tell you this.

                  Of course, there can be no proper control, since either time changes, or it is a different community or country etc.

                  We can all bring in stats. For example, the most peaceful countries on earth, at the topof the Global Peace Index, are secular.

                  I agree on the agnosticism part. In effect that is my broader point, so we are in agreement.

                  At the nub of the problem is no one effectively defines morality in terms of whether it is declining socially. This is a criticism of the moral panic thesis.

                  I posit that social science is sooo many variables, that to roughly assert we are in moral decline is ridiculous. In some areas we are declining, in other we are improving. And it depends who you are and where you live.

                  It also depends (and this is what I was trying to show too) on whether you are talking about normative ethics (in a moral theory sense) and applied ethics. For example, the difference, in a sense, as to what we perceive as moral goods and rights which have most certainly improved, as opposed to actual figures and stats, which totally depend on the above notions. Eg US crime stats have been decreasing for 20 years vs other measures etc.

                  • Kerk

                    You’re a nice person, Mr. Pearce. I never thought that my first encounter with you would end on an agreement and so quickly…
                    I’m gonna go and look at the pictures of those children and grieve again.

                    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                      Ha! Thanks, I think. It is always good to have civil disagreement (which sometimes ends in agreement!).

                      Good to talk.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Crime statistics are not the only way to measure morality. And, as I stated, my specific focus here is the last forty years. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan sounded his alarm about the deterioration of African-American family life in the U.S., the black illegitimacy rate that so concerned him was about 25%. Today it is over 70%. Other demographic groups – including Hispanics and Caucasians – are up dramatically over the same period as well.

        Over 40% of all children born in the U.S. in 2009 were born to unmarried women.

        In 2010, 9.9 million single moms were living with kids under 18 in the U.S., up from 3.4 million in 1970. Presumably, there was a man present at conception of each of these children – where did they all go?

        The decay of family life is at the heart of our societal decay. Life is hard enough when you have a mom and dad who love each other and love you – it really gets hard when subtract one of them from the equation.

        I’m 62 so I have a lot of anecdotal evidence about the moral decline of society as well. Anyone who thinks morality in culture has not declined in our generation must be declining at the same rate as society at large.

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Thanks

          So at best what you are doing is cherry picking your way through data which allows you to declare we are morally declining.

          Think about the civil rights that DID NOT exist 40 years ago. Think of the racial segregation. Think of the lack of support for the disadvantaged. Access to legal aid. Freedom of information. Sexual equality. Environmental regulation. So on and so forth. It is much more complicated than I think you give credit for. Dale Jamieson’s essay “Is there progress in morality?” is pretty interesting and worth a read, as is stuff on “moral panic”.

          The fact that Conservapedia has an entry on moral decline says a lot.

          Were you an African American living in poverty and segregation in the Southern states with a low life expectancy, and no good and equal access to all the things they do today, then you might have a different position.

          Were you a mentally disabled person…

          Were you a physically handicapped person…

          Were you an orphan…

          Were you a native american…

          Were you… etc etc

          And this is my point. That making such generalised and fairly redundant assertions does nothing but to massage your own sense of moral panic.

          Yes things aren’t perfect. Yes we can do better. Yes some things have got worse. But there are many other causal factors involved (overcorwding, loss of biodiversity, too many consumerist pressures etc etc). It’s not just a case of being able to say prayers in school and public pledges to God would have solved all the social and demographic pressures of late 20th century society? That’s rather simplistic, no?

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Jonathan,

            I respect your view, but it seems more a political one than a spiritual one (which was my original objection to Randal’s view). And, at least from my perspective, you seem to be the one cherry picking statistics.

            Let’s take just one of your examples: civil rights for African-Americans. Yes, African-Americans have more civil rights now than they did when I was a child, but isn’t this a very limited way of measuring morality? What about the morals of African-Americans receiving those rights, and what about the morals of the broader society dispensing those rights? Generally speaking, I see as much racism in society now as I did when I was a child. To be sure, racism takes different paths today, but it is still immoral. The passage of laws does not reform the human heart. If it did, Prohibition would have eradicated alcoholism.

            Family is something that affects every single human being, which is why I chose to focus there. A generation ago, it was hard for my wife and I to raise our four children in a society somewhat hostile to values we considered to be universal. Today that task is even more difficult for them as they raise our five grandchildren in a society that is even more hostile to those values. I don’t need statistics to tell me there has been significant moral decline in my lifetime, but nonetheless statistics confirm it – as long as you don’t selectively choose them.

            • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

              Hi Mike
              In a very real sense I am cherry picking. And that is the point. To make what are, in effect, huge and thoroughly important claims about the state of society, one cannot be simplistic. One needs to:
              1) define morality
              2) define what data represents morality
              3) define which section of which society and in what time conextualises the data
              4) clearly prove the causal items involved in such data (notoriously difficult)

              and so on.

              The values of religions may in many cases be good. It’s the proselytisation and evangelising which is hard to swallow. If you were fighting with all other religions to be heard, or if you HAD to pray to MECCA before every meeting, or your children were made to acknowledge Diwali at school and so on, you would get somewhat annoyed. The separation of church and state is necessary in a world where there are many religions vying for the hearts, minds and wallets of every member of society. Because you live in a community which received the religion you did, and because it prevails so strongly, you feel affronted. But in reality, if you believe that Christianity has the right to demand x, y and z in public and of its public, the same must go for all other religions of the world. And then chaos.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                Jonathan, I am fully supportive of keeping church and state separate. What I don’t support is the trend today which seeks to, just to pick one example, remove any positive reference to Jesus Christ from public discourse. (By ironic contrast, use of His name to curse seems acceptable.)

                • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                  As long as you don’t min every other God being used equally as much, then that is fine and not special pleading! I mean, for Muhammad’s sake, let’s be fair here….

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    Jonathan, ask yourself why a society that tolerates the photograph “Piss Christ” would condemn the maker of “Innocence of Muslims.” The answer will tell you who that society fears…and why.

                    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                      I have little or no idea about these things. If the second one is that film, it is more about fear of Muslims than anything else. Which stems from THEIR fear of God. So that is good evidence…

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      You are overlooking the obvious. Society mutes its criticism of Muhammad but not of Christ because it fears the consequences of the former but not of the latter.

                    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                      No, that is what I am admitting. It is fear of the adherents, who become vicious because of their fear of their god (amongst other things). People don’t fear Christians because Christians only cherry pick what they believe about their god, and don’t fear him any more because he has been on a 2000 year holiday from his murdering and fear-mongering. If he still did those things, people would be afraid, and would also impart that fear on to others.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I can’t find enough coherence in your latest comment to reply.

                    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                      You complain of people muting criticism of M and not C.

                      I say because society is afraid of Muslims and not Christians.

                      I say this is because Christians are not scary because they are no longer properly afraid of their own God because he has been on a 2000 year holiday. If he still struck people down for picking up sticks on a Sabbath, Christians would still be afraid of their God (there would be many more Christians too), and society would not mute Christians. When people used to be scary enough to kill for heresy and kill others for non-belief, then people didn’t mess with Christianity.

                      But the great, and weak, aspect to Christianity is this:

                      It evolves with society. Whether economically, morally, technologically, it molds to society. That is why there are 42,000 different denominations thereof.

                      Islam? It demands society molds to it. And this is both its strength and its weakness and why it will stay in the dark ages. It cannot adapt. It works as a theocracy, not as a religion, even when embedded in other societies.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      My point was that society fears Muslims and not Christ. I’m not interested in getting society to fear Christians. There is no advantage to a person fearing Christians, but there is great advantage in fearing Christ.

                    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                      My point was to connect the two. By fearing God, your take on that persona and become fearsome. A child abused by their parent can often become an abuser.

                      People aren’t scared of Christians because they do not exhibit such behaviour. They do not exhibit such behaviour because they are not afraid of their God. They are not afraid of their God because he has been on a 2000 year holiday.

                      See the massive mural on the wall in the cathedral in Albi to sum up my point. i have seen it in person and can feel what illiterate peasants must have felt. This fear of God would manifest itself in oppressive authoritarianism of the powerful church.

                      This is no longer the case.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      My interest is to fear Christ, by which I hope to take on His persona. I am not yet what I should be, but I am closer to Him than I was before. Every person in my family has benefited from this fear of Christ I have cultivated within myself. No one who is seeking to please Christ abuses anyone.

                    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                      Sure. I don’t doubt that at all.

                      I just doubt that history shows the same characteristics in many of Christianity’s adherents.

                      You see, we have morally progressed… and Christianity has tagged along too.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I recognize the narrative – I just don’t buy it. Contemporary man certainly does think more highly of himself than of previous generations, but that’s only because he’s made his own value system the standard of judgment.

                      Just to pick one issue: If ready access to abortion is good, then modern society is indeed more moral than the one that preceded it. If, however, abortion is bad, then modern society is more evil than the one preceding it.

                      The narrative of moral improvement being a function of time is self-justifying and self-serving: It tells modern man that he’s better than all previous generations (that’s the self-justifying part), and that he is not required to live as morally as the generations to come (that’s the self-serving part). How convenient! And self-deceptive.

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Denomination (in order of decreasing divorce rate)% who have been divorced

          Non-denominational **34%

          Baptists 29%

          Mainline Protestants 25%

          Mormons 24%

          Catholics 21%

          Lutherans 21%

          Religion% have been divorced
          Jews 30%

          Born-again Christians 27%

          Other Christians 24%

          Atheists, Agnostics 21%

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Jonathan, I have seen statistics like this about divorce. I have also seen conflicting statistics which show confessing Christians in a better light. Yet even in those conflicting stats, a fundamental point remains: churchgoing is not an antidote for breakdown of the family.

            What I am promoting is something much harder to measure than skin color or church attendance: it is the fear of God.

            I know that when I abandoned my agnosticism for the fear of God some thirty years ago, my marriage immediately became stronger. And it is stronger now than ever for that very same reason: the fear of God.

            There was not much detectable fear of God in society forty years ago, but there is even less today. I am not saying that there is a correlation between religious affiliation and morality; I am saying that there is a correlation between the fear of God and morality. Statistics can buttress the point, but you don’t need statistics to acknowledge the point.

            • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

              Of course, those were stats from the Christian Barna group…

              This is what distrubs me: that society would work better, that your marriage worked better, on the presumption of fear. That fear should drive us to be better people.

              Man, there is o much wrong with that statement….

              And this is why it is difficult for Christians to properly debate morality, because it is psychologically impossible to distance themselves from the consequence of heaven and hell. No matter what they say about the grounding of morality, in reality they will always be moral consequentialists.

              that is no surprise, God is a consequentialist himself! See my essay:

              http://skepticink.com/tippling/essays-and-papers/god-is-a-consequentialist/

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                Jonathan,

                I am not a philosopher, so I cannot engage productively with your essay.

                Everyone is going to heaven. (My essay on that subject.)

                Since God is entirely good, the fear of Him is entirely constructive – unlike all other forms of fear.

                • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                  Hmm, the Old Testament?

                  Being killed for picking up sticks on a sabbath…
                  1) does not seem like the actions of someone who is entirely good
                  2) if it is used as a means to an end in teaching others, this is moral consequentilaism and there is no intrinsic good
                  3) this does not appear to be constructive
                  4) if he was collecting wood to heat his family and give them cooked food, then…?
                  5) this, if I/ believed it, would put real and genuine fear of God into me. I would be scared. I would have also quit my Saturday jobs as a teenager.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    Jonathan, I see your cherry picking is not limited to statistics.

              • Kerk

                Don’t mind me cutting in one more time. The word “consequentialism” bares a sinister tone to me. Broadly it implies that one can be justified in torturing a few for the sake of happiness of many. Even if it’s unnecessary. Suppose, many are already happy, but torturing those few would make them slightly more happy. It seems that consequentialism permits it.

                In God’s case on the other hand, it seems that he has no choice in the matter – he must allow temporary evil, as it’s the only way to get to the state of universal and eternal love. And the emphasis is on “he has no choice in the matter.” Is it correct to call this kind of dilemma “consequentialism”?

                Also, Mr.Pearce, have you considered the classical theist view on this problem? A classical theist is happy to admit that humans are not intrinsically valuable, but only God himself. Moreover, given that classical theism is founded on Aristotle’s teleology, it’s no surprise that we have certain ends to fulfill in our life, even if it means suffering. The thing is, I’m not at all sure that this kind of moral ontology is appropriate to call “consequentialism.”

      • chrisleduc1

        What is your take on the statistic that violent crime is up by 150% in the last 50 years? According to FBI stats, there were 160.9 violent crimes per 100,00 people in 1960, compared to 403.6 violent crimes per 100,000 in 2010. This is quite contrary to your claim that all crimes rates are falling, don’t ya think?

        Everyone here can run that stats themselves. The numbers are pretty striking:

        http://ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/State/StatebyState.cfm?NoVariables=Y&CFID=14891356&CFTOKEN=a6e5264ae4d767d2-75D3F816-9441-9B60-086678A21229152B

        Maybe you should run the numbers and see which crime rates are actually down….

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          As far as I know (and you may be looking at old stats) they all peaked in the early 90s. And they have been declining since then, though I have a sneaky suspicion gun crimes buck this trend in the last year or so (gone up, but not above 90s stat?). Which is why you guys need to do something about. and those are the FBI stats. eg http://www.lowtechcombat.com/2010/12/50-year-trends-in-violent-crime-in-us.html (couple years old now)

          Obviously, any statistician would want to know whether any changes in the stats methodology was changed over this time to affect the results.

          The improvement in crime reporting and data collection will also have an effect over time. I also know 2009 had the lowest police deaths on line of duty since 1959. And so on.

          • chrisleduc1

            The specifics on the stats are on the link I gave. They are FBI stats and run through 2010.
            And yes, “violet crime” peaked in the 90′s, however they are still WAY higher than the 60s 70s and 80s. Just run the report yourself and look at the sheer number per capita.
            Look at the forced rape numbers, they’re horrifying. Just as our society has encouraged sexuality in so many many ways, the evils of such are plainly evident.

            • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

              You’ve got to watch rape stats.

              1) it was more accepted

              2) it was less well defined (think rape within marriage)

              3) it is now better reported, and women are encouraged to come forward.

              With stats one must be very careful. It is not so easy as saying x is bigger or smaller than y. We need to know that x was collected in the same way as y etc.

              The other confusing factor is this:

              We cannot factor for the type of environment. morality could be staying the same, whatever that means, but the geography of the environment is changing. Society is more crowded, anonymous and we can travel with ease. This presents the opportunity for the person who wouldn’t have raped 50 years ago to now rape. This is why I mentioned that geneticists herald the invention of the bicycle as a revolution for the spreading of genes through a sexual revolution. There is no change in morality, but in environment.

              My broad point here is this. Making simplistic over-hasty generalisations is not useful. We need to be a bit more sophisticated than that.

              • chrisleduc1

                I don’t understand what you are saying. You start by saying

                “We cannot factor for the type of environment. morality could be staying the same, whatever that means,….”

                But then you say

                “This presents the opportunity for the person who wouldn’t have raped 50 years ago to now rape.”

                This doesn’t seem like morality staying the same.

                In regares to the rape stats – if you seriously believe that the incidents of sexual assault have not increased over the years, you really are delusional and out of touch with reality. You should spend some time getting to know young people and see just how many men and women both have been sexually assaulted. The studies on the number of people who have never reported the assaults show that there are a tremendous number of people who have been sexually assaulted.

                • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

                  OK, I thought I’d made this clear. Let’s look at the variety of what we can talk about given the lack of definition for morality, and why it is difficult to give seeping generalisations.

                  First, let’s forget stats. Let’s think of morality as the application of moral theory. In other words, what are the moral laws? Have they improved? Without a shadow of a doubt I would say they have. We have better human rights throughout the world (with work still to do) than at any time in history. You know, including when slavery was countenanced through the use of the Bible etc! think of the racial segregation laws still in force 50 or so years ago. Think of gender equality. Think of the legal system.

                  Secondly, my point about the idea that morality could be the same but environments have changed is this. The moral fibre of humans can be consistent but opportunities through environmental change can give rise to higher exemplification of poor moral behaviour. Let’s take this to the absurd to show this. imagine a desert island with one man on it. The rates for rape would be very low, even if that man was totally evil. Now put 20 women on the island. Rape goes up, though the person is actually morally the same. Now put a robust police force on. Rape goes down even though the person is morally the same.

                  Do you now see the difficulty in measuring morality? You can’t factor for environmental change.

                  This is why I kept mentioning the bicycle. Without ease of transport, people remained in the same village, and everyone knew everyone else’s business. It was quite difficult to commit adultery, even though men could clearly have wanted to. Forward wind 100 years, people can travel and communicate with internet and mobile clandestinely. The opportunity for adultery is hugely increased though measurement for morality is difficult to assess. Geneticists realise this.

                  Then there is the problem of reporting of crime and stats now compared to 50 years ago. We know for sure that less people reported rape. Heck, people thought it was the right of man to rape their wife. I suggest a little reading in feminist legal theory!

                  These are much more complex things than you are giving credit for.

  • Jason Thibodeau

    Thanks Randal.
    If only your soapbox were as tall as Huckabee’s.

  • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

    A really good and well-tempered post, Randal. Cheers.

  • christthetao

    I would be so relieved and happy and joyful and grateful and full of hope if POOF! Mike Huccabee became president, and our present Narcissist-in-Chief retired to play golf with celebrities for the rest of his life. However, obviously Huccabee is completely wrong on this one, and is picking the wrong battle. And some political conservatives would say (ironically) he was too “soft on crime” when he let a criminal out of jail who murdered several cops a few years ago in our state.

    All in all, I’d rather just cry for the kids and their parents, brothers and sisters this Christmas, wish my atheist friends a “Merry Xmas” and let them solve the equation in their own sweet time.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      “Narcissist-in-Chief”?
      Maybe I don’t get out enough, but I had not heard that one before. Why do you consider him a Narcissist?

      • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        Don’t get him started on politics. We have had a long debate where he insisted FOX News was the most fair and balanced news broadcaster out there. Oh dear…

  • Emilie_dC

    Let’s say that the golf club you belong to decides to remove you by hiking membership fees beyond what you can afford, or because you don’t have the favoured political beliefs, or some such thing. While walking home from work one day, as you are passing the golf club, you peer through their chain link fence and observe 10-20 children drowning in the pool. There are no adults or others around. It would hardly be any risk at all for you to hop the fence and start saving children, but you’ve been removed from the club, and are not welcome there anymore. Does that stop you from hopping the fence and saving the kids?

    Well, that’s just what Huckabee and others are claiming that their apparently morally perfect and omnipotent god has done in permitting the shooting massacre in CT.

    Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?

    • Chrisleduc1

      Oh no I see the problem with this! Your analogy that is. It’s a pretty poor representation of the situation in which a bunch of children were murdered…

      • Emilie_dC

        Chrisleduc,

        The point that Huckabee and others, like Bryan Fischer, spokesperson for American Family Association tend to make is that by removing god from schools, we also lose his protection over the children in those schools.

        That said, I think that my analogy works pretty well. Perhaps you’d like to support your assertion that the analogy is poor.

        Are you bothered by the fact that the shooting victims were murdered while the children are “just” drowning? I don’t see why that should bother you. Surely some adult is shirking a responsibility for those children. If it helps you to consider the point of the analogy, assume that an adult threw the kids in deep water when they couldn’t swim, then ran away.

        • chrisleduc1

          Here are a few reasons why it is poor.
          1. How is God like a club member at a gold club?
          2. How is earth like a golf club that God just decided to join, at the will?
          3. How is children drowning in a pool similar like a gunman coming into a school and murdering a bunch of children?
          That should be a fair start…

    • R0c1

      A lot of Christians and atheists alike see a problem with it. However, the Bible is filled with stories that affirm the logic of “if your nation is bad, God will go off and pout and then you will suffer.”

      What I’m saying is, Mike Huckabee is using logic that is clearly wrong, yet is clearly taught in the scriptures. I wonder if Randal disagrees?

      • Emilie_dC

        We agree. If Huckabee accepts that his god permitted this massacre of children to occur because prayer was removed from schools, then he must accept that his god was not capable of preventing it (in which case, his comments are stupid), or not morally perfect (in which case, his god is a wanker).

      • Alejandro Rodríguez

        Huckabee is just saying that not talking about God has caused moral degradation, not that God caused the massacre.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=823745858 James Bradshaw

    Ask Steve Hays, blowhard Calvinist of Triablogue, “why” the massacre happened. If he’s feeling honest, he’ll tell you that it was God’s will to have a shooter send 20 children to their graves and, more importantly, a few straight to Hell. Why? So those among the Elect (of which he is certain includes him) can thank God that it’s not them languishing in Hell.

    It’s all about him, you see.

    • Alejandro Rodríguez

      I really fricking hate Calvinism. There is a difference in believing that God may have knowledge of future events and God sending you to hell for no reason at all. Thank goodness I was raised Catholic.

      • Kye

        I’m sorry you hate Biblical Christianity. “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:19-24)

        • Syllabus

          Yeah, because that’s the only reading of the text possible, and indeed the only one that has been accepted by the church for the last two millennia.

  • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

    At times like this, I am amazed that more of those affected don’t stop to ponder the theological implications of what they believe. Instead, we are inundated with prayer requests and statements such as ” Ana beat us all to paradise” (by the father of one of the 6 year old victims). I envy his reaction. Were it not for the fact that I have other children, if I was in his shoes I’d be looking for the nearest bridge.

    An elementary school shooting by a mentally disabled person does little to further the free will defence to the problem of evil. However, nothing that happens will shake the faith of the truly faithful. They’ll give you answers like this one (just received by me from a Lutheran pastor on twitter): “God created man perfect. Illness is the result of the fall into sin“.

    I think Christians have two options at times like these: (i) Join Huckabee and Steve Hays; or (2) pull out their handy dandy mystery card and ignore the logical problems with skeptical theism. Perhaps that’s a false dichotomy … I don’t know. I just feel sick. I have a child in grade 2 and this incident has left me reeling in a way only The Onion can describe (profanity warning): http://www.theonion.com/articles/fuck-everything-nation-reports,30743/

  • http://www.facebook.com/BenSagan2012 Ben Sagan

    It never ceases to amaze me when people who blindly believe in an ancient text of dubious merit and authenticity, have the nerve to use their theism to find excuses from events that are driven by society’s failures or natural disasters. GROW UP and acknowledge that your religious book and beliefs are not a solution, in fact are often part of the problems for death an misery across the world for centuries.

    • Alejandro Rodríguez

      So is lack of belief, or at least lack of belief doesn’t really prevent any violence, and it really is hard to take you seriously when that book constantly emphasizes humility, love and compassion, something that we alot of the time forget. Nor do the majority of christians do what you say, or at least not all. In fact, here in my country not even the crazy evangelicals “find excuses for the failures of society or natural disasters”, nor does the Bible really explain it that way too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Evans/100000619020207 David Evans

    “Will some rabid secularist suggest that schools like my daughter’s are better because they removed the Bible?”

    As a non-rabid secularist, let me suggest that removing a book which shows God and his chosen people regularly resorting to genocide might well be an improvement.

  • L.W. Dickel

    I remember the lyrics to this song from my childhood.

    “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white they are precious to his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

    Well, thank goodness that Jesus loves the little children of the world. I’d hate to think what the world would be like if Jesus was indifferent to the little children of the world!

    But of course, the lyrics to that song, like the Bible and Christianity itself, is nothing but a lie.

  • Alejandro Rodríguez

    US american conservatives don’t make sense. They follow a religion that is pacifist, yet oppose gun control laws. They have to give to the poor, yet they oppose that very same thing.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      The belief that government is tyranny (or close to it) drives much of that thinking, despite Paul’s positive view of government in Romans 13. So while they believe in personally giving to the poor, they reject the government forcing them to do so through taxation. The concern for defending access to guns by followers of Jesus would be ironically amusing if it weren’t so tragic.

  • Josh Duke

    I don’t think it’s an assertion to state that “god talk” does not cure psychopathy, nor does it sway “preppers” from stock-piling guns in lieu of the coming apocalypse while living with a mentally disturbed kid. If you have neurological defects outside of your control, no amount of school prayer is going to make you be “good,” and not “evil.” This is definitely NOT a heart issue; it’s a BRAIN issue.

  • Kye

    Regardless of how you feel about Mike Huckabee, consider Jesus. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that He raised from the dead, you will be saved.” “He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Romans 10:9; Luke 13:2-3)

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