Posts Tagged “violence”

The Inauguration Mass For Pope FrancisPope Francis has bucked more than a few traditional Catholic trends since taking office a couple months ago. The most recent example of this is a dual one, and came in a homily he delivered today. The RNS reports via Hartford FAVS (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis is warning Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.”

“(T)his ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God,” Francis said Wednesday (May 22) in remarks at the informal morning Mass that he celebrates in the chapel at the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

“And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

Francis explained that doing good is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

To both atheists and believers, he said that “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

Both of the pope’s concessions are remarkable: That non-Catholics — atheists even! — might be “redeemed” by virtue of their good works, is a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. It would seem to make the Catholic Church itself useless and irrelevant. As remarkable, too, is his admission that killing in God’s name is blasphemy. Since the time of St Augustine, the R.C. Church has used the principle of “just war” to do an awful lot of killing in the name of their God. For Francis to state categorically that killing in God’s name is blasphemy, flies in the fact of this long tradition.

I expect traditional Catholics will scream to high heaven about these remarks. Just as they did when he dared wash the feet of women during Holy Week. But then again, sanctimonious outrage isn’t new to them. They more or less live in a perpetual state of sanctimonious outrage, all the time; all that changes is what they claim drives their outrage.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England & Wales), via Flickr.

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Please note, this is the second of two posts on this subject.

In my last post I mentioned some of the freakish and delusional paranoid conspiracies people have been hurling around after the Newtown massacre. Perhaps the peak of that particular phenomenon appeared in the form of Alex Jones’s meltdown on national television.

But there’s more to this than just cranks and wingnuts blowing smoke and throwing tantrums. Another problem are the various public-policy decisions that are being debated.

A lot of folks are talking about increasing restrictions on guns and ammunition — ideas ranging from increasing background-check requirements, to reimposing the “assault weapons” ban of the 1990s, to taxing ammunition at 400%, and more. There’s also talk about mental health care and various means of getting weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill (the aforementioned background checks are one way to do that). There’s also talk about video games and how they contribute to violence, and the same goes for America’s “gun culture.”

The problem is, all of this talk — and more — is predicated on a single event, about which we know precious little, and a lot of the known facts don’t really contribute to any of this jabber.

As far as guns and gun violence are concerned, it may sound very strange and seem incredibly counter-intuitive, but the truth is that the availability of guns does not correlate with gun violence. FactCheck’s long article addressing this particular aspect of the talk makes this clear (WebCite cached article). They note:

The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world — by far. And it has the highest rate of homicides among advanced countries. And yet, gun crime has been declining in the U.S. Firearm murders are down, as is overall gun violence — even as gun ownership increases.

The Newtown and Aurora massacres notwithstanding, gun violence in the US is at its lowest rate since 1981 … yet guns are more numerous, and more available (especially since the “assault weapons” ban has been gone for several years), than ever before. Will banning any particular kind of gun, or even all guns, make any difference? I’m not sure it would. There are already about as many guns in the US as there are people. The country is nearly saturated. Banning all future gun sales will do nothing about any of the many that are already in the field. What’s more, banning all gun sales is — for better or worse — very likely not legal, especially in light of the Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010) decisions. Ammunition controls would more likely pass legal muster, and might have an impact, but there’d still be the problem of all the ammunition out there being available to those who want it.

Proposals have been made in the opposite direction, to arm all teachers in schools, and even arm everyone in some communities. The thinking is, as stated by NRA president Wayne LaPierre, that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” (cached). More people with more guns means less crime, supposedly. But as FactCheck explained, while this sounds like a good idea to people who like guns, and is apparently supported by economist John R. Lott, this principle hasn’t borne up to scrutiny:

While Lott’s work is often cited by gun rights advocates, his findings are strongly disputed by numerous academics. Most notably, in 2004 a committee of the National Research Council of the National Academies analyzed Lott’s research and took issue with his findings [cached], concluding that “it is impossible to draw strong conclusions from the existing literature on the causal impact of these laws” (See Chapter 6).

Besides, LaPierre’s assertion was proven wrong just a couple days later, when a teacher in Taft Union High School talked a student into ending his shooting spree (cached). The idea of turning America into a latter-day “wild west” is fraught with complications, such as a chance of increased accidental shootings, the possibility of people being attacked in order to have their guns taken, and more.

What’s more, the guns used in the Newtown massacre had been legally acquired and were legally owned by the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza. If legally-compliant guns in Connecticut, which already has restrictive gun laws, ended up being used in a horrific crime, I’m not sure how making those laws even more onerous are going to help very much.

Now, about video games. It’s true there are now tons of extremely violent video games all over the place, now. It was also reported that the Newtown shooter was an avid player (cached). The problem is, the correlation between violent video games and real-world violence, hasn’t yet been established (cached). Some research has suggested there’s a link; other research suggests there’s none. What’s a person to think? I have no idea. What I do know, as the FactCheck article I mentioned previously points out, is that we’re at the lowest level of gun violence since 1981. Back then, video games were rare, few were overtly violent (beyond things like Space Invaders and Asteroids). Video games are now common, in nearly everyone’s homes, and many of those are extremely violent. If there were a correlation, one would expect there’d be more gun violence, not less, now than in 1981. So call me skeptical of such a link.

Violence in Hollywood has also been cited as a culprit. But again, we have the same problem: No sure correlation between violence in the media and violence in the real world, plus the fact that there is a lot more violence in the media now (more channels, more shows, and greater amounts of violence depicted within them) than in 1981, yet we’re at the lowest level of gun violence since 1981. For the same reason, I can’t find it credible that violence in the media has much to do with it.

Then there’s the matter of mental health care. Most people assume the Newtown shooter to have been mentally ill. Reports claim he’d snapped because his mother had been planning to institutionalize him (cached). His brother also reportedly claimed he had Asperger’s syndrome (cached). But AS is not a mental illness; it is, rather, a developmental disorder in the autism spectrum. As a result, people are now talking about mental health care as a way of preventing these kinds of events (cached). There are even people who think America’s system of institutions needs to be re-established and the mentally ill warehoused as they used to be, before exposés in the 1970s and the enactment of legislation, including the Mental Health Systems Act, that eventually led to their closure.

Personally, I find it frightening that anyone is seriously considering going back to the days of rampant forced confinement of the mentally ill. There’s a reason there was a hue and cry against those institutions; those housed within them were often treated horrifically. We cannot and should not even consider that course of action. Combine this with the fact that we aren’t even sure if the Newtown shooter was actually mentally ill at all — officials have not disclosed whether he’d been diagnosed or treated, and have not confirmed any of the stories about him that I mentioned. It may well be the case that the shooter had been mentally ill … but really, we have no idea whether he was or not.

What all of this boils down to is, we don’t know enough about this event to be able to draw any conclusions from it, and by extension, make any policy decisions because of it. The Connecticut State Police are in charge of the investigation into the shooting, its causes, the shooter, and his family. They’ve disclosed nothing of consequence about it, and I don’t envision them ever doing so. We know nothing about the Newtown shooter with any certainty. We don’t know his motive, or what could have caused him to go on this rampage. We don’t know if his mother had kept her guns locked up, or if she did, if she’d allowed her son access to the keys. We don’t know what sort of planning went into this event or if anyone in his life had seen any warning signs.

In sum … we don’t know Jack shit about Adam Lanza or about why the shooting occurred. The people who do know, aren’t talking, and they aren’t likely to talk. To make any large-scale policy changes based on zero knowledge, is the worst kind of folly. We need to put the brakes on all the yammering and get to the bottom of this event before making any serious moves.

That’s just the way it is. Unfortunately.

Photo credit: Motifake.

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Agence France-Presse / Getty Images, via the New York TimesIt’s been in the news all day … rioting at the U.S. embassy in Cairo (cached), and a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya (cached), all supposedly because of an anti-Islam movie produced by someone in California. The trouble with all of this news is — it might not be so. News outlets like the New York Times are beginning to report that at least the Benghazi murders might not have been caused by the inflammatory video, after all (WebCite cached article):

The Obama administration suspects that the fiery attack in Libya that killed the American ambassador and three other diplomats may have been planned rather than a spontaneous mob getting out of control, American officials said Wednesday. …

The attack at the compound in Benghazi was far more deadly than administration officials first announced on Tuesday night, when Mrs. Clinton said one American had been killed and one injured.

Another of those killed was Sean Smith, an information management officer who joined the Foreign Service 10 years ago, Mrs. Clinton said in a statement. The State Department did not identify the other two, pending notification of their relatives. Mr. Smith, who was a husband and father of two, previously served in Iraq, Canada and the Netherlands.

This is in contrast to the rioting in Cairo which may actually have been triggered by the video’s insult to Islam and its founding prophet:

The protesters in Cairo appeared to be a genuinely spontaneous unarmed mob angered by an anti-Islam video produced in the United States. By contrast, it appeared the attackers in Benghazi were armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

I have no doubt that America’s Neocrusaders will use both the murders in Benghazi and the riots in Cairo as “evidence” that Islam is violent, evil, and must be stamped out. They’ll say, “See? Islam isn’t ‘the Religion of Peace’ after all!” The trouble is … that’s precisely what this movie was designed to do! It was purposely incendiary, and even some of those involved in making it claim they’d been deceived by its producer (cached). And his biography appears to be leakier than a sieve (cached).

Let’s be brutally honest: It doesn’t take rocket science to realize this Youtube video would send some Muslims up in flames. After all, the mere threat of burning copies of the Qur’an had caused thousands of Afghans to fly into a murderous rage. We already know Muslims aren’t culturally mature enough to handle any kind of critique of their religion. We didn’t need this movie to prove it. So what, then, did this movie accomplish?

Abso-fucking-lutely nothing whatsoever! All it did was cause raging and rioting that need not ever have happened.

But while the producer of this movie bears at least some moral responsibility for this … since it appears he went into this expressly desiring this particular result (cached) … it’s also true that no one can incite a riot unless there are other folks ready, willing and able to take the bait and start rioting. In other words, this “Sam Bacile” did not put a gun to the heads of these rioters and force them to go on a rampage. The rioters in Cairo went and did that, entirely on their own. On the other hand, they could have chosen to act differently; they could have had the maturity to understand that not everyone else in the world loves their religion or its founder, and that once in a while one of those people is going to insult Islam.

There’s only one phrase to describe all of this: “Religionistic immaturity.” Immaturity on the part of America’s Neocrusaders, including “Sam Bacile,” who can’t handle the fact that Islam exists and who feel the need to throw tantrums over it; and on the part of the rioting Muslims, who can’t handle the fact that people of other religions might say something bad about Islam and who likewise throw tantrums of their own.

Folks … the human race can no longer afford this kind of deeply-ingrained, culturally-perpetuated immaturity. Muslims need to fucking grow the hell up and deal with the fact that not everyone likes their religion. By the same token, Christians need to fucking grow the hell up and stop being enraged that other people have rejected their faith. This kind of wanton childishness in the name of God really needs to stop.

Just. Fucking. Stop. OK?

Update: In their ongoing effort to show how childish they can be, rioting Muslims in Egypt have entered the U.S. embassy compound tonight (cached). Well done, Muslims. You’re on your way to invading and capturing yet another American embassy. Yessirree, everyone is now sure to conclude that yours truly is “the Religion of Peace.” Yep. No doubt about that! You all must be so proud of yourselves! </sarcasm>

Photo credit: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images, via the New York Times.

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Pat Robertson / Mediaite / Pat Robertson Concludes Sikh Temple Shooting Because ‘Atheists Hate God’The Aurora massacre was only a few hours old when a Religiofascist Congressman giddily declared that “attacks” on religion were to blame for it … in spite of the fact that, even now — weeks later — no one is yet quite sure what caused James Holmes to gun down a bunch of people in a movie theater. Well, the Sikh Temple shooting was likewise just a few hours old, when, as Mediaite reports, Christofascist televangelist Marion “Pat” Robertson announced that atheists’ hatred of God had caused it (WebCite cached article):

On his 700 Club program Monday morning, televangelist Pat Robertson came to the conclusion that Sunday morning’s Sikh temple massacre in Oak Creek, Wisc., was ultimately because “atheists hate God.”

“What is it?” Robertson wondered aloud. “Is it satanic? Is it some spiritual thing?”

“People who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God,” he continued. “And they are angry with the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshipping God.”

It’s curious Patty-boy would be so sure that the late accused shooter, Wade Michael Page, was an “atheist” who’d decided to “take it out on innocent people who are worshipping God.” Aside from the fact that the guy appears to have been a vocal white supremacist (cached), not a lot else is known about his motives. And there’s absolutely no evidence he was an atheist. Even though white supremacy has its origins in certain fringe Christian beliefs, I’m not yet willing to blame this shooting on religiosity. So why is Patty Robertson so quick to blame it on areligion or anti-religion? I have no idea. Do you?

I’d like to point out an obvious flaw in Patty-boy’s reasoning: he said that atheists “hate God.” But by definition, atheists don’t believe in God. It’s literally not possible for them to “hate” something they don’t even believe in.

I’ll end by asking an open question of my religious readers (and I know there are some of you out there): Have you had enough, yet, of this kind of bilious sewage that streams freely from the mouths of people who claim to speak for you? When do any of you plan to put your collective feet down and stop vermin like Robertson and Gohmert from spewing this kind of sick lunacy? This kind of bullshit is now standard fare when any of these kinds of events happen. Why have you permitted that to happen? When are you finally going to grow some cojones and put an end to these cretins’ antics?

The fact that this is so commonplace means you no longer have any excuses for refusing to act to prevent it. What you will not stop — and what you know is sure to happen — you tacitly support. As I’ve said any number of times already: If you don’t think enough of your own religion to police it and keep its spokespeople in line, you can’t expect outside observers such as myself to respect it, or to respect you for believing in it. Either take responsibility for your religion … or just admit you like hearing this crap. The choice is yours.

My guess is, while a lot of you would say you don’t like hearing it, secretly, you actually do. Of course, it would be rather easy for you to prove me wrong on that. I invite you to do so! Please, go right ahead.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Mediaite.

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Police are seen outside a Century 16 movie theater where as many as 12 people were killed and dozens more injured in a shooting during a midnight showing of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' in Aurora, Colo., July 20, 2012. Author: Edecio Martinez. Credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski. Via CBS News.By now you’ve heard about the shooting last night/early this morning in Aurora CO. I knew some sanctimoniously-enraged Religious Rightist would find a way to blame it on irreligion, but I honestly didn’t think it would take only a few hours. But as CBS News reports, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert did precisely that (WebCite cached article):

In a radio interview Friday morning, Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas associated the Colorado mass shooting that’s left at least 12 people dead to “attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.”…

Host Ernest Istook asked Gohmert, “What is your experience with the way that we have too many twisted minds in our society?”…

The congressman continued, “And what really gets me as a Christian is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place.”

There you have it. According to Gohmert, this shooting happened because “Judeo-Christian beliefs” have somehow been “attacked.” At the moment, no one really knows what drove the accused killer to do it … but Louie-boy is unaware of that. He — and he alone — in all the universe has managed to determine accused killer James Holmes’s motive! Oh, and he added this militant little quip:

Gohmert also wondered during the interview, “With all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?”

Apparently Louie-boy thinks many more bullets flying in many more directions in the crowded setting of a theater complex packed to the gills with Dark Knight Rises premiere moviegoers, would have been a good idea. I honestly don’t know how that works … but apparently Gohmert does.

What a fucking moron this guy is. Louie-boy’s militant religiosity has robbed him of his brains. Not that it’s entirely surprising … the Religious Right long ago lost its collective mind, and has been wallowing in insanity and idiocy for years.

Update: Yesterday’s incident near the Empire State Building in New York City should serve as a warning to Gohmert and the many other Wild West-loving gun-freaks who think a shootout would have been a good idea: All nine of the people wounded there, were hit by police firing back at the gunman (cached). During the Aurora shooting, Holmes had body armor on, which means the number of bystanders endangered would have been that much higher. What a fucking moron Gohmert is.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, via CBS News.

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Screen shot of Zach the Dog (@Zachthedogg) tweet: 'Fuck Jessica alquist I'll drop anchor on her face'I’ve been known to refer to Christianity facetiously as “the Religion of Love,” because while its adherents claim to be loving, peaceful and gentle, when push comes to shove — and especially where they think their God is concerned — they’re anything but loving, peaceful or gentle. Offended Christians easily forget the “love” the founder of their religion taught them and rationalize hatred, intolerance, and even violence in his name.

The latest example of this all-too-common phenomenon comes in the wake of a court decision ordering the removal of a giant prayer banner in a public high school in Rhode Island (WebCite cached article). You see, in the wake of that decision, quite a number of supposedly-loving Christians have unleashed a great deal of fury at the atheist student who brought the case, Jessica Ahlquist. A pair of bloggers has cataloged a number of Facebook and Twitter comments made by Christians, and they are … well, I’ll let you decide (cached):

It is apparent that Christians only believe in tolerance so long as their religion is allowed to violate the constitution.

Well, I’ve grown tired of just being tolerated and I will not be tolerating the stomach-churning hatred that’s continuously espoused by those doing the “tolerating.”

These are those comments… some of them anyway.. I hope you’re reading them on an empty stomach.

A small sample of the abundant Christian “love” being showered down on Ms Ahlquist appears below. Read these, and be impressed with all of that “love.”

Screen shot of Ryan A Simoneau ™ (@Ry_Simoneau) tweet: 'I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer #Honestly'
Screen shot of Cracked Lens (@zombiecamera) tweet: '@jessicaahlquist your home address got posted online i can't wait to hear about you getting curb stomped you fucking worthless cunt'
Screen shot of Alexandra Vachon (@Alexandra_x7) tweet: '@G_Cimarelli if I wasn't 18 and wouldn't go to jail i'd beat the shit out her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet

Surely this is precisely the behavior Jesus had in mind, when he said all of the following:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. (Mt 5:38-40)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mt 5:43-45)

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Mt 26:52)

Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. (Lk 6:29)

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Lk 6:35)

I suggest all these enraged Christians pick up their damn Bibles and read them. For the first time in their lives, if needed. Sheesh.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit (for all images in this post): JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks.

P.S. Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, has set up a scholarship “Chipin” for Jessica. If you feel like sticking it to all those furious militant Christianists, do it constructively by making a donation:

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Police are investigating a firebomb attack against the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation building and three other sites in Queens, New York. (CBS 2)Note: See the update below for an important update to this blog post!

I’ve blogged a number of times about a movement I call “the Neocrusade” — a modern effort by “Christian nationers” to eliminate Islam within the U.S. It’s mostly found in the same parts of the country as Religious Rightism, i.e. in the Bobble Bayelt (er, Bible Belt), but it can be found elsewhere too, including the New York City metropolis. As CBS News reports, there’s a chance that Neocrusading vigilantes might once again be active in the Big Apple (WebCite cached article):

Authorities are investigating four fire attacks in New York City, including one at an Islamic center and one at a house used for Hindu worship.

Police say three attacks Sunday night involved molotov cocktails. There were no injuries. Police are investigating the attacks as bias crimes.

The fact that non-Islam-related targets were hit, certainly suggests these attacks weren’t Neocrusade-motivated. But then again, Neocrusaders have been known to lash out at the wrong targets, so it can’t be ruled out quite yet.

If this is, in fact, the work of militant Christian Neocrusaders, the irony of Christianists resorting to terror and violence in their campaign against a religion they consider violent and terror-promoting, is precious.

Update: It turns out this may have not been Neocrusaders’ work, after all. The New York Times reports a suspect has been arrested, police say the fires he set all resulted from specific, personal grudges, not out of religious fervor (cached).

Photo credit: WCBS via CBS News.

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