I weep for America

December 17, 2012 • 3:23 pm

UPDATE: Reader Krishan has called my attention to New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik’s outraged response to the child-killing lobby. I rarely see Gopnik this exercised, but enough is enough. An excerpt (my emphasis):

And now it has happened again, bang, like clockwork, one might say: Twenty dead children—babies, really—in a kindergarten in a prosperous town in Connecticut. And a mother screaming. And twenty families told that their grade-schooler had died. After the Aurora killings, I did a few debates with advocates for the child-killing lobby—sorry, the gun lobby—and, without exception and with a mad vehemence, they told the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend. (That they are often the same people who pretend outrage at the loss of a single embryo only makes the craziness still crazier.)

So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.

The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children. They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns, placed in the balance even against the routine murder of innocent children, is of supreme value. Whatever satisfaction gun owners take from their guns—we know for certain that there is no prudential value in them—is more important than children’s lives. Give them credit: life is making moral choices, and that’s a moral choice, clearly made.


I don’t need to comment on this, except to apologize for my country:

According to the Raw Story, the faithful have added yet another another culprit besides the First Amendment to the school shootings: evolution. It was only a matter of time, of course.

A Tennessee pastor on Sunday told his congregation that the number of mass shooting were escalating because of schools were government “mind-control centers” that taught “junk about evolution” and “how to be a homo.”

Old Paths Baptist Church Pastor Sam Morris began speaking about last week’s school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut by warning that “this sermon will not be pleasant.”

It wasn’t.

“Why do you still send your kids to the governmental schools?” the pastor asked the congregation. “What’s behind this shooting that we saw on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut and the other one’s like it? What’s going on. Well, number one, deception… I got news for you, when you kicked God out of schools, you’re going to be judged for that.”

Morris insisted that “humanism” in schools taught Lanza that he was God and “he can just go blow away anybody he wants.”

“When I got in high school, man, I started learning all this kingdom, phylum stuff, all this junk about evolution,” he recalled. “And I want to tell you what evolution teaches — here’s the bottom line — that you’re an animal. That’s what it teaches. So, you’re an animal, you can act like an animal. Amen.”

“So, here you are, you’re an animal and you’re a god! So, what are we going to teach you about in school? Well, we can teach you about sex, we can teach you how to rebel to you parents, we can teach you how to be a homo! But we’re definitely not going to teach you about the word of God! Amen.”

He added: “They think homeschoolers are a bunch of crazies, man. But I’m going to tell you something, I’ve never seen a police officer or a medal [sic] detector at a home school. Never. Amen. Now, there’s plenty of guns at my home school. Amen. I guarantee you we’re not going to have a mass shooting at any of the schools that are represented in this building today. I guarantee you, if there is a shooting, it won’t last very long. Amen.”

You can hear the tape of his sermon at the Raw Story link above.

Does not love Darwin or "homos"
Does not love Darwin or “homos”

h/t: Grania

191 thoughts on “I weep for America

  1. The media say that Lanza was home tutored (by his survivalist mother). He probably caught redneckitis at home, not in school.

    1. Way more so than is usual in a crisis, the media has been grossly dead wrong many many times in the Sandy Hook story. I’ve been following via msnbc, and although I don’t think they’ve been making stuff up, somewhere along the line, sources have been feeding them lots of faulty info. I think this is a story in itself and hope that some reporter will follow it up. Right now though, I still am not ready to believe that I’ve heard the real story about Lanza’s mother.

      1. ” I think this is a story in itself and hope that some reporter will follow it up. ”

        I agree that this is a story in itself, but I don’t share your optimism about someone writing it. To me it seems like the American press has been creeping this direction for some time. With the 24-hour-news cycle, first they got lax about fact-checking, and now they’ve done it so long many of them don’t recognize it as a problem any more; it’s just the way things are done.

        1. I just hope; I’m not optimistic either. I was able to follow the story fairly regularly since it started. Things were reported early that have now been flushed from the system, so it may be difficult for some to grasp just how bad it’s been. I’ve never seen so much misinformation about a crisis story. Today we learned (maybe) that there is not 1 but 2 surviving wounded. WTF?

          Actually, one would think that a news organization such as NBC would really want to investigate; they sat there and had to change their story over and over again.

      1. Yes, barking mad. Looking at the mindless prattle of the pious, I have no doubt that there’s cognitive disorder involved. However, I find it very difficult to characterize it in explicit terms, but I believe that getting a handle on it would be of help in fighting religion.

  2. Someone needs more sappy stories about pets helping their owners, or animals being friendly across species, or animals seeming to grieve (or at least register that someone is missing and this is stressful). Both to show that the roots of human behavior — the good and the bad — are seen in many animals, and because a bunch of adorable cat/dog/horse/etc. pictures and stories might make him less angry.

    Humans are animals. It means we can be both cruel and kind, and our large brains means our social behavior can be really complex variations on those themes.

  3. Just to let you know, as a Canadian, while I will laugh at the ignorance of some Americans (google Rick Mercer Talking to Americans for examples), I do not assume most Americans agree with or support the stupid statements made by anyone in your country who has access to a microphone.

      1. I don’t doubt it.

        However as Rick Mercer demonstrated, there are significant cultural differences between Canadians and Americans. He would regularly ask Americans (including politicians) to comment on (ridiculous) situations without them realizing they were being fooled. American TV tried to do the reverse, but failed miserably. ie. It’s easy to find an American who can be fooled into thinking the Prime Minister of Canada is Tim Horton or Wayne Gretsky, or that we have a National Igloo threatened by global warming. It’s hard to find a Canadian who can be fooled into thinking the President is Oprah Winfrey or Donald Trump.

  4. I hate it when someone, atheist or a pastor, brings God into that tragedy.

    God has nothing to do with the shooting. A deranged guy is responsible and the reason is not God or what have you. The reason is that this guy was DERANGED and had access to GUNS! Period.

      1. Gilles is, though, technically correct.

        God had no more to do with the shooting than Captain Hook or the Sheriff of Nottingham or Grendel or any other fictional antagonist.

        No word, yet, though, on whether any particular faery tale inspired the shooter.


    1. Gotta ask: Why didn’t this “God” entity cause the shooter to have a car wreck on the way to the school? Seriously? If he exists and has the attributes that so many religious people assign* to her/him/it, then she/he/it has a lot to answer for.

      (* Listen to the comforting fictions spun by the religious people in Newtown. I’m dead serious: If you believe in this “loving” God thingie, tell us why he didn’t cause the shooter to have a car wreck on the way to the school (or die of an infection at age 11).)

    2. That God had absolutely nothing to do with this should trouble theists who believe in an all-knowing, all-loving God. What was God doing while 20 children were being massacred? Watching by the sidelines?

  5. So, how long before Roy Zimmerman is singing to us about how Morris is completely heterosexual?

    I can tell you that no animal I’ve personally known would do anything remotely like what that shooter did, even considering carnivorous predation.

    I also note that Morris thinks that wantonly dealing death and destruction is the domain of gods. Hardly surprising, considering the sadistic fucks whose altar he worships at.

    I mean, hello? The Flood? The Plagues? Hell? Armageddon?

    Those are not love gods portrayed in the Bible.



    1. Some rodents will eat their young, but I don’t think they eat other rodents’ young.

      Any vulnerable person can get any idea stuck in their head, then add guns, lack of insight, lack of social network, and possibly some “realistic” video games and you have all the ingredients you need.

      If you’re in China, you attack with a knife, and nobody dies. In God-soaked U.S.A. you attack with an assault rifle which you brought with the intention of one-upping whoever the last shooter was.

  6. If you believe in the Christian God, you can’t just blow away anyone you want. Instead, you follow the orders of a God who has informed you that virtually every person deserves to be eternally tortured for failing to be perfect.

    So, you must blow away only the people whom God wants you to blow away. If the rest of us are lucky, God has also told you that He wants to do the purging Himself.

    Really — how hard is it to believe in God, do evil, and believe, claim to believe, or both that what looks like evil is really good, in the eyes of God? His ways, not ours.

    It’s not hard at all. It’s really, really easy. God either forgives you because you confess your sin … or lets you know you didn’t sin, whatever the unfaithful might think.

  7. As an Australian I weep for your country too.

    My husband is from the US (now retired academic), and he shudders every time I send him something from Jerry or wherever.

    1. No need to weep for us. The wall of separation is under attack but is still, for the most part, holding up well– thanks to lawsuits. Most of the religious right madness is, like an iceberg, not visible to the general public; the R.R. often puts a secular face on its nonsense. When the general public gets a whiff of what’s usually hidden, they react negatively. Note the 2 Senate candidates who lost in the last election after they made some absurd statements about abortion. Even Mississippi voted down a personhood bill.

      Some are going on a religious binge right now and even Obama jumped into it last night (disgusting, really), but I don’t see a theocracy near. If Obama gets to appoint several Supreme Court justices, I think that that institution can keep us from theocracy for many years. While most Americans believe in a god, they also have a antipathy towards the barking mad which is what the religious right is.

  8. Maybe idiots like him need to take a real long look in the mirror to see just who it is that’s responsible for this tragedy. If I were him I’d be praying that God doesn’t exist.

  9. Now, there’s plenty of guns at my home school. Amen. I guarantee you we’re not going to have a mass shooting at any of the schools that are represented in this building today. I guarantee you, if there is a shooting, it won’t last very long.

    So much fail. Does this idiot not know that the shooter was home schooled?

  10. That’s the Old Paths Baptist Church in Fayetteville, TN, I think – one of at least five sharing the name in that benighted state.

    It’s repugnant madness like this which made me leave Memphis, where I was born.

    I do concede that things got better after 1934, when they reintroduced the wheel.

    1. I grew up thirty miles from Fayetteville — and I have to say that nothing that I hear any more from the cesspool that is Tennessee surprises me. Those of you from civilized portions of the country — I live in one now — would not believe the shit that passes for thinking down there.

      Am I bitter? I don’t think so.

      1. As someone who grew up in Seattle and who has lived in Texas for the last 25 years, I can attest that there are more loons in Texas. But the loony fraction of people living in “civilized portions of the country” as not as small we would like to believe. Politicians from “civilized portions”, like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum, are just as bat-shit crazy as people from redneckistan proper.

        1. But I doubt that there are as many bat-shit crazy ones from civilized portions of the country as from redneckistan. Just look at the Congressional delegations from Minnesota and Pennsylvania as compared to those from the red states.

          1. Being from MN, I agree. Bachman is an aberration in MN, though she most certainly does reflect her district. Outer ring suburbs where you can shoot yer guns in your yard and ride yer sleds (snow machines) across your neighbors’ yards (and ATVs (“four-wheelers”) across them in the summer.)

            I live within 100m of her district. Ugh. Thankful I’m on the sane side of that line.

  11. The number of atheists in america is rounding error compared to the net number of people in the world who do not think like these christians, if this god had to wait so long and then visit his punishment on children who are in no position to have any understanding of what this nonsense is about – then he is a pretty pointless god.

    1. We are talking meat pies, with decadent chocolate encased gourmet fillings. Isn’t that why ze aliens abduct us, because we’re such mystical delicacies?

        1. Stupid pastors who don’t know better and God!

          Atheists never blame the gods for anything.

          They don’t exist, so why should they?

          1. Because if he/she/it/they did exist, he/she/it/they would/should have intervened to prevent the shooting? Wait, I forgot, he/she/it/they are busy deciding who will will the high school football game on Friday night…

        2. Please show us examples of atheists blaming stupid pastors or (even more ridiculous) God for the tragedy.

          Examples of atheists blaming stupid pastors for thinking like adults don’t count. Nor do examples of atheists blaming stupid pastors for using religion to block strategies to address these problems.

            1. If that link was intended to be an answer, it doesn’t seem to work.

              (and… I had an iPad typo in my comment… *… pastors for NOT thinking like…*)

              1. Nah, that was a screw-up on my part. I meant to add “crickets” to you post (i.e., “no reply”). Having messed that up, I clicked permalink accidentally. Sigh.

        3. We don’t blame God, that would be silly. By juxtaposing the massacre of innocents with the prevalent belief in an all-loving, all-knowing God, we merely highlight the irrationality of such belief.

    1. From here it seems that the USA treats its Constitution like Holy Writ, and guns like some kind of mystical icon.

      The USA does seem to be crazy about religion and crazy about guns in very much the same way (both are intimately associated with the US religion of patriotism).

      It would be interesting to measure the number of people with guns in their pockets/handbags, and the number with crosses around their necks, and the correlation between them. Oh, and flags on the front lawn.

      1. “The USA does seem to be crazy about religion and crazy about guns in very much the same way (both are intimately associated with the US religion of patriotism).

        “It would be interesting to measure the number of people with guns in their pockets/handbags, and the number with crosses around their necks, and the correlation between them. Oh, and flags on the front lawn.”

        Dear Shuggy:

        Ah, bullshit. At least to judge by my local atheist group.

        The statistical correlation between the things you mention is ALREADY well known; for you to say that it would be “interesting to measure it” is like saying that it would be interesting to measure the speed of sound or the weight of a pound of sugar.

        But…we’re all atheists, pro-science, fire-breathing about evolution, militantly pro-gay rights. We don’t have crosses around our necks or flags on our lawn. We’re aware of the idiocy of the War on Some Drugs, and having 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners and over 40% of its military budget. We’re appalled by our export of slavery and genocide through military hegemony.

        And we’re all gun collectors, shooters, and most of us staunch 2nd Amendment activists who haven’t much use for the quislings at America’s largest gun CONTROL organization, the NRA. We belong to REAL Bill-of-Rights organizations, like the Gun Owners of America and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. We know the difference between an AR-15 and an SKS on the one hand and an M-16 and an AK-47 on the other. We know that any discussion of “semi-automatic assault rifles” is oxymoronic, because we know what a REAL assault rifle is.

        NOW maybe you’ll have something interesting to measure. Or not.

      1. Did you even read my comment? “We atheists”? I thought the sarcasm was self-evident as demonstrated by the link.

    1. There you go, using facts, reason and logic again. There is no way you’ll get anything along to the fundies like that…

  12. There’s a line within fundamentalist Christian humor that “we are against premarital sex because it leads to dancing.”

    The fundamentalist Christians (and Muslims and Jews, I suspect) can’t stand it that their God created everyone and gave them a chance to choose how to live, a quality they want to revoke. Now that they are overwhelmingly outnumbered they are making a final (hopefully) appeal for theocracy.

    1. I was thinking recently that the Xns might get a lot of adherence to Xn morals but they have to create a really draconian theocracy to do it. “What’s good is what God says is good” is arbitrary, makes moral prescriptions unintelligible, is completely divorced from a base in the needs of human life, in many cases absurd and even destructive of life, and, at the least, makes life miserable.

    1. From reports, it seems that he attended Sandy Hook. But, I’ll just have to wait until the fog clears.

      In major news stories like this, there’s always misinformation, but I’ve never seen it so bad as in this case. I watched NBC coverage and I don’t think they were inventing stuff, but they were really getting some really bad info somewhere. Now, today, we hear that there are not 1 but 2 surviving wounded. At first, Lanza’s mom looked kinda bad, but she’s looking better as time goes on. I’ll wait on her too.

      I’d like to see someone investigate the junk info that got into the media about the Sandy Hook story; something really went wrong. I note the little girl who told her story and was clearly focused on facts and accuracy. NBC or some news organization should give that kid a full journalism scholarship right now.

      1. Well, that Lt. Vance has said that the police could discover no connection between Lanza and the school. There was also talk of an altercation involving Lanza at the school the day before. That is now claimed to be a false report.

  13. Does anyone know how much power it takes to maintain the God forcefield around every school? Do we turn it off when school’s not in session? Are God forcefields sources of EMF?

    1. Here we go again: scientific prejudices getting in the way. God doesn’t need any stinkin’ causal laws: it’s pure magic. He makes things do what, according to their characteristics, they cannot do. He makes them act as if they were what they are not. He’s supernatural. Hope this is clear.

  14. Mike Huckabee has chimed in too. One Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association is saying that God didn’t protect the kids because he’s been kicked out of the schools. I expect that all of the kids are Xns, but, because of the separation of church and state, he took no note of that and let the kid be murdered with multiple gun shot wounds. What a petulant god he is!

    I sometimes comment on the msnbc news site; the threads are often quite active.
    Yesterday, someone wrote that God was going to comfort the families. An atheists replied to the effect that it was strange that God would show up to comfort but not show up to save the kids. The atheist was then told by someone else to get off the thread. In another case, someone wrote that people had become “desensitized to God” and now had no feelings. What? After writing that I was hurting badly because of Sandy Hook, I write that I knew what a psychopath was and wasn’t one of them.

    Perhaps the most damaging nonsense was when Obama jumped into the religion binge that’s going on.

    BGW, I don’t think I like being wept for. The other day, someone wrote that atheists (I don’t remember the context) were made to feel, as I recall, like 2nd class citizen. Well, screw that; I absolutely feel no such thing — never have and never will.

  15. Wasn’t there a shooting at Jerry Falwell’s church some years ago? Also there was a mass school shooting on May 18, 1927 in Bath, Michigan. The country had prayers in school then. And more recently there were shootings at a Amish school, a Sikh Temple and a Korean Church. Manics with assault weapons don’t discriminate.

    1. Interesting. I looked up Bath, Michigan at Wikipedia. 44 people were killed. The page mentions the killings and the note ends like this:

      “Thirty-eight out of the 314 students, three teachers, the superintendent, the postmaster and a local farmer assisting at the scene were killed. Most of the dead were students from second to sixth grade. Fifty-eight others were injured.”

      I think the media have forgotten about this.

      1. But it wasn’t a shooting, it was a (timer-controlled) bombing. What surprises me is that, since I’m sorta drawn to history of the 20’s & 30’s, is that I’d never heard about it until someone mentioned it on another post here the other day.

        1. I saw the material about the bombing; I just didn’t see it as central. What I’m concerned about is that these killers will adapt. The new fast response approach of the police gives the killers little time to do what they want. Lanza, if we believe the reports, had lots of rounds left over. So, the only way to make a bigger impact would be to change the weapon of choice to something more lethal yet.

        2. I grew up a few miles from Bath, MI. The timing device partially failed, and firemen carried out a couple hundred pounds of dynamite in bushel baskets from under the second wing of the school; that did not explode.

          The Bath School Disaster was an early example of our national short attention span. It happened on May 18th, 1927. Ask Google what happened on May 21, 1927, and you will have some insight as to why you have never heard of it.

    2. From the Oracle of Wikiness:


      The earliest known United States shooting to happen on school property was the Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre on July 26, 1764, where four Lenape American Indians entered the schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and killed nine or ten children (reports vary). Only three children survived.


      November 2, 1853: Louisville, Kentucky A student, Matthew Ward, bought a self-cocking pistol in the morning, went to school and killed schoolmaster Mr. Butler for excessively punishing his brother the day before. Even though he shot the schoolmaster point blank in front of his classmates, he was acquitted.
      June 8, 1867: New York City At Public School No. 18, a 13 year old boy brought a pistol loaded and capped, without the knowledge of his parents or school-teachers, and shot and injured a classmate.

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

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

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

      March 6, 1884: Boston, Massachusetts As news of Jesse James reached the east coast, young kids started to act in the same manner. An article from the New York Times reads, Another “Jesse James” Gang – Word was brought to the Fifth Police Station to-night that a number of boys were using the Concord-street School-house for some unknown purpose, and a posse of officers was sent to investigate. The gang scattered at the approach of the police, and in their flight one drew a revolver and fired at Officer Rowan, without effect, however. William Nangle, age 14, and Sidney Duncan, age 12, were captured, but the other five or six escaped, among them the one who did the shooting. The boys refused to disclose the object of their meeting, but it is thought that another “Jesse James” organization has been broken up.

      March 15, 1884: Gainesville, Georgia In the middle of the day, a group of very drunk Jackson County farmers left the Jug Tavern drinking and shooting their revolvers as they headed down the street driving people into their homes. As they approached the female academy, the girls fled the schoolyard into the school where the gang followed swearing and shooting, firing several rounds into the front door. No one was hurt.

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

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

      April 9, 1891: The first known mass shooting in the U.S. where students were shot, when 70 year old, James Foster fired a shotgun at a group of students in the playground of St. Mary’s Parochial School, Newburgh, New York, causing minor injuries to several of the students.] The majority of attacks during this time period by students on other students or teacher, usually involved stabbing with knives, or hitting with stones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      February 15, 1927: Hempstead, New York James O’Donnell, 18-year-old senior at Hempstead High School, shot himself to death on the stage in the school’s auditorium. A suicide note stated that O’Donnell killed himself to lessen the financial burden on his family.

      May 18, 1927: Bath, Michigan School treasurer Andrew Kehoe, after killing his wife and destroying his house and farm, blew up the Bath Consolidated School by detonating dynamite in the basement of the school, killing 38 people, mostly children. He then pulled up to the school in his Ford car, then set off a truck bomb, killing himself and four others. Only one shot was fired in order to detonate dynamite in the car. This was the deadliest act of mass murder at a school in the United States.

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

      May 28, 1931: Duluth, Minnesota Katherine McMillen, 24-year-old teacher at the Howard Gensen rural school near Duluth, was accidentally shot and killed by a revolver brought to school by a pupil.
      February 15, 1933: Downey, California Dr. Vernon Blythe shot and killed his wife Eleanor, as well as his 8-year old son Robert at Gallatin grammar school and committed suicide after firing three more shots at his other son Vernon. His wife, who had been a teacher at the school, had filed for divorce the week before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      October 2, 1942: New York City, New York Irwin Goodman, 36-year-old mathematics teacher at William J. Gaynor Junior High School, was shot and killed in the school corridor by a youth.
      February 23, 1943: Port Chester, New York Harry Wyman, 13-year-old, shot himself dead at the Harvey School, a boys’ preparatory school.

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

      November 24, 1946: New York City A 13-year-old student at St. Benedict’s Parochial School, shot and fatally wounded himself while sitting in an audience watching a school play.
      February 5, 1947: Madill, Oklahoma 1st grade teacher Jessie Laird, 40-years-old, was shot to death in her classroom, during recess, by her estranged husband, Ellis Laird, 62-years-old. Laird then fatally shot himself.

      December 24, 1948: New York City A 14-year-old boy was wounded fatally by an accidental shot from the .22-caliber rifle of a fellow-student … the youth was shot in the head when he chanced into range where Robert Ross, 17, of Brooklyn, was shooting at a target near a lake on the school property.

      March 11, 1949: New York City A 16-year-old student at Stuyvesant High School was accidentally shot in the arm by a fellow student who was ‘showing off’ with a pistol in a classroom.

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

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

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

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

      June 4, 1951: New York City, New York Carl Arch, a 50-year-old intruder to a girl’s gym class, was shot and killed by a police officer, at Manhattan’s Central Commercial High School.

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

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

      July 14, 1952: New York City, New York Bayard Peakes walked in to the offices of the American Physical Society at Columbia University and shot and killed secretary Eileen Fahey with a .22 caliber pistol. Peakes was reportedly upset that the APS had rejected a pamphlet he had written.
      September 3, 1952: in Lawrenceville, Illinois After 25-year-old Georgine Lyon ended her engagement with Charles Petrach, Petrach shot and killed Lyon in a classroom at Lawrenceville High School where she worked as a librarian.

      November 20, 1952: New York City, New York “Rear Admiral E. E. Herrmann, 56 years old, superintendent of the Naval Postgraduate School, was found dead in his office with a bullet in his head. A service revolver was found by his side.

      October 2, 1953: Chicago, Illinois 14-year-old Patrick Colletta was shot to death by 14-year-old Bernice Turner in a classroom of Kelly High School in Chicago. It was reported that after Turner refused to date Colletta he handed her the gun and dared her to pull the trigger, telling her that the gun was “only a toy.” A coroner’s jury later ruled that the shooting was an accident.

      October 8, 1953: New York City, New York Larry Licitra, 17-year-old student at the Machine and Metal Trades High School, was shot and slightly wounded in the right shoulder in the lobby of the school while inspecting a handmade pistol owned by one of several students.

      March 31, 1954: Newton, Massachusetts John Frankenberger, 14, was accidentally shot to death in a classroom at Day Junior High School, when a pistol being held by a classmate discharged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      January 4, 1961: Delmont, South Dakota Donald Kurtz, 17-year-old senior at Delmont High School, was fatally wounded by a .22 caliber bullet from a rifle. The shot, intended as a sound effect for a school play, hit him in the chest during a rehearsal just minutes before the play was to take place.

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

  16. He needs to ask himself why God got kicked out of school.
    Rumour has it that he didn’t complete his homework and was also caught smoking behind the bicycle sheds.

    1. Yup. Had 7 days to get the project done. Futzed around for 6 and just rested on the 7th. Turned in an incomplete. What an underachiever!

    2. When He couldn’t make his diorama turn out the way He wanted it to, He put it in the shower, put the plug in and turned on the water. Forty days later, he pulled the plug out. It was His idea of starting over again.

    3. Did God want to be in schools? If he is God, can’t he get things his way if he really wanted to? We must then assume he willingly left the schools, because of course noone can resist the will of God.

  17. “Morris insisted that “humanism” in schools taught Lanza that he was God and “he can just go blow away anybody he wants.””

    You heard it here folks. This man feels that thinking you are god leads to killing whomever you feel like.

    Well, that does seem to be the attitude those espousing divine command theory have…

    1. I saw a comment yesterday in which someone said that people had become “desensitized to God” and had no feelings. That makes us atheists all psychopaths, so I shouldn’t feel like the timbers inside are cracking a bit.

  18. Take note: American paranoia is always lurking behind the scenes, and periodically it reaches public expression. Right now it’s the tea-party-NRA-home-schooling-anti-Gay-implicit-racist-right-to-work-law crowd. Before this it was the John Birch society, the McCarthy supporters, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Confederacy. It’s our national disease, and it is chronic. It needs an enemy to survive, and if it can’t find one, it makes one up. Right now it’s the Government or Obama. Or Obama=Government. Anything goes wrong, that’s who they blame. Oh, and evolution.

    1. Malcolm Gladwell maybe the biggest celebrity of all, but I’ve always been amazed at Gopnik’s range of subject matter – from politics (of course), economics, history, sociology to French cuisine. Surely one of the most incisive minds out there.

  19. Gopnik may be the New Yorker’s greatest essayist, one of the best of our day. His other pieces on gun crime (he links to one of them in the above) are also worth your time.

  20. Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare.

    Evidence for this alleged correlation? Evidence of a causal relationship?

          1. I don’t see anything in those links that supports Gopnik’s assertion that I quoted. Could you clearly cite the specific document that you think substantiates his claim?

            1. Still nothing?

              From the evidence I have seen, Gopnik’s claim is certainly false with respect to Britain. Gun massacres did not “become rare” after Britain tightened its gun laws. They were already rare before the laws were changed. So there isn’t even a correlation, let alone evidence of a causal effect.

              1. My google finger is fine. It’s not my job to produce evidence for someone else’s claims. That’s their job. As Christopher Hitchens said, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

    1. The evidence about the effect of the 1996 Australian gun buy-back legislation is set out in the Oxford University Press publication, American Law and Economics Review; “Do Gun Buybacks Save Lives? Evidence from Panel Data” 20 August 2010.

      The legislation, which had bipartisan support, was the result of the April 1996 Port Arthur massacre by a single gunman, when 35 tourists were murdered and 23 injured.

      In the 10 years prior to this there had been 11 mass shootings in Australia.

      Following the legislation, homicides by firearm fell 59% to 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was 65%. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Home invasions did not increase.

      There was a single incident in October 2002 when 2 people were murdered and 5 injured in gun attack by a mentally deranged man at Monash University.

      For related statistics about the falling murder rate, see http://www.aic.gov.au/statistics/homicide.html.

      Does the close correlation between the declines in gun related casualties and the gun buyback establish causation?

      No serious analyst doubts it in Australia.

      1. I think that last sentence is a bit of wishful thinking on your part. I looked at the paper you cite. The authors are a lot more cautious in interpreting their findings than you suggest. But overall the study does seem to provide fairly strong evidence that the National Firearms Agreement of 1996 has had a substantial effect on firearms suicides in Australia. The authors acknowledge that the evidence for a substantial effect on firearms homicides is weaker.

        Whether and to what extent it would be possible to duplicate this effect in other countries through similar legislation, especially a country with as strong a gun culture and so many more guns in circulation as the United States, remains unclear.

        1. Wishful thinking? Do you really think that?

          Can you identify any statement by a serious analyst of the statistics in Australia that casts doubt on the causative link?

          You now seem to imply that anything less than “certainty” about the effect of gun controls on the homicide rate in Australia (or elsewhere) may justify doing nothing in the US.

          But even a small probability of reducing classroom massacres in the US would justify serious legislative intervention. No?

          Or do you consider that the “right” to carry firearms with enhanced lethality over-rides the right of society to legislate to reduce the probability of classroom massacres? Isn’t the safety of children a weightier consideration in the balancing of rights than a quixotically unfettered constitutional right to bear arms formulated in the context of 18th century firearms technology?

          Previously, you implied that there was merely “alleged correlation”, rather than probable causation between gun control legislation outside the US and gun homicide rates. You have demanded detailed corroboration, knowing that the statistics are readily available.

          I think you’re trolling.

          1. Wishful thinking? Do you really think that?

            I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t.

            Can you identify any statement by a serious analyst of the statistics in Australia that casts doubt on the causative link?

            The authors themselves cast doubt on it. In the conclusions and discussion section of their paper, they offer a number a reasons why their findings may not reflect a causal link, including the small total number of firearms homicides, the large confidence intervals, and the standard errors in the estimates. But I’m not the one making the claim about what all “serious analysts” believe, anyway. You are. Do you have evidence that “no serious analyst doubts it in Australia?” I’m guessing that you don’t. Hence, wishful thinking on your part.

            I think you’re trolling.

            I’m thinking the same thing about you.

  21. “comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns”

    I’ve always struggled understanding the frame of mind of a gun nut. Could it really be they believe there to be a military parity with the armed forces of the USA because of the pistols and ammo next to their pile of underwear in the drawer? Is it possible for anyone to be that abysmally stupid? Or is it some other form of emotional fluff? Do they feel redeemed from a worthless and emasculated baseline by firing away, at a defenseless animal more often, a child perhaps less often? Of all the things that a human mind is capable of, from arts to music to astronomy to architecture, they get a hard-on fantasizing about what happens to the living creature at a bullet’s receiving end. Of all the things that could preoccupy one with the beauty of life – study it, nourish it, photograph it, conserve it, or simply marvel at it- their obsession is get macho kicks contemplating its decimation. Being too harsh? Maybe they finally see themselves empowered to play hero – in that prepubescent sort of way. Frankly I wouldn’t trust someone this laughable to clean my toilets, much less go all Captain America on us.

  22. I have to point out a quibble to the comments about school prayer, one everyone no doubt knows but I bears repeating: school prayer was not banned in 1962. Prayer in schools is not banned now. The only thing banned is officially led school prayer. Kids pray in school all the time. They just can’t be forced to by the school. According to actual Christian doctrine, that God can hear your thoughts and all, it is indeed impossible to ban prayer.

    This is important because my religious friends frequently try to act as though prayer itself were banned. This sort of “lying for Jesus” is rampant and should be called out whenever possible. Here, for example, is part of Darrell Scott’s Columbine Testimony that was posted by a friend to Facebook in response to this tragedy:

    “We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!” “As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!

    I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA- I give to you a sincere challenge…”

    The premise here is a bald lie. The premise that his son Craig could not have prayed in school, that only in the exigence of ongoing murder enabled him to pray inside a school building, is a stark and shameless lie. In fact he could have prayed at schol any time he had ever wanted to, even out loud, so long as he wasn’t disrupting class or causing a disturbance.

    Of course, what I never hear fundamentalist nutjobs admit is that Jesus actually TOLD them NOT to pray in public to start with. You’re supposed to go into your closet and pray in secret. This is very explicit: Matthew 6:5-8. But they have no regard even for the teachings of their own religion, so we shouldn’t expect them to have regard for any other truth.

    Nonetheless, I feel it’s important to call them on things that are such obvious points of fact.

  23. I know it is fashionable on this blog to trash those of religious faith, but perhaps you might want to read about Victoria Soto – a woman of faith who died saving children’s lives in Newtown. Whatever love is, she embodied it at that moment when all the BS stopped and all that was left was character. What can imbue all of us with such love? That is what we need to know.


    1. I think you have it wrong; we trash religious faith, and I try to make sure we don’t trash people (unless they’re moronic creationists!). Yes, she was a hero–a word much abused these days, and maybe her faith helped her in that unselfish act (we’ll never know), but that says nothing about the reality of God.

      1. Well, you do trash people, and I do think the people you trash are foolish, even dishonest in their expression of religious faith. But there are many people who have religious faith, and I happen to know that this woman was one because I worked with her mother and knew Victoria well, whose faith does help them to live supremely loving lives. And I think that does speak to the reality of God, even as a human construct, if that reality can be judged by its effect on human behavior. It’s a strange, but a real loop, no?

          1. Well, if God, life after death, heaven, hell, and salvation are human constructs, I suppose people could read the Bible for fun (ugh) or inspiration(double ugh), but what they would be is atheists. IMO, it also wouldn’t be nutty enough to attract much of a following.

        1. Blaise, are you saying that without a belief in god she wouldn’t have saved the children? If there was a god, whatever it is, it should have protected the children unless god needs our help. And such acts do not speak of the reality of god. I’ll risk my life to save that of a child if I was in her situation not because there is a god but it is the right thing to do in a situation like this.
          We trash their beliefs, not the person. There is a difference.

          1. I’m saying that you cannot separate her and her actions from her belief, the same way you cannot separate our current culture from the religious culture that co-evolved with it. My simple question was how do we imbue the kind of love Victoria displayed in all of us? Will eliminating all religious belief from the world do that? How do we know it will?

            1. If Ms. Soto was motivated to save the lives of her students because of her faith, great. But I don’t think everyone needs that “kind of love” as you put it, to give one’s life for a worthy cause. On what basis do you think an atheist teacher (or a soldier, etc) in a similar situation would have act differently? If not, then why highlight Victoria’s faith as extraordinary? Americans are mostly religious.

              Religious beliefs can have both positive and negatives effects on one’s behavior. If religious beliefs were somehow eliminated completely, I don’t know how that would impact society for better or worse. As an atheist, I don’t want to eliminate religion per sec, just its influence on public policy (e.g., marriage equality etc).

            2. Yes you can. Because people without her beliefs also act to protect children.

              Will eliminating religious belief make this a life where everyone gets a pony and our paths are all strewn with flower pedals? No. Nobody is claiming that. What we do know is that religion is a delusion, that it does not provide believers with any more compassion than non-believers possess and, in fact, is very often used to justify the most heinous and immoral acts.

        2. I am often inspired by fictional characters. The inspiration is real enough. The characters aren’t.

          If you are saying that people are sometimes inspired by religion, that’s obviously true. I myself find some of Jesus’ teachings inspirational (though not all).

          If the supposed word of God as a whole were more unambiguously praiseworthy, people using it inspire their lives might be an unalloyed good. It is not. God ordered Saul to commit genocide, to slaughter everyone of a neighboring tribe: “slay both man and woman, infant and suckling”. Picture an army of men killing mothers, killing children, babies, everyone. Hacking at them with swords. Lopping their heads off. Bashing in their skulls. Running them through with a sword. One at a time, for hours, until they’ve killed them all. That’s what God orders in this case: killing children. All of them. Saul does a lot of it, he kills most of them, all the children apparently, but he let the king and some oxes live. This failure to complete the genocide makes God very angry with him. Go read it in the book of Samuel, and see if you come away from *that* story inspired by the love of God.

          So Christians are pleasant decent people precisely to the degree that they pick and choose the decent parts of the Bible to be inspired by. The modern world has left burning people at the stake far enough behind that most people choose to pick out the better parts and ignore the rest. Plenty of others don’t, though. Plenty of others use the Bible to promote ignorance, to oppose decency, and to perpetuate wrongs. All being religious does for those people is make them harder to argue with since they feel they have Absolute authority on their side.

          1. Many religious believers see their faith not as an absolute answer, but rather as a path that helps them navigate the dark abyss we find ourselves inhabiting. They don’t expect others to hold to their path, but only enjoy the company of those who do. Religious faith need not close off exploration, which is why many scientists can be believers. In a universe of vast unknowns, human constructs of a truth like God can be very useful, indeed were useful in guiding behavior to further the interests of the human species. I don’t advocate simple blind faith, or using faith as a political tool to dominate others. However, I do advocate for those who find meaning through a belief in ideas that transcend that which we can prove or see, as long as those ideas can help further imbue in all of us the kind of love that Victoria displayed. Is atheism the only way to do that? How do we know it is?

            1. Atheism is not a means to “imbue in all of us the kind of love that Victoria displayed”, or any similar thing. And I have never heard or read anything by an atheist suggesting that atheism could or should be used to attempt to do so. That is a category error.

              Many Atheists do think, for many reasons, that it would be beneficial for both individuals and society as a whole if people stopped basing their foundational beliefs on myths that are not true. Just because a believer finds inspiration in their religious beliefs to behave in a certain way, or to feel a certain way, does not mean that religion is the only possible source of that inspiration.

              In short, atheism is simply not believing in gods. For inspiration there are plenty of non religious sources all around us. Tons of secular writings, the examples of other people, current and from all of history, the universe that we see all around us, especially as revealed by our practice of science, expressions of meaning and emotion instantiated in art of all kinds from music, literature, painting, performance, and much much more.

              Many atheists also feel that an attitude of, “if believing that obviously untrue thing brings comfort to that person then leave well enough alone,” is disrespectful, condescending and unwise in the general overall context. In a specific instance, such as this young teachers heroic actions, your typical atheist is not going to criticize her for finding inspiration in her religious beliefs. Your typical atheist would tend to think that such a person is an asshole.

        3. If one puts water in a gas tank, the goal of driving will fail. Stepping way back, trying to lead life according to falsehood is going to mean not living according to how one should. The truth always matters. Human consciousness is not omniscient or infallible, but, if we’re going to move ahead toward the full human potential in a peaceful world, we have to love the truth first of all.

          As an atheist, I have disagreements with religion on a wide range if issues and this includes much of the Xn morality itself and certainly encompasses even the most moderate of the pious. Even the Xn metaethics is profoundly off the rails. So far as religious faith is concerned, I think it’s an arbitrary and false approach to gaining knowledge, a cognitive functional disorder, and a moral vice. The Bible didn’t put reason in the 10 commandments; instead, in multiple places, it demands faith. Maybe you want to claim that the religious right has the wrong theology. Talk to them about it; I have no way of deciding, based on a book of nonsense, which is the “right” theology. A little propaganda ploy about prayer in schools is hardly enough to say that they are theologically on the wrong track rather than you.

          Two of the most immediate of my concerns about religion are doctor assisted suicide and abortion rights. These are opposed by many more of the pious than just the religious right evangelicals.

          If you really want to understand atheism’s indictment of religion, you’ll have to read some atheist books; nobody is going to spend days leading you by the hand trying to save you. I would include, besides “The God Delusion,” the books “Godless” by Dan Barker and “Atheism: the Case Against God” by George H. Smith. Smith has some good material on various types of theologies and why they were created. You’re not the first to think that you could deflect atheists by talking about God as a human construct. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry, but I doubt you believe such a thing yourself. Just another apologetics ploy I’ll guess.

          1. How do we know that atheism is the only way to imbue in all of us the kind of love that Victoria displayed? Is that a truth you can prove?

            1. Please try to think clearly, Blaise. Nobody is claiming that “atheism is the only way”. What people are saying, and what you are failing to understand, is that religion is not the source of the good qualities we all admire.

        4. whose faith does help them to live supremely loving lives.

          Sure. Therr are loving people who are religious.

          There are also atheists and apathetics that are loving. Most of my friends.

          There are also a lot of hate filled, bigoted religious idiots and they are a serious problem in the USA.

          Good people will do good
          Bad people will do bad.
          But it takes religion to turn good people into bad people.

          Blaise, you are just babbling instead of thinking. One person doesn’t prove anything. It’s the aggregate numbers that matter. The amount of damage religion, especially the toxic fundie deat cults has done in the USA is immense and ever growing.

          1. Toxic fundie cults do not represent all religious faith. I oppose using religious belief to further that kind of hierarchical, tribal behavior. I only ask that atheists respect the kind if religious believers who are open to openly exploring the world as it presents itself, and whose faith can imbue the kind of love that Victoria displayed. It’s wrong to put all believers into the same category those who promote as toxic fundie cults.

            1. Atheists generally respect believers as individual people. But we generally have no respect at all for the beliefs. Religious beliefs are childish. Silly. And what is worse is that they can lead otherwise good people to perform hideous acts.

              1. Religious faith is not what leads people astray, it is their failure to integrate the way they use their faith with the reality they experience. There is no formula for creating good behavior and extinguishing bad behavior, either religious or atheistic. I simply think atheists have no justification for saying that religious is maladaptive or delusional or that it should be eliminated from human culture. Thee is certainly no statistically robust empiric justification, and all of the arguments I read have an axiom in them somewhere. Once there is an axiom, an argument floats on a value. And an atheistic value has the same intrinsic reality as a religious value. They are both constructs of human cognition. No more. The rest is just politics. Whose value wins.

              2. When we say religious belief is delusional, we’re not talking about values, we’re talking about facts. Believing that people can rise from the dead is delusional. Believing that there’s a loving God who cares about us is delusional.

              3. That is a clever switch, but not accurate. Believing people can rise from the dead, or that there is a loving God would are value driven ideas, neither provable nor disprovable, nor in need of proof. They eould be delusions if the believer mistook their belief for a disprovable fact (many do, many don’t). Those belifs simply set forth a set of assumptions about how best to conduct ourselves in the world. To insist that there is no God, or life after death, are similarly just value based assumptions about how to conduct ourselves in the world. (one value of which is that nothing not disprovable has any value). It would be delusional to call the absence of God as a disprovable fact.
                This conundrum is a simple consequence of our natural condition. We cannot directly measure infinities. Regardless of how frustrating it may be, at that level, we are making it up as we go along.

              4. “That is a clever switch, but not accurate. Believing people can rise from the dead, or that there is a loving God would are value driven ideas, neither provable nor disprovable, nor in need of proof”

                No, they’re claims of fact. They’re not ideas, they’re beliefs about an event happening or an entity existing. You’re making a category error.

              5. No, Blaise. Believing that people come back from the dead is not just a “value driven idea”. It is an idea about how things work in the actual world we live in. Ideas are delusional when they are held to be representations of reality but don’t in fact correspond.

                One more thing… almost no atheist insists that there is no God. We insist that there is no evidence for God and that believing in such things is bad thinking. Only some of us are making it up as we go along.

    2. Such love is commonplace among people of all faiths, or none. I doubt there are many teachers who would not do the same in the same situation. It is our nature to protect children in a crisis. A nature that is not hard to explain without God. It’s no less admirable, no less inspiring, because of that.

      1. My first thought was of Liviu Librescu; here’s the first paragraph of his Wikipedia article:

        (August 18, 1930 – April 16, 2007; Hebrew: ליביו ליברסקו) was a Romanian-Israeli-American scientist and professor whose major research fields were aeroelasticity and aerodynamics. A prominent academic in addition to being a Holocaust survivor, he is most widely known for his actions during the Virginia Tech massacre, in which he held off the gunman, giving all but one of his students enough time to escape through the windows. Shot and killed during the attack, Librescu was posthumously awarded the Order of the Star of Romania, Romania’s highest civilian honor. At the time of his death, he was Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Tech.

      2. Precisely my point. If religious faith is so destructive, why do people of faith consistently demonstrate such inspiring love? It’s easy to find people of faith who are ridiculously idiotic in their dogmatic interpretation of religious beliefs, but clearly they represent only some fraction of all believers. I cannot understand why so many here harbor such animosity toward religion itself, when religion itself is not the problem, but rather how religion is misused.

        1. Precisely my point. If religious faith is so destructive, why do people of faith consistently demonstrate such inspiring love?

          They don’t.

          No more than anyone else.

          Do you have any statistics on that claim? You don’t. They don’t exist.

          There are some the other way though.

          Atheists are underrepresented in prison populations.

          In the religious states of the south, the levels of crime and social problems are much higher than the rest of the USA.

          BTW, speaking of loving xians, Cho Seung was raised in a fundie household. James Holmes was from a church going family.

          I cannot understand why so many here harbor such animosity toward religion itself, when religion itself is not the problem, but rather how religion is misused.

          This is stupid. You can’t separate religion from the people in the religion. No people = No religion.

        2. Societies that are more religious are more disfunctional on all quality of life measures.

          In the US, the “red states” the more religious ones, are far more disfunctional than the more secular “blue states.” The red states have higher divorce rates, abuse rates, crime rates, murder rates.

          Yep, religion makes them display such love for their fellow humans …

        3. “If religious faith is so destructive, why do people of faith consistently demonstrate such inspiring love?”

          Citation needed.

  24. There’s just a possibility that out of all of this the NRA may find itself asking Grover Norquist if they could share a room, though.

  25. All this kingdom stuff, this phylum stuff. Yep, this tragedy can be traced right back to 1735, and that book, Systema Natura or something, by that sissy Carolus Linneaus. Amen. What kind of name is that? And wasn’t he the guy that first claimed to be homo something. Started right there, I tell ya. Amen. Look at him in that silly wig. That’s how we got on this high road to hell. Some Swedish sissy. Probably a socialist to boot. Amen, man.

    1. I was going to laugh, until a thought hit me: somewhere at this moment, in the United States, there might be someone preaching exactly this about “Linnaeus ‘n’ kingdoms ‘n’ all that phylum stuff.”

      And the congregation will chant, “Amen,” safe and warm in their self-induced complacency….

  26. As a gun owner, I’m feeling less and less welcome here suddenly…
    Apparently enjoying target shooting and collecting means I love to shoot animals and children while wearing a cross and waving my flag around.

    1. That’s a popular argument crafted by the gun lobby. Wimpy spoilsports arrogantly deny that any gun owners can be responsible ( … and want to destroy our profits).

      Sure, plenty of people enjoy using firearms for hunting and target shooting. But some people use firearms to carry out massacres. The evidence is that lethal firearms can’t reliably be kept out of the hands of the people who decide to carry out massacres.

      In a reasonable society, sometimes the responsible majority has to restrict some types of conduct which they may enjoy (without ever causing harm) so society as a whole can obtain protection from the conduct of a psychopathic minority.

      Speed limits are a familiar example.

      1. Some people can drink alcohol responsibly. Others get drunk and beat their children/spouse or drive drunk and kill entire families. You wouldn’t call wine enthusiasts “child killing enthusiasts,” yes? It isn’t necessary to demonize anyone who is pro-gun ownership as being pro-child killing. I don’t think either side has a perfect solution to fix society’s problems at the moment, but pointing fingers and arguing with each other doesn’t seem like the best way to find those answers either.

        1. There is no reason for civilians to own assault weapons like the one that blew out the glass doors at the Sand Hook Elementary School. Each victim suffered multiple wounds. These types of guns should be banned.

        2. Your comments come off as truly pathetic and tasteless. You sound like someone suffering from a persecution complex. Why on earth would you choose to enter this conversation with those comments? Why should you feel unwelcome if nobody here knows that you are a gun collector? I think what you must mean is that now that you know how many people here feel about the gun culture in the US you don’t like it here anymore.

        3. Assault rifles and large-capacity magazines have no place in civil society. Period.

          Want to hunt or target shoot? No problem. Assault rifles and large-capacity magazines are not needed for those.

          Want to collect? Consider yourself responsible? Then take responsiblity: If your guns are used in a crime then you assume criminal and civil responsibility for those crimes.

          1. Jblilie:

            If they have no place with us, then why do the police have them?

            Surely you are aware that compared to police, CCW permit holders are: 1) far more competent than police in the use of firearms; and 2) far less likely than the police are to commit crimes, ESPECIALLY GUN CRIMES.

            Perhaps I’m making an unwarranted assumption here. Perhaps you do recognize that the relatively dangerous, criminal police should not be allowed to own any weapons forbidden to the comparatively competent, law-abiding citizens with CCW permits.

            Please clarify.

              1. No, he didn’t. But ALL of the comments (incompetent as they may be) about assault weapons and high-cap mags have stated that they “have no place” in our society, WITHOUT noting that the police ALREADY HAVE THEM, and without noting that we do have an apparently successful scheme (the CCW permit system) already in place to get the results we supposedly want.

                In other words, the goalposts needed to be moved to help the shallow thinkers focus on something worth talking about.

                Way to miss the forest for the trees.

              2. brujofeo,

                Let us discuss possibly incompetent comments. Replying to “they have no place in our society” with “the police ALREADY HAVE THEM” is a non sequitur. Especially when supported by the argument that CCW holders are more competent than the police. Even with that bad argument in support, it is just not a logically valid response.

                All and all it is a ridiculous argument. I’ll be the first person to acknowledge, and blame, law enforcement for substandard training and procedures, and mostly for employing people that obviously should not be let anywhere near a job giving them authority to decide when the use of violence against other people is warranted. All of these things are serious problems in law enforcement these days, but where do you get the idea that CCW holders are somehow more competent? Because you think yourself and a few people you know of are? It is ludicrously easy to get a CCW permit. I am sure it varies some place to place but in many places, like where I currently reside, a pro forma class that virtually everybody who takes passes, some paper work, a background check that virtually everybody passes, and a bit of a wait. And you claim that this process produces more competent weapon users than the average law enforcement agency in the US? You really need to provide a good bit of evidence to support that claim when experience suggests it is ridiculous.

                The idea that the CCW permit system as it currently is actually practiced could solve the mass murder by gun problem, or mitigate gun violence in general to levels more typical of most other 1st world countries seems unsupportable as well. If it were capable of that, then why do we have these problems? At best the required schooling, testing and background checks would need to be made much more stringent. Which, by the sound of it, you would be unlikely to approve of. There is also the problem that semi auto “assault” rifles are not concealable, are not regulated by the CCW permit system, and most states do not require a permit of any kind in order to buy them.

    2. I don’t think there is anyone here who thinks that target shooting or collecting is a problem. What is a problem is that the guns you own for target shooting can be used for far less innocent actions. I’m sure you are a wonderful person who would never do such a thing, but I’m afraid I don’t have the same level of confidence in everyone else who might gain access to your weapons.

      For me, it is a question of whether your enjoyment of target shooting by people like you is sufficiently valuable to compensate for the lives of the thousands of men, women, and children who are killed every year in the US.

      I hope you enjoy that target shooting a whole lot because the other side of the scale has some heavy weights on it.

      1. Nope. I don’t agree with this. Absolutist talking doesn’t get us very far down the road–and it’s one of the several reasons why, whenever proper and reasonable regulation is proposed, the loonies pop out of the woodwork and start shouting THEY’RE COMING FOR OUR GUNS111!!! At which point, the wheels typically come off the conversation. It’s perfectly okay to hate guns, but lumping all shooters into the same messy drawer is counter-productive.

        1. Saying “I’m sure you are a wonderful person who would never do such a thing” is pretty much the opposite of “lumping all shooters in to the same messy drawer”.

          And the fact is that the “They’re coming for our guns” shout is going on all the time anyway. Remember, this is the same crowd that is convinced that the President is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist. Allowing these fanatics to derail public policy is the default position we’ve had for years. The problem is easy access to high powered weapons. Recognizing this is not an “absolutist” position.

          1. If you don’t think that I haven’t heard the “I’m sure a you’re a wonderful person, but” construction before–as in, many times–[subtext: You’re probably not. You own and use a gun]. . . .

            This is why Wolfkiller (horrible nym, by the way) got their shorts in a wrinkle.

            I agree with your second paragraph completely, however.

            1. I guess I don’t fret that much about people’s wrinkled shorts. Their laundry issues shouldn’t block directly addressing the problem.

          2. Allowing these fanatics to derail public policy is the default position we’ve had for years.

            They’re not “derailing public policy.” They’re exercising their political rights to achieve their goals — free speech, organizing, lobbying, voting. If you oppose their goals, it’s up to you to exercise your political rights to achieve your favored alternative. That’s how democratic government works. The reason gun control proponents such as yourself have generally lost on this issue is that you’re simply not as committed to your position on gun laws as the people you are calling “fanatics” are to theirs. You’re not willing to commit the amount of time, money and effort needed to effectively counter their actions. I suspect that most of the commenters on this blog who have been angrily denouncing gun owners and demanding more gun control for the past two days make no significant political effort to further their agenda.

            1. You know, Gary, we don’t really need you to explain how democratic government works.

              We’ll see whether the climate has shifted enough to counter the deep pockets of the gun lobby and the right wing whackos who fear the onslaught of Muslim Socialist Kenyans.

              1. You know, Gary, we don’t really need you to explain how democratic government works.

                Apparently, you do. Just because you don’t like the public policy on guns that the democratic process has produced doesn’t mean it’s been “derailed.”

              2. Your right Gary W.

                It isn’t just because. It is also because of the demented advertising targeted at those behaviors that are exactly the opposite of what sane people want a gun owner to have.

                It is also because of the demented political propaganda glorifying and supporting even the worst aspects of the ridiculous gun culture in the US.

                It is also the large sums of money used to lobby politicians to support, or oppose as the case may be, legislation that enables the ridiculous gun culture in the US.

                It is also many other things, such as the ridiculous arguments of Trent Lot and his ilk. Some of this stuff includes illegal activities, some is perfectly legal yet morally reprehensible, and some is probably just misinformed.

                Voting on proposed legislation doesn’t do any good if there are never any proposals worth voting for. You seem to think that either buying dirty politicians, or maneuvering them into a position where there political survival depends on doing what you want them to, and doing that to enough of them to get decent legislation proposed and passed, is just what a good representative democracy is supposed to be. It ain’t. Derailed is a perfectly accurate descriptor. Though it is a general problem not specific to only this issue.

                “Those with the money get to make the rules” is exactly one of the things our government was intentionally designed, perhaps futilely, to keep from becoming prevalent. But that is exactly where we are. Hence, derailed.

              3. Advertising and lobbying are also part of the political process. If gun control proponents are not willing to commit the same degree of time, effort and money to their goals as gun control opponents, they only have themselves to blame. You haven’t produced any evidence that your opponents have engaged in any illegal activities or have in some other way “derailed” the political process. You’ve simply lost. Too bad for you.

              4. I haven’t asserted that my opponents have engaged in illegal activities so I need provide no such evidence. You are clearly engaged in dishonest argument. Further response is unwarranted.

              5. I haven’t asserted that my opponents have engaged in illegal activities

                I was referring to darrelle’s comment, which immediately preceded my response. darrelle asserted that “Trent Lot (sic) and his ilk” have engaged in “illegal activities” relating to gun control. He offered no evidence to support this accusation.

                You are clearly engaged in dishonest argument.

                You might want to try reading more carefully before making accusations of dishonesty.

              6. No, Gary, gbjames is correct. You are being intellectually dishonest, and you are not worth arguing with. In homage to the grade school level argumentation you have resorted to let me respond in kind. You have not presented any credible evidence whatsoever to support any of the claims you have made. Congratulations, you are complicit in numerous mass murders including children, all so you can protect your right to own any kind of fire arm you want. You’re awesome.

              7. darrelle, the fact that your response consists entirely of ad hominem demonstrates the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of your position.

                Still no evidence to support your accusation of “illegal activities.”

                Still no evidence that the political process has been “derailed” rather than that your side simply lost.

    3. I’m a gun owner. Former competition shooter, although that was some years ago. I mention this so that you won’t conclude that I’m some sort of flower-pushing, peace-loving, long-haired hippie (although I’m all of these :-))

      Nobody’s talking about you, and nobody’s pushed you in front of the bus you seem so determined to be run over by.

  27. It is ridiculous on what the pastor and religions believe. Most religions preach segregation and brainwashing; with it, appear only fanatics and people with no ability to think and reason. The reason is the one that makes us be fair and reasonable, without interference from sick minds.

  28. Dear Sam Morris,

    Using this horrible tragedy to criticize scientific education and separation of Church and State is deprecable

    You, sir, are despicable.


  29. Dear Sam Morris,

    Using this horrible tragedy to criticize scientific education and separation of Church and State is deprecable.

    You, sir, are despicable.


  30. The hypocrisy of the superficial faith that believers extoll is clear as day. They have no real concept of the god they believe in beyond an ambiguous, amorphous notion. That’s the worst kind of faith above all – blind faith.
    30,000 children suffer and die horrific deaths each and every day from the pathogens, parasites and diseases their omniscient god designed, created and unleashed on this world and they worship him for it. But they don’t take the time to think these things through. They don’t understand the concept of omniscience.
    When their savior supposedly walked the earth 2000 years ago he could have prevented millions of deaths and countless suffering with a little advice on germs and how to make lenses and movable type. But he chose not to educate the primitive and ignorant man.
    Instead he purposefully withheld that information KNOWING it would result in the deaths of millions of innocent children and the countless suffering and torture of billions of human beings.

    1. You know nothing about the personal savior you refer to. He was a man, not omniscient. His way of relating to our Creator showed the people of his time that love was more important than silly laws, and that worrying about looking good to the creator was stupid, but helping each other, even those who were not in your tribe, was what we ought to do because that was what love demanded. Simple, and powerful enough to convert millions. The modern perversions of that message are what you are speaking of.

      1. Blaise, the rules of this website are that if you’re a believer, as you seem to be, I can ask and require to you state clearly and completely the reasons why you think that Jesus and God exist. I am asking for evidence here. Your next post will have to detail these reasons or I will ask you to go elsewhere.

        And please don’t say “I feel that they’re real” or “The Bible tells me so.” The former can justify any religion (e.g., Islam) or a delusion; the latter is just a work of fiction that scholars tell us was cobbled together from various earlier myths and hearsay stories.

        I await your reply.

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