Who needs prayers? What is political? Plus Fb comment, quote, meme.
Echoing a comment I made in an earlier post. This *is* politics.
The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb, 29 May 2022: The Atrocity of American Gun Culture, subtitled, “After mass shootings like those in Uvalde and Buffalo, pro-gun officials say they don’t want to politicize tragedy. But the circumstances that allow for the mass murder of children are inherently political.”
The writer refers to a study by a professor of criminology, Emma Fridel.
State lawmakers pushing for laxer laws have tended to argue that a more broadly armed public would serve as a deterrent to violence. Fridel found the opposite: gun-homicide rates in states with more permissive carry policies were eleven per cent higher than in states with stricter laws, and the probability of mass shootings increased by roughly fifty-three per cent in states with more gun ownership.
The circumstances that make a mass murder of fourth graders possible are inherently political. The legal access to the weaponry involved is political. The most visible people refusing to see these things as political happen to be elected to political office. But O’Rourke was only partially right. Some of this is on Second Amendment fundamentalists and the politicians who translate their zealotry into law—the rest is on every one of us who has yet to find the courage, the creativity, or the resolve to stop it.
Jerry Coyne wonders about the latest column by Tish Harrison Warren in the NY Times.
Of course, Coyne asks all the obvious questions which the faithful think are impertinent to ask.
What is maddening is her absolute refusal to discuss whether prayers actually work. That is, are they heard and acted on by God, or do they simply act as an aid to comfort and meditation? I’m pretty sure, knowing what she’s written previously, that she thinks God really is Up There with an ear cocked, and heeds the importuning of his flock. But that raises a second question, which she also ignores: “Why did God let Salvador Ramos kill 19 innocent people and two good teachers?” Was this necessary to allow Ramos to have free will? (She’d probably say “God’s ways are mysterious”, in which case I’d respond, “Well, if you know so little about God, shouldn’t you stop extolling Him?”)
Does prayer really work? Coyne describes a simple experiment to find out. Such experiments have been done before.
After all, experiments show that intercessory prayer simply doesn’t work in accomplishing what’s prayed for, though it acts as a form of solace and a source of community for many. It also, as we see clearly in America right now, acts as a form of division and an inspiration to hate and ostracize others. Prayer is a psychological technique, not a way to ask for divine help.
And what about the church staying out of politics, Coyne wonders.
Which would you prefer: a bunch of liberal Christians praying for the shootings to end, or a bunch of liberal citizens working on gun reform? I guarantee that the latter will work just as well without the former.
It is the very people who tout their God most strongly who impede moral reform: the people who stalled the Civil Rights Movement and gay liberation (and now abortion, which Warren opposes). God was there the whole time since the 1960s, but hearts were changed not by an imperceptible deity, but but secular realization that equal treatment of people mandates civil and gay rights. (See Steve Pinker’s last two big books.) And didn’t God start effecting this change before slavery? Why did God allow millions of Africans to be dragged into horrible servitude? Was that his divine plan?
Jesse Bering on Facebook:
Simply blaming gun violence on “mental illness” begs the question of how that helps. One could argue that the average citizen’s desire to purchase an AR-15 (which is explicitly designed to kill people quickly and in large numbers) is, in itself, a de facto sign of mental illness.
This echoes another thought of a blog post or two ago.
Fb meme (via Nigel Sellars)
Being an atheist is like being surrounded by people who are in the middle of a role-playing fantasy game and you can’t get them to just be serious for a minute.
Bertrand Russell quote (from a Fb newsgroup):
Owing to the identification of religion with virtue, together with the fact that the most religious men are not the most intelligent, a religious education gives courage to the stupid to resist the authority of educated men, as has happened, for example, where the teaching of evolution has been made illegal. So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence; and in this respect ministers of religion follow gospel authority more closely than in some others.
As routinely observed: religious faith, as the Bible teaches, is about *not* thinking, but rather believing, and following.