Saturday, December 15, 2012

God, Guns, and Mental Illness

TV, the blogosphere, and Facebook all agree:  the Connecticut shooting happened because of guns, mental illness and taking God out of schools.  Or just one of those things, depending on your point of view.

So yet another rohrshach test in the news reveals the pet peeves of us all.  We hate and mistrust someone because of something that they do wrong.

Two of my previous blog posts are getting a lot of hits this weekend:
(about stupid statements of "faith" after tragedy)
(review of some of the research on rampage killing)

People came to my bit about stupid expressions of faith after a tragedy via keywords such as "angel taking children to heaven" or "child angels in heaven."  The latter is due to shameless self-promotion in blog comments at Pharyngula and sharing with some atheist facebook friends.

Rampage murders are not the result of any one thing, much like car wrecks and plane crashes.  They are the result of a toxic soup brewing in the mind of someone who can't or won't put the brakes on their destructive plans.  There have been very few rampage murderers, just as there have been very few airplane crashes.  But because of their shocking nature, we pay more attention to these events than to the uneventful daily events that make up the numbers in the more-likely side of the odds equation.

The Connecticut killings are probably more of a "workplace" killing than "school killing," because the killer wasn't a student, and if he was a former student, he had left the school ten earlier.  The Dunblane massacre comes to mind.

And then there's the problem of fame:  we make these people famous by having nonstop television coverage and ummm blogging about them.  Once that toxic soup of rage, guns, disappointment, resentment and possibly also mental illness starts brewing, the hope of fame through one final grandiose act is the remaining ingredient to cook up a plot like the Connecticut shooter's.  Already his name is a household name, known to us well before the names of any of his victims.  He got what he wanted.

Would belief in God stop someone who's got that toxic soup brewing in their brain?  Maybe, but I doubt it.  More likely, the same forces that make self-annihilation attractive could make belief in God untenable.  Or in the case of Andrea Yates, belief in God would be an ingredient in the toxic soup.

It's easy to understand how primitive people could believe in "demons" that would turn an ordinary person into a killer.  Someone in the right frame of wrong frame of mind might even respond to voodoo designed to cast out those demons, but sometimes the human mind and brain just isn't right and those of us with functioning minds and brains can probably never comprehend their actions completely.  They are alien to us, and so whatever is alien to our self-image would naturally be part of our assumptions.  Atheists are aliens to religious people, so *thwap* there's one assumption slapped onto the story.  Those of us who are sane find crazy people alien so *splat!* there's another one.  The result is a rorschah blot that may resemble the story on the surface but only if we saw that pattern to begin with.


Anonymous said...

It is 2+ weeks since the massacre, and yet almost no REAL details about Adam have come out. Sure it is an active crime investigation, but his dad and brother must have talked to someone about WHAT REALLY caused this violence.
Few have talked about the SEVERE EMOTIONAL PAIN Adam must have been in to shoot his mother in the head FOUR times to blow her brains out--THEN first go to the school for more killing and his suicide!
Look to his dead mom AND living dad's abuse to find the ROOT cause of this tragedy.
Without religion, most of Newtown would have to look at the reality of the MASS killing of little children--a reality that is beyond unbearable!

LadyAtheist said...

Many details have come out, and one theory is that his mother was trying to get him to move out of the house and find a college equipped to deal with his needs. He seemed to spend all of his time cooped up at home playing video games, and he had a pretty cushy environment. His mom was more outgoing. If wanting your reclusive kid to get out more is "abuse" then we've really failed a whole generation!

He had fantasies/hopes of joining the Marines despite not wanting to talk to anybody except his mother. So possibly he didn't have the insight to know just how messed up he was. If she wanted him to get "help" and he didn't see any reason for it, that could also cause a resentment, but you can't call wanting your mentally ill kid to get help "abuse."

Lots of people endure the same level of emotional pain without killing people. Without an assault rifle, he probably would not have been able to get past the front office staff, though he would still have found a way to kill himself and his mother. What transformed him from a troubled person to a homicidal person is a mystery.