It wasn’t long after the initial reports of a shooting at Virginia Tech that speculation began as to who was responsible. One conservative blogger, Debbie Schlussel, speculated that the perpetrator was likely a Muslim. “Why am I speculating that the ‘Asian’ gunman is a Pakistani Muslim? Because law enforcement and the media strangely won’t tell us more specifically who the gunman is… Pakis are considered ‘Asian.'” When the shooter was incorrectly identified as a student from China she wrote, “Yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students.”
Predictably, the event was quickly linked to what is taught in science class. Ken Ham, a CEO of Answers in Genesis, a creationist religious corporation, suggests, “We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe … arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking.” Ham took the same strategy for explaining the Columbine shootings in 1999. “Just a couple of weeks after the horrible killings at Columbine High School in Colorado, students … went back to school and sadly were given the ingredients to make more ‘bombs.'”
Noted conservative Judeo-Christian apologist Dennis Praeger has also given his 10 cents worth. In an article written for Human Events he takes issue with the way such events are reported on by the media, and specifically counting among the dead the ones who caused the deaths. “I do not know when exactly this notion of counting murderers along with their victims began, but it is a moral travesty.” It is almost as if he is suggesting that the person responsible was from another world – i.e. Hell – and thus is not a person. This is confirmed when he states, “And why is it always referred to as a ‘tragedy’? Virginia Tech wasn’t hit by a cyclone. That would be a tragedy. This was evil. Call it that.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if the world were so simple? That all the problems of the world could be explained away by a race of people, or the way knowledge is taught or the influence of “evil” – whatever that is, which is apparently not Hurricane Katrina or AIDS or other God-sanctioned natural disasters. But hey, God works in mysterious ways, so those are okay. The propensity of some to lay blame on such things reveals arrogance and an ignorance of the real world – the very world science describes N times better than any religion, where N is very, very large. Simplifying people to vessels for virtue and evil is medieval superstition. It hides the actual causes, and provides vapid solutions: stop teaching evolution, practice religion but not the wrong religion, expel the foreigners, arm the good students, disarm the evil students, stop media sensationalism.
The events in Virginia were a tragedy; the shooter was certainly disturbed – but I predict high school science, his race or the media didn’t motivate him. Schlussel, Ham, and Praeger – who publicly offer sick and twisted reasoning based on their predilection for laying blame on institutions and people they are convinced are destroying civilization – reveal the real threats to humanity: ignorance and self-righteousness.