Circulating through the blogosphere and social media is Mike Huckabee’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He did not blame the shooting on guns, or attribute it to a crazed individual, but instead, blamed it on a lack of “God” in our society. An honest explication of his position is he feels America has gradually shifted away from a religious nation and into a more secular one. And as the teachings of God become less prevalent in our culture, our culture has become more violent.
A lot on the right have taken a liking to this line of thinking. It skirts the issue of gun control and advances the Evangelical agenda – one where religion has a larger role in the public sphere. But quite honestly, it is illogical and misguided.
First, it assumes religion, and particularly western religion, is the sole arbiter of what’s right and wrong. It assumes only God knows what’s moral, and without him, we are left with an amoral society. In his monologue, Huckabee cites the 10 Commandments, specifically the 6th; “thou shall not kill” as evidence that if only we followed Christianity more closely we would not have nearly as many murders. Do we really believe we need religion or God to know killing is wrong? Are we as a society reliant on God to tell us where our moral compasses should point? Or is it more plausible that religion just reiterates what we already know to be right or wrong. The 10 Commandments are pretty much commonsense (except for the 2nd – not sure why an all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing being deals with problems of jealousy, but that’s a separate issue). Removing religion from public facets of society isn’t depriving or dismantling our moral beliefs. We can have morals without religion.
Second, his argument assumes the more widespread God is in our society the more peaceful it will become. Let’s not forget, people have been killing in the name of God for centuries. Religion doesn’t promote peace, if anything it has caused senseless and unnecessary death. The teachings of religion may not promote killing, but the practice of religion has without a doubt prompted murder. 9/11 was killing in the name of God. Those who blow up abortion clinics are killing in the name of God. Hate crimes against gay and lesbians are violence in the name of God. Religion has the unique ability to instill hatred in people without any rational backing for that hate.
Third, Huckabee’s position is so American centric, it becomes illogical upon actual analysis. 15 of the 25 most deadly mass shootings occurred in America. (Finland came in a not-so-close second with 2 entries to that list.) Yet, America is by no means the most secular nation. Many European countries are far more secular with much greater populations of atheists, but they do not have anywhere near as many violent acts as we do. They do have stricter gun control laws though. It’s worth noting, the most violent region in the United States is the South, also referred to as the ‘Bible Belt.’
Instead of blaming too little religion, or not enough God as the problem; let’s look at solutions that actually make sense e.g. banning assault weapons or increasing funding for mental health diseases. I’m not condemning religion, or those who practice religion, but what Mike Huckabee is purporting is disconnected with reality. It is comments like his that slow the process of actual and meaningful legislation concerning gun control. By making gun control a non-issue, he is dismissing the actual issue at hand in order to appease the gun-wielding portion of his base and advance his agenda of making us a more Christian nation.