Glib statements about death following tragedies

I came across an astonishing but little reported item about the most recent mass murder that took place in California last week. Apparently the killer Ian Long actually made a Facebook post around the time he carried out the rampage where he mocked the predictable reaction that people would have after the killing.

The shooter who took the lives of 12 people in Thousand Oaks, California bar posted a Facebook post mocking those who call for “hopes and prayers” after a shooting, according to CNN.

The now-deceased gunman, Ian David Long, 28, was a Marine who compared America’s response to mass shootings to insanity.

“I hope people call me insane.. Wouldn’t that just be a big bowl of irony,” Long wrote around the time he carried out the mass shooting. “Yeah.. I’m insane. But the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ or ‘keep you in my thoughts’ … every time… And you wonder why these keep happening.”

It is extraordinary that even the murderers themselves are mocking the uselessness of the ‘thoughts and prayers’ response and the insanity excuse for the lack of action by politicians.

Then there is the extraordinary insensitivity of those who escape such tragedies, such as this one man who happened to be at the sites of the Las Vegas and Thousand Oaks massacres and escaped being killed. He says that, “I have god on my side”. I always wonder how the loved ones of the people who perished feel when they hear things like this, that implies that their god wanted their loved ones to die or at least did not care one way or another. Surely the most considerate thing to do if one survives a tragedy, even if one thinks privately that one is special in god’s eyes, is to just keep quiet about it so as to not wound the others even more?

But religious people seek to find ways to defend the existence of their god even in the teeth of such counter-evidence. During the recent hurricane Florence, a tree fell on a home killing a mother and her infant child. The deaths of infants are the hardest for religious people to explain. In a recent segment on Fox News, the host asked Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest who is a regular on their shows, “Where is God during a hurricane?”. The only thing he can say is that there is life after death and that somehow the death of a child can give us meaning and that it is all part of his god’s purpose.

Comedian Jim Jefferies interviewed a priest who spoke glibly and confidently about what his god wanted and did not want, as if his god was his close buddy and had given him detailed information. But as soon as Jeffries posed the question of why there is so much suffering of innocent people, he switched gears and retreated to the familiar position that his god’s actions are inscrutable. The ‘mysterious ways clause’ really is the get-out-of-jail-free card for religious people when they are confronted with this uncomfortable question.


  1. lanir says

    I wonder why they don’t say it’s because if free will. There is the scientific idea that if you know enough about the universe you could control everything. The christian idea is that god has the knowledge and power needed to do this. Effectively if you combine the two plus the religious story about free will, you have god introducing chaos to the system so that he doesn’t directly control everything (although he would still know how it ends every time -- omniscience without ultimate responsibility is so awkward).

    Like any religious excuse it has awkward elements and unanswered questions but they do seem to very slowly be adding cherry picked bits of science to their explanations of the universe.

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