There has been yet another school shooting in America. The latest (as of this writing) happened at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The shooter, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer killed at least nine people and injured nine others before getting shot and killed by police. According to one of the victims that survived, he asked students whether or not they were Christian before shooting them. Is this an example of militant atheist terrorism? Is Richard Dawkins the mastermind behind this brutal attack?
First of all, the report that Mercer asked about people religion before killing them has not yet be substantiated. It may not even be true. But let’s assume that it is true because it might be and because there is no reason why it couldn’t be true of some other shooter in the future. With that being the case, I would like to ask all the Christians who are quick to blame this attack on atheism to please cite the chapter and verse from the atheist holy book that condones murdering believers. Oh wait, you can’t because there is no atheist holy book… or even an atheist unholy book for that matter. And if there were such a book, it would be filled with humanistic values that most atheists in modern America share.
On the other hand, the Bible (the Christian holy book) is filled with verses that support the stoning to death of people for all kinds of reasons with a lack of belief in the Abrahamic God being chief among them.
What we know about Mercer is that he was a conservative who was briefly in the military and who was probably on the Autism Spectrum. He had trouble relating to others, spent most of his time alone, and commented on how many recent shooters were also loners and largely unknown until they killed people. On his dating site profile, he identified as “spiritual but not religious” and he apparently still had an active MySpace profile.
Christopher Harper-Mercer is dead and we will never truly know what his motives were. What we do know is that he killed people with guns — guns, which in some places are easier to obtain than birth control.
As an atheist, I am very much aware that this life is all there is. I don’t understand how anyone could waste their one and only life by killing others needlessly. Why would anyone take someone’s one and only life away from them and those who love them? I don’t belief in an afterlife. This life is it. So it saddens me that nine people are now dead and that they will never live again. They are not sitting with God or frolicking with Jesus. Their lives are over. This is what makes such a senseless shooting like this even more unbearable.
However, there are things we can do as a society that will save lives and can prevent a similar tragedy in the future. For starters, we can try to understand Mercer and put more resources into autism research. Obviously, autism isn’t to blame for this shooting. There are millions of people with autism who don’t shoot anyone. However, Mercer was lonely and felt very sensitive to certain things. His autism may have played a part.
We can also stop sensationalizing these killers. I know that the media love the old adage that if it bleeds it leads, but sometimes because it leads, killers like this guy insist on making more people bleed.
Finally, there is the elephant in the room… in this case “elephant” is a metaphor for Republicans. Yeah I said it. This guy was not a Muslim terrorist; he was a right-wing, conservative, gun-loving, military man. Guns are bad, m’kay! It’s time to start talking about sensible gun restrictions so that people like this can’t get a gun and can’t shoot people. Sure, he could have gone into the classroom with a bowie knife or a sword, but if he did, he wouldn’t have killed nearly as many people if anyone at all. The fact is that guns are easy to use and easy to get.
Restricting the purchase of guns is only part of the solution. The other part of the solution is deals with getting rid of the guns that are already out there. I want to once again recommend that people buy guns… no, not in a good guy with a gun kind of way, but rather in the beautiful jewelry kind of way. I want to once again recommend my friend Francine’s company, Liberty United. I don’t get paid for plugging it, but every time one of their pieces gets sold, I feel that the world is ever so slightly safer.