There is a movement out there advocating the idea that the recent trend of school violence, and indeed the increase in violence in general can be directly tied to the law banning institutionalized prayer in schools. TV personalities have made the claim time and again and graphics and verse like the examples above have flooded the internet and continue spread this claim regardless of the fact that it is, as I’ll show, entirely groundless.
One of the most ridiculous aspects of this argument is the simple fact that it is NOT illegal to pray at school. There is no ban on holy books, not a single yarmulke or burkah has been burned, and no students have been searched for prayer beads and rosaries. All that the law in question states is that there can be no organized school mandated prayer. Even if it were not the law wouldn’t such a position be the only sensible one given the diversity of culture and outlook in schools today. It’s a law meant to recognize the fact that not everyone prays the same way, or to the same deity and indeed that not everyone prays. It’s a policy that removes one more division between children, one more opportunity for someone to be excluded.
Another point against this argument is one that shouldn’t even need to be pointed out. Quite simply put: prayer doesn’t stop bullets. To demonstrate this point consider the following examples:
– St. Pius X catholic high school Ottawa Ontario 1975. In spite of a lack of prayer ban a student killed 1 and injured 5 before turning his shotgun on himself.
– Oikios Christian University in California. 7 dead 3 injured in spite of what one has to believe were several heart felt prayers.
– in 2006 six an Amish schoolhouse was fired on. No deity came to the rescue of the 5 little girls that were killed or the 6 injured in spite of the famous piety of the Amish.
– a Sikh temple was the sight of the shooting of six temple goers in Wisconsin in 2012 regardless of the regular prayers featured there.
These are just a few examples to demonstrate that freedom to pray (which I remind you no one ever took away) doesn’t stop crazed gunmen.
Perhaps the people who spout these slogans and circulate these graphics are saying that more prayer in schools would lead people to act less violently. Let’s consider whether religious instruction or affiliation curtails violence.
As you read this right now there are gangs of devout Buddhists led by holy monks engaged in bloody fighting with what they would call “Muslim aggressors” throughout Asia.
Muslims, who pray 5 times a day by holy law, are involved in those same conflicts as well as conflicts in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Europe and North America. Fundamentalist Christians, some of the most ardent proponents of prayer you’re likely to meet, are the same groups that bomb clinics, and lynch homosexuals.
It doesn’t seem as though prayer is dampening the violent impulses of people very much, and in each example I’ve chosen those likely to pray more than average. It would appear that in many cases the fervour that fuels their prayer is the very source that energizes their violence.
We’ve seen that prayer doesn’t protect one from violence, and it doesn’t stop people from being violent. Yet we’ve barely touched on the bucket of errors in this simplistic way of thinking.
It should be obvious to anyone who considers it that just because one thing follows another doesn’t mean that the first thing caused the second. This is a logical fallacy so old it has a Latin expression “post hoc ergo propter hoc” or “after a thing therefore because of a thing” by this reasoning the increase in violence in North America which has happened since the late 1950s can be as easily attributed to the addition of “in god we trust” on American currency as to the law against forced prayer.
The fact is human society has always been violent and it is usually at it’s usually at it’s most violent in the times and places where religion is unchecked and prayer is compulsory. Could it perhaps be the case that the increase in violence is the result of the fact that there are more weapons and more people in closer quarters to each other than at any other point in history?
I also consider it important to point out that prayer is out of place in school. Schools should be places of fact and knowledge where we prepare children to deal with the concerns of this world. There are more than enough temples and churches where anyone who wants to is more than free to educate their child on their theory about the next world.
In the end there is no good foundation for the belief that more prayer would lead to less violence. There is however every reason to believe that if studied the results would be the same as studies of the effect of prayer on health. Most of the time it has no effect, and sometimes it makes actually makes things worse.
Today another gunman climbed out of wherever it is these people come from and shredded the ever tenuous peace of the United States. This time it happened in Connecticut, once again a heavily armed citizen of that country took up those arms and vented his rage, frustration, anger, inferiority, madness, or some combination of those things on his fellow citizens. Reports are saying that the body count of today’s insanity is at twenty six people, eighteen of those being children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. How does a person walk into a grade school with weapons and start shooting at anything in sight you ask? I honestly have no idea. If you’re wondering what could possibly be wrong enough with a person to make such an action possible my guess would be: quite a lot.
I’m a new parent, my son is just over six months old and seeing this today I can imagine all too clearly the horror, anguish, rage, and helplessness experienced by every parent of every child at that school or in that community. It’s too easy for me to imagine my boy huddled in a corner with a bunch of other young kids, all of them panicked, confused, terrified, and at the mercy of some angry, broken, crazed individual who has decided to avenge themselves on the world. I can imagine the horrors, the nightmares and the traumas that he’d have to deal with for long years following that ordeal, and I can imagine the even darker possibilities and it makes me sick to my stomach. My deepest regrets and sympathies go out to those who have lived what I have just been imagining.
In the days and weeks that are coming there will be calls for tighter restrictions on weapons. There will be renewed calls for stronger gun violence laws. There will also be those people who will argue that these measures are unneeded unnecessary and ultimately will do little to prevent horrendous acts like those we’ve seen today and so many other times in the recent history of the United States. There will be those people who will trot out the Second Amendment to the U.S Constitution. They’ll state that the law protects their ” right to keep and bear arms” and there will be those who will say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Both of these positions are technically correct but deeply flawed interpretations.
The Second Amendment of the U.S Constitution actually contains the words ” a well regulated militia” the amendment’s purpose was to ensure that the citizens of the new country would have the ability to defend themselves from tyranny by the new government. It was not designed to ensure every citizen’s right to keep an m-16 in the hall closet, or to collect enough firepower to turn a US street into downtown Beirut. It also has to be pointed out that the amendment was written when the height of firearm technology was the musket. The framers of the constitution never envisioned a world where one man could devastate an entire building in minutes, they couldn’t have. Should we perhaps look at this “right” through the lens of it’s modern effects? Should we not ask ourselves if the cost of this “right” is too high?
Am I saying ban all firearms? No, I’m not. What I’m asking is why does any civilian need more than a handgun? Or at most a hunting rifle? Why does anyone need more than say two guns maximum? Why is it easier to buy ammunition than it is to board an airplane? Why doesn’t a firearms licensing require at the least an annual mandatory psychological examination? Why, if you’re going to be granted the ability to carry a weapon, shouldn’t you have to demonstrate regularly that you’re capable, knowledgeable responsible, and sane enough to be trusted with that privilege?
As for the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument, absolutely true. I agree. If every gun on the planet disappeared tomorrow there would still be stabbings, bludgeonings, poisonings, and any number of other forms of one human killing another. However, does anyone honestly think that if we limited the number of guns, or more realistically the number of bullets in the world, that the number of violent deaths wouldn’t drastically decrease? Does anyone think the death toll today would have been near as high if a twenty four year old man with a cavalry saber had burst into a grade school? Of course people kill people, but it’s a bunch easier to do when you’ve just got to reach out for your semi-automatic, squeeze the trigger and spray a room.
It should be harder to get a weapons license, harder to keep that license, harder to get a gun, and easier to track a bullet. The simple fact of the matter is that most citizens have absolutely no need to be armed. The war is over, the red coats aren’t coming, and while I understand defending your rights I also understand that the “right” to bear arms shouldn’t be a right. “Rights” are for everyone and clearly not everyone should have a gun. Gun ownership should be a privilege, a privilege that has to be constantly earned by those who would have it. How many times are we going to wake up to the news that a lone lunatic has decimated a structure full of people before we come to the conclusion that this power needs to be regulated and controlled much more tightly than it is?
I apologize, I know this is not my usual subject matter but it feels connected to me. For me it’s all about looking at what’s in front of you rationally, and trying to understand not just what happened but why that is what happened. It’s about looking at reality as it is, not as we would have it be and perhaps most importantly it’s about discarding outdated ideas, traditions, and even “rights” when they don’t fit the realities of life any more. As I see it today twenty six people died because we haven’t adapted to the changing realities of the world fast enough. It hurts me that it’s so, and it breaks my heart that this time it had to be our children that suffered the consequences of our failure to evolve. My heart felt regrets to the victims of today’s insanity. I’m sorry.