Everytime someone does something inexplicably horrible, like shooting 12 people dead at the premiere of the new Batman movie, or killing students at Columbine High School, or kids at summer camp in Norway, there is public discussion about what made the person do what they did.
People are falling over themselves to try and explain the inexplicable, and blamed are most often things like lack of religious belief, a traumatic childhood and poor socioeconomic circumstances, or mental illness, and any combination of the above. You also get the odd nimwit who will claim this kind of mass killing on evolution, or (since the latest one happened once again in the USA) the teachings of Christianity.
I think the latter is the easiest to debunk. Mass killings and shooting sprees happen in non-Christian countries, and are carried out by non-Christians all the time, take the subway gas attack in Japan. I think this kind of argument is really not helpful at all, apart from being demonstrably wrong it also attempts to blame a person’s acts on the outcome of a rather complex chain of reasoning that is alleged to have occurred after reading the Christian holy book. I don’t think it works like that. And I think the explanation for why some people do evil things is much simpler.
It comes down to the individual (for a definition of “individual” of “product of genes, environment and upbringing”, not “random person untouched by reality”), and to means and opportunity, every time. Yes, mental illness, psychopathy and intoxication do play a role. So does religion. But religion’s influence isn’t exerted so much on the level of the individual, but rather it predisposes to conflict on a societal and inter-group level. It is indisputable that most armed conflicts on this earth were caused and fuelled by religion, Northern Ireland, Israel, Iraq, Crusades et cetera. I think what is notable when it comes to religion’s role, is that it is not, as frequently claimed by its proponents and apologists, a factor that may be suited to curb or prevent crime and violence. And this is what we have to realise. Religion and religious belief does not, for the majority of believers, directly lead to violence. But religions and their dogmas and tenets are not by their very nature suited or likely to prevent any acts of violence. And that’s the big one. Religion does not make anyone a better person. Lack of religion does not make anyone a worse person. We can and must lay those myths to rest.
No, it starts with the individual. If someone for whatever reason wants to kill a large number of people, they will naturally find it easier to succeed in places with easy access to weapons and ammunition. In places with a poorly developed screening and community-based assessment system for mental health problems. In places with a large number of disgruntled and disenfranchised people within which they may go undetected.
And just because it comes down to the individual, what we as a society can and must do is create conditions where it is harder for disturbed people to go on shooting sprees. Like, limit access to and availability of weapons with which to shoot people. Duh. Stop glorifying weapons culture and violence. Have a working mental health system in place(I’m looking at you, USA !)where screening begins in schools and psychological help is readily available.
It’s not that hard, really. Unless you live in a country with a bunch of gun nuts in positions of power and influence. If you want to blame any one group for the Colorado shooting, blame the NRA, not Christianity. Would Holmes have hacked these people to death with a hunting knife ? I doubt it very much, merely having to pull a trigger makes mass murder just so much easier. No, Christian belief didn’t make Holmes kill 12 people. But for us as nonbelievers and for the general public it is worth noticing that his Christian beliefs did not prevent him from killing these people either.
I note that Mashable reports that Holmes had a profile on Adult Friend Finder, where he asked “Will you visit me in prison?”.