Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why do such things happen?

By Gary Berg-Cross

An NBC headline reads, “Massacre leaves America shocked and grieving ... again.”
Further below House Speaker John Boehner is quoted appealing to Americans to come together to seek solace.  How?   

“In religion….The horror of this day seems so unbearable, but we will lock arms and unite as citizens, for that is how Americans rise above unspeakable evil. Let us all come together in God's grace to pray for the families of the victims, that they may find some comfort and peace amid such suffering,” 

Psychological studies ( see Chris Mooney's reporting On The Republican Brain and Understanding Confirmatory Bias and Dead End Arguments) of Conservative Republicans,  like  Boehner, tells us that they tend to ignore evidence contrary to their initial position, and they tend to reinforce their previous commitments.  And they value group unity. .As a result.they are quick to close on an issue without studying all sides of it  So Boehner was probably more comfortable talking about some vague notion of evil and the comfort of prayer that fit his group thinking than of taking on the very American, National Rifle Association to give us more security from guns.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had similar words of some narrow idea of unity with a look towards more peaceful days:

“I invite everyone to lift their hearts in prayer for the victims and their families and to unite around the hope that there will soon come a day when parents no longer fear this kind of violence in our nation again,”

And such appeals to come together in ritual are understandable, although some of us would rather it not be around an assumed religious ideas of prayer and evil.Critical thinking using science based evidence is probably a better way to go in the long run.
Religion isn’t unique in providing comfort, which is easier if we accept the irrational in our thinking and in the world, but it is convenient security blanket and indeed there is some thinking that this is one of the main reasons for Religion:

According to the security blanket concept of religion, supernatural belief systems provide peace of mind and help believers to cope with the more stressful events in their lives. This is a valuable service because chronic stress increases blood pressure leading to heart disease, clinical depression, and contributing to a number of other health problems ranging from obesity to cancers.

OK, so maybe it  provides an easy comfort for people. It has a simple explanation for everything even for people who ask, “Why do such things happen?” It’s part of God’s plan…don’t ask more, it’s beyond us. Broad appeals to prayer and religion provide comfort rather than answers to such things. And we prefer real attempts at understanding rather than religion driven thinking. According to the Huffington Post, Republican Mike Huckabee said the crime should be no surprise because we have "systematically removed God" from public schools.
In his own words, delivered on Fox News:

"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"

Yuk and hogwash! Systematically eliminating open inquiry and humanist values, lack of support for counseling, addressing the causes of poverty, stress and mental illnsess and  the like are all things discuss as an alternative criticism.

Some of us want more than that type of blaming or that God is punishing us or, "God has a plan,"  That’s a more difficult take on reality which quickly leads into more divisive topics of policy, politics and interest groups. And we need more understanding to yield us answers that will work. We might prefer the role of secular counselors and Psychologists to handle grief and real problem solvers with political skills and wisdom to deal with the issues.

Image Credits

Leading the children to safety:
Evolutionary Psychology of religion:

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