When it comes to mass shootings, the most common and tiresome response from conservatives is that more prayer would’ve solved everything. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blamed the El Paso shooting on the myth that kids aren’t allowed to “pray in our schools.” FOX & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt said the shooting in Dayton, Ohio occurred because the culprit “doesn’t fear God.” Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, of the Lying Huckabees, said that the “lack of thought and prayers” was “probably the single biggest factor” in those shootings.
Guns, to those people, are merely incidental when it comes to school shootings.
It’s a dumb response. We know it’s a dumb response. It’s been a dumb response ever since it became the stock response for the GOP after every school shooting — the fact that their prayers haven’t prevented further violence should’ve given them a clue.
But now sociologist Phil Zuckerman, author of the forthcoming What it Means to be Moral, puts some numbers to the myth in the Los Angeles Times. If prayers really did prevent gun deaths, then the least religious countries ought to have the most shootings, right? And the most prayer-filled nations should be immune to such violence?
Of course that’s not the case.
… Faith in God is extremely high in the Philippines. One study found that the country “leads the world” in terms of its strength of faith in God, with 94% of people there saying they have always believed in God. Comparatively, the Czech Republic, is one of the most atheistic nations in the world, with only about 20% of Czechs believing in God. According to Huckabee’s hypothesis, violence and murder rates should be much worse in the Czech Republic and much better in the Philippines.
But the reality is different: The murder rate in the Philippines is nearly 10 times higher than it is in the Czech Republic, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
You might argue that there are other factors that play into that. The Philippines is currently led by a violent tyrant, for example. But that’s the point. Prayer doesn’t neutralize additional factors that play a larger role in the issue, just as Huckabee’s prayers aren’t going to solve the problem if we do nothing about easy access to weapons.
Even within the U.S., Zuckerman writes, religion doesn’t make things better.
According to the Pew Religious Landscape survey, the states with the strongest levels of faith in God include Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Those with the lowest levels of belief in God are Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon and California. And, as expected, when it comes to homicide rates and violent crime rates in general, the least faithful states in America tend to experience far less than the most faithful.
Huckabee’s hypothesis needs to be rejected not only because it is statistically incorrect, but because it’s also inhumane: By blaming mass shootings on a lack of God-worship, he is implicitly asserting that the many victims of gun violence, well, deserved it.
If you want to stop gun violence, then do something about the guns and the Republicans who refuse to take action on guns. Don’t distract yourself with God. God doesn’t give a damn. God never has.
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