Bring your gun to Church, because God’s not gonna save you
Ye of little faith…
The Arkansas House approved a bill allowing concealed handguns in churches. The bill, which passed on a 57-to-42 vote and now heads to the Senate, removes churches and other houses of worship from the list of places where concealed handguns are banned. Currently, the only private entities where concealed weapons are banned are churches and bars. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Beverly Pyle, Republican of Cedarville, said she introduced the measure after a series of church shootings across the country. (New York Times)
In addition to bringing to mind Epicurus’ paradox of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God*, this event also demonstrates how little confidence some devoutly religious people in their God when it counts. If you can’t trust your God to protect you from being shot in a Church, what can you trust him for? Or, is being shot in the head while reading hymns just another one of those tests of faith – along with cancer, homosexual urges and other horrible diseases and deformities?
Ah, but God gave us – all of us – freewill. How sweet of him to not stand between the freewill of the gunman and the faithful and unsuspecting churchgoer.
And lets talk about freewill a little bit. Lets just assume, for the sake of argument, that there is an immaterial soul that is somehow separate from our genes, neurology and socialization. Above them such that we have some special agentive core that is capable of overriding our impulses, bad social programming and so on. What is the nature of this soul? What are its inclinations? What are its preferences and aversions? It must have some type of programmed direction, because how would it do anything if not? What determines how the soul decides the soul it wants to be? On what basis does it choose its direction of formation? What is a free soul to do with no direction or drive? And how easily swayed it would be by genes and socialization.
If God did indeed give it direction and drive, then where is the freewill? What? We’re free to do us our metaphysical as well as our biological and cultural drives direct us? Technically speaking, I’d be happy to call this freewill as, at the end of the day, we are acting in our own interests (the self being the result of the ongoing interactions that create and shape us). But those interests are not subject to any sort of truly autonomous control. Every bit of cognitive and behavioural framework has been shaped by extraneous sources. There can be nothing that can be pointed to and said “that is your responsibility completely; not only did you do it, and not only did you want to do it, but you chose to want to do it, and you chose to have the cognitive/emotional/environmental framework that would lead you to chose to do it, and you chose that, too…”.
Anyhow, it’s clear that people frequently don’t act as if they don’t trust their God and as if this really is a godless universe. They may make excuses for this – saying that God doesn’t help people who don’t help themselves, that God is indeed helping us by making secular technologies available, by pointing to the issue of freewill – their own and that of others, and so on. Or they may just casually rite the conundrum off. In any case, it’s a good thing for these people and for many of us that these people are not relying on a magic invisible hand to make sure that everything is okay.
And then there are those who insist on keeping it real, even when keeping it real goes wrong. The prayer healers, for example.
While the latter of these communities is clearly the one generally doing more harm to themselves and others, neither are making any sense and maybe we’d all be better off if more of us could be more honest about what we know and what we don’t know and in our moral, social and political decision making.
* Epicurus on God:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Hat Tip: Unreasonable Faith