OPINION: Thoughts and prayers are lovely, but if you’re truly devout, you need to take action

Graphic by Katie Erickson

I spent 12 years in a Catholic education system. I’m no longer religious, but the close connections I maintain with people still in the church and the duration I spent as a devout member of it qualify me to make the following statement. If there is indeed a God, then God doesn’t give a damn about your thoughts and your prayers.

I’m referring, of course, to the recent uptick in mass shootings. It’s ridiculous to use the word uptick here — as if there’s an acceptable baseline for the slaughter of hundreds of innocent people. Regardless of semantics, an uptick is exactly what’s happening right now. As of Nov. 15, 2018, there have been 12,788 deaths by gun in the United States.

A substantial amount of these deaths were casualties as a result of 311 mass shootings that have occurred since the year began. To put these high numbers in perspective, I’ll cite the less than 5,000 soldiers who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. The difference is preposterous — that more Americans have been shot at home, in a country where safety is an ideal, than have been in an actual war.

I could continue with more statistics. I could cite the shocking number of weapons used in mass shootings acquired legally, or the shocking ratio of guns to inhabitants of the United States, or the fact that our country is one of six in the world that comprise over half of all gun deaths.

But I won’t do that. I won’t prove to you the necessity of gun control because I, among others, have argued this more times than I can count. Instead, I’m going to argue against the common fallacy that any power other than humanity will stop the massacres.

This isn’t an argument against God. Although I personally don’t have faith, I have nothing but respect for people that do. However, I don’t have respect for people who believe their faith alone is what will solve the problem of rampant gun violence affecting the country.

Following the recent Thousand Oaks shooting, my sister posted on Facebook beseeching for change. In the comments, two individuals felt compelled to reply.

One said “This country has become demoralized, with so many turning away from God. Government can’t fix this. Only God.”

The other said “Why not fight passionately for a return to our schools of prayer and the 10 commandments? If you look back and study that Supreme Court case, it was about that time that families became broken, crime escalated, poverty soared…”

The religious theme of these two comments is unsurprising considering the Christian community my family is an active part of. What did surprise me is how these people failed to understand a common theme across many denominations of Christianity and other religions — that it is the combination of faith and good actions that lead to some sort of salvation rather than faith alone.

The Facebook evangelists seem to believe that a more religious society will become more peaceful as a result. This is blatantly incorrect. There is no evidence whatsoever that any country that places a high value on religion is more peaceful.

For example, a 2009 study on religion found that 88 percent of Guatemalan adults claim religion is an important part of their daily life. In 2016, Guatemala had the eighth most firearm deaths out of all countries.

Conversely, the same 2009 study found that only 17 percent of Swedish adults claim religion is an important part of their daily life. A 2010 study showed the firearm death rate per 100,000 people for Sweden to be 1.5 to the United States’ 10.2.

This shows that the argument that more God equals less gun violence is completely wrong. There is simply not enough consistent evidence to support the argument that more religion is equivalent to less violence. Granted, there isn’t enough consistent evidence to support the opposite, either.

If you believe in a higher power, there are three options. Either God is showing us a solution to the gun violence epidemic through legislative gun control, or God couldn’t care less and is doing nothing. The third option is that God isn’t real. If you’re a person of faith, the best option is pretty evident.

Once again, I don’t take issue with religion, rather with people who believe that sitting around and praying will solve all problems. My frustration is with an apathy so strong that it enables mass shootings to become normalized. My argument is made against those who are complicit in the murder of thousands of people every year.

Feel free to pray. Feel free to think of the victims. It might help.

But unless you want this disgusting trend to continue, get involved. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll tell you to do the following, because it’s the only thing that will help. Vote during the next election. Call your representatives. Protest, march, campaign, and donate. Do whatever you need to do to stop more people from being brutally slaughtered.  

Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, CA. He puts coffee grounds on everything.

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