Too Many, Too Far

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Reading nonsense such as this has finally provoked within me the urge to unleash a summary of the nearly endless waves of indignation that doubtless follow soon after.

Before continuing, please be sure to read fully the words on this article of clothing, typeset carefully for dramatic effect.

First, we must isolate the demands in the rhetorical conversation above proposed to god, that we may arrive at a better understanding:

  • god, or at least this one being queried, is omnipotent enough to intervene in the affairs of mortal men.
  • god, or at least this one being queried, aside from its omnipotence, has the inclination to intervene in the affairs of mortal men.
  • The kind of affair and its calibre are irrelevant in consideration for intervention.
  • Degrees of presence of this god, either materialistically or otherwise, has a net effect on its ability to intervene, especially in the case of violence in schools.
  • Violence of any kind is bad.
  • Violence within the confines of a school is a particularly heinous breed.
  • The printer of this shirt has had the divine communication revealed, moreso than others it would seem, to have ready a solution to the issue at hand.
  • Hence, if more people would allow freely this god in particular in their schools more often, especially when the word is spread by buying this shirt, that its ability to intervene in horrific incidences of school violence would increase.

Please spare me the easy hunts here as thoughts of those nature will be vanquished immediately.

One should find it obvious, probably as a result of experience, that even if this god in subject did exist and was of the meddlesome kind, the nauseating selectiveness which it elects to employ or bestow upon the people – its people – the requisite number of miracles to produce the safest, happiest, most fulfilling life for all leaves quite a bit to be desired. god’s game, that of arbitrarily halting each person’s life pendulum, has no rhyme or reason. Yet all the wonders of the fallacious mind attempt attribution upon attribution, founding these claims on little more than simple or seemingly sophisticated rumours and fancies, none of which are or can be rooted by rationality or reason. We should rest assured that if this god were as invested in our goings-ons as one becomes enthralled by reality television, and it desired an alternative outcome, it should’ve happened by now on numerous occasions. Otherwise, we’re left to conclude that either this god doesn’t exist, or that it truly doesn’t care what you or anyone else does in their day-to-day, consequently invaliding any and all notions of intervention.

But we must say something of the utility of the matter since it is commonly and boorishly implored as the preferred means of coagulation. How many thoughts and prayers have been offered up in the wakes of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech (2007), and the University of Texas (1966)? Have we been praying to the wrong god? Did we not pray correctly? Did we happen to pray at the wrong time? Was god on a holiday, conveniently enough whenever these massacres occurred? Was the presence of this god in particular absent from these schools? Try explaining to the surviving family members that their children would’ve experienced, or were at least far more likely to, divine intervention, which would certainly have saved them, if only they and the student body were a bit more pious.

More questions emerge from the framework. Just how much piety and humility – if ever it could be sufficiently quantified – is or would be required to prevent these tragedies? Must we compel the faculty and community at large to resort to barbarous medieval customs such as animal and human sacrifice? Or do we simply need to ramp up production of such sloganistic masterpieces as the one on display above, accelerate the marketing to procure more sales, and rely entirely on the horrifyingly shallow sort of solidarity that both founds and breeds in it? This here is a pestilence of the mind and of the society, and from within this cesspool, naught of a tincture of a remedy is to be found.

We seem also to be taking this concept of gradation, given to us by Aquinas himself, and pumping it full of steroids to give it some meaning that, in its attempts to assuage negation, permits it to blitz past any naysayers in total ignorance of its fatal detraction. While a reasonable destruction of this is possible, a more poignant defamation presents itself through these shootings and by responses like the one shown above.

If we take a look on gradation, we find that to judge the merit of one’s goodness is to effectively weigh it in proximity of the ‘uttermost’ good, and the result of this exercise would yield the final goodness or badness of one’s actions. From the perspective of the exercise itself, this makes total sense, since any measurement of any kind with the objective of describing some property of the subject in a vacuum would provide very little to glean. But we arise at an issue when we do what Aquinas suggests, which is placing god, or at least his rendition, in the position of the objective, or the pinnacle of conceivable subjectivity, ‘uttermost’ goodness, by which any and all questions of morality and conceptions of utopia are adjudicated. For example, are we to assume that one’s moral compass is skewed, or skewered in some cases, when they are found to not subscribe to the same god as does Aquinas regardless of the reason? Do they not distinguish good from bad? More adequately, we could express the paradox as if one’s ‘uttermost’ good is different than mine, because if god is my ‘uttermost’ good and their god is not my god, how then do I know that person is a good person, or at any rate, can be expected to do good things? Often left out of the conversation is that it’s plausible that this arm’s length sizing-up happens on the other side. Further, what happens if this god commands as ‘uttermost’ good the slaughter of peoples whose faith subscriptions are inconsistent and irreconcilable with your own? Of both the sums of atrocities committed and their accompanying rationale, a very safe and sound assertion that religion permits this kind of horrifying and arbitrary inconsistency can be mounted and defended. If nothing else is said from here, it should at least be granted that not only is god not the ‘uttermost’ good, but that if one elects to place it there, they’re not to be trusted on judging morals or goodness at all.

The common question of if god is absent, how can we be moral or good emerges here, and it has a very simple response that makes sense. We can indeed be moral and good in the absence of god because it’s not a progenitor for either morality or so-called ‘uttermost’ goodness. Rather, the imperative that one behaves in this way is emergent as a substrate to society solely as a reciprocal of our evolving social dynamic, further dictated by the species and its relation to the availability of subsistence resources. In other words, we are good and moral subjectively, and what constitutes the prime measurement for goodness is not an ephemeral and likely non-existent construct, but is the collectiveness of our species in and of itself. This structure is entirely mutable in much the same ways that human behaviours are subject to both social glue as well as environmental properties.

But if god is present in any form, can you still be good and moral? Yes. Because these things don’t arise from god and are instead universal by other means. Missions to Haiti should be performed because it’s the right thing to do, not because god dictated your good. One should have access to a roof over their heads and common amenities because of decency and growth of the species, not because god willed servants to grant those things with the hook-line-and-sinker that the recipient will be liberated from their heathen backward lives in godless communities.

And now we arrive at our magnum opus. From where precisely in these atrocities taking place in our schools do we find the grounds for dispelling the magisterium and voodoo of religion, which compels people to look in entirely the wrong direction, so that we can start addressing real issues? It’s rooted in a very particular kind of economy, one which can be found in example by removing from the clause that provoked this entire adventure certain words. Doing so will shift meaning, but only toward a larger scale, and does not detract in any way from the original objective; it remains valid. Simply restate the offending question:

Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?

To:

Why do you allow so much violence?

And the entire prospect of omnipotence falls even harder on its face than it already did. We could’ve easily grouped the words in our schools, turned the last word into a variable, and played a game of Mad Libs by swapping it out with any other place. However, we must understand clearly that by doing either this or taking the amended statement above as the general inquiry, the answer on offer must necessarily change, and not for the better since it becomes harder to answer, even rhetorically, as the author of our shirt here obviously didn’t take into consideration. Let’s try.

First, replace school with church. Now, of all the enumerable places where people go, the one most assuredly where one would find a plethora of fuel to bring about the god would be in a church. So why is it then that even when churches, mosques, and synagogues are targeted with extreme acts of violence, whatever the reason, that there is a very distinct lack of divine hands redirecting bullets, shielding people from blast radii and/or collapsing structural debris, or, perhaps even more telling, why wouldn’t this god have either mooted with or road-blocked the other god that drove the attackers before they inaugurated their campaign of terror? Whoops! Hang on! What if the god was the same? What then? Further, suppose we commanded an increase in the footprint of religion in schools, as was suggested implicitly by our lovely fashion statement? Surely, if places dedicated to the worship of a god are not omitted from consideration in plans of attack, nor are they on the list of places where critical divine action occurs, why would one ever dream to conceive that a school would somehow make the cut, and then have the sickening audacity to even place the option on the table as a solution?

Finally, let’s take the second permutation of the question and examine the change on the context. Expectantly, one would decry this exercise as being far too broad, but I vehemently disagree with this. Considering that the breadth of this god’s influence is claimed to be so grand in scale and magnitude that even the laws of the universe bend to its will, speaking generally on violence should be of little to no consequence. Human history illustrates clearly a ubiquity in the distribution and execution of barbarism from as far back as we can tell. Hence, we must acknowledge that violence is evinced in the cultures of Neanderthals, Vikings, Greeks, Romans, Scots, British, Indian, Egyptian, Prussian, and contemporary American to name a few. The pinnacle issue at the core here is that to even ask a question of this calibre is to understand that an unsatisfactory answer will always be had from this or any other god. Questions of how sometimes serve as antecedent to those of why, and in this case, they’re far more critical. Instead of asking why a god permits violence, one should be more concerned with how violence emerges. In doing so, an enlightening proposition occurs.

While it’s true that some elect to refer to their god as the ultimate good, and that it may inhibit them from committing acts that would, based on those standards, be deemed bad, the inverse case is also true. Those killing people with a prayer or the name of a god on their lips during the act are just as capable as those who do so without. Certainly, one could argue, as often occurs, which kinds of people are more prone to such senseless aggression, but here they’re all considered equally. That being said, all of a sudden, a god, whomever or whatever it may be, if indeed it can be at all, no longer has the luxury of stratifying itself against the innumerable other means by which violence emerges since it becomes one alongside them. In effect, you could propose the same inquiry to other subjects like scarcity (artificial or not), repression, anger, jealousy, racism, sexism, bigotry, and cultural standards to name a few. The real paradox here is that although asking of these subjects this question is in effect the same as doing so with a god, one is considered insane for personifying these and not so for a god. My thought here is that a very real fear emerges from confronting these tangible actors, one rooted in the providence of human beings. If blame is cast wholly on an agent whose very nature and existence are highly volatile at best, somehow this alleviates from humans the responsibility of having to act for change in a way that goes beyond printing on clothing, making social media posts, or muckraking with contrarian dogma to maintain the decadence of the mass.

In short,

Praying to a god will not stop violence anywhere.

Offering adulation to any diety will not hamper or deter all violence anywhere.

Hermetically sealing your community away and galvanising it with religion, while potentially shuttering external influence, doesn’t serve any purpose in this regard.

Demanding that more people become religious will not change anything.

So, what would?

We would.

Our culture and our politics should be the first targets. We see it as sexy and dignified, as well as a show of power, to brandish weaponry of any kind to each other. Becoming strong and defensive is an objective in and of itself, and the perception of not doing so is to be weak, and the weak are only to be used by the strong. The impressions of strength and weakness manifest in people in different ways, depending wildly on their social situations. In here, generalities can be established, but not enough to convince someone truly mired in the mess that theirs is not unique enough to warrant highly questionable expressions of relief. Television, major film, and shorts glorify acts of violence if only in defence, ignoring the underlying motivations for them and the requisite discipline for containing the precursors, which in defence or not, are largely the same. Guns have obtained a first-class citizenry status and are big business. The second amendment, having been picked apart from the political ravens and vultures in the name of convenient yet contradictory legislature, has convinced a majority of people that they, and not just militias, are mandated constitutionally to own weaponry, and the degree of ordinance permissible, at least under the table, is irrelevant when the dollars are in order. No one submits that even in the periphery, the Founding Fathers composed this construct with the intent of permitting brothers and sisters to maim one another without any truly compelling reason. We falsely dichotomise killing for sport and murder, using this as justification for “sport hunting,” which itself is leveraged as argument for obtaining vast quantities of weaponry for private citizens. A weapon used for killing or severely injuring another human is quite similar to that which is used for “sporting” an animal.

Of course, this only scratches the surface, and I’d be remiss if I thought for one second that a complete disarmament of the people en masse would be possible or even desirable. We must remember though is that we, those of us not in politics, can demand change through action which requires more than shirts, Instagram pictures, profile photo filters on Facebook, and, hell, even the words that I’ve written here now. Close your bibles, they serve you no purpose. Turn off the TV and the cell phones and start talking to one another. Engage people to find common ground. Be a human being again. Demand that these dirty, incompetent, and disconnected politicians and SIGs be taken to task for the truly horrible nature of their actions. Be a positive influence in your community, and do it without the aid of a god, because you don’t need it.

Everything you need, you already possess within you.