Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wake Up! Wake Up Wake Up Wake Up Wake Up!

We're sure to see more horrible stories like this as the COVID-19 crisis continues and worsens.
A 38-year-old Wilson Borough man who had become increasingly despondent over the COVID-19 pandemic and who had recently lost his job shot his longtime girlfriend then himself on Monday afternoon, police report.
Luckily he wasn't a very accurate shot.  According to this report, the woman survived, though she's in critical condition.  The shooter didn't survive.  It was less spectacular than the engineer who tried to crash his train into the hospital ship Mercy at the Port of Los Angeles "out of the desire to ‘wake people up,’” but no one was injured that time.  From what I've read so far, the perpetrator seems to have been vague about how the ship was suspicious, or what he expected people to realize once they were awakened.  This, in my experience, is normal when someone orders others to wake up: their analysis of the situation tends to fall apart under examination.  The command always makes me suspicious.

What I want to focus on here is the shooter's reported motive.  The police chief told a reporter:
“He went into the basement and came outside onto the rear porch with the victim. While holding the handgun, Bliss told the victim, ‘I already talked to God and I have to do this.’ The victim ran off the porch and he shot at her four times striking her once. Bliss then shot himself.”
As I write this I'm unable to access Twitter, whether because the site is down or because I've been bad and must be disciplined.  (If you don't know what you've done, we're certainly not going to tell you!)  A number of commenters fastened on Bliss's claim to have talked to God and, presumably, gotten permission to end it all.  But as I've noticed before, they seemed to be confused.

Did God tell Bliss to kill himself?  Of course not: God doesn't exist.  Yet the atheist commenters seemed to think that God was somehow involved anyway.  So let's ask ourselves whether this killing would not have happened if no one believed in gods?  I don't see any reason to think so.  Bliss didn't decide to kill himself and his girlfriend because a god put the idea into his head.  If he hadn't had recourse to the conception of a god, he'd have had something else: Evolution, or Science, or George Carlin, or Donald Trump, or the Invisible Hand of the Market - some imaginary friend or another.

Christians and other believers, of course, will have a different response: God would never tell someone to kill someone how can you say such an awful thing!  They'll blame Satan, or mental illness, or Donald Trump.  I can't prove them wrong, but for what it's worth the Christian Bible contains many stories of Yahweh ordering his servants to kill, maim, rape, and plunder others -- sometimes individuals, sometimes whole populations.  My Catholic mother would have sneered that he was weak, which might be true but isn't going to solve the problem.

It's no different outside of the Yahwist tradition.  Believers invent gods who order them to do what they want to do anyhow; religious pacifists just invent different gods.  Atheists, alas, have managed to invent imaginary friends who endorse killing as well.  Maybe Bliss's genes ordered him to kill himself and his girlfriend; maybe it was his DNA.  Maybe Evolution told him: You cannot go against the word of Evolution!  The only way to stop the killing is to stop the killing.  No middle-deity or principle is needed.