The Charleston Shooting, the Bible, and Ignorance

A demented young white male, tormented by hatred and paranoia, entered into a Black church and killed nine Black men and women in the middle of what appears to be open season on African Americans. For months, we have been seeing how law enforcement has been particularly abusive against Black people, many of whom live in the poorest communities in the country and are already experiencing considerable daily violence and intimidation.

Many of us are by now cynical, and even Jon Stewart can’t come up with a relevant joke and claims that “We Still Won’t Do Jackshit” as the reaction, for our generation, has not exceeded much further than hashtag campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter.

The Atlantic has published a piece, which should be echoed throughout the entire culture and throughout the world, with a call to take down the Confederate Flag which commemorates slavery and the economy of human trafficking and exploitation on which the South was built. For an increasing number of us, it’s difficult to comprehend what about this “heritage” they’re so proud of.

If South Africa was able to invent a new flag and a new identity that it can be proud of, surely South Carolina can do it. No? What exactly impedes South Carolina’s entry into the 21st Century and the overcoming of its racist past?

Psychology Today chimed in on the national conversation with a piece titled Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America: Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason. It argues:

Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall …

An anti-intellectual society … will have large swaths of people who are motivated by fear, susceptible to tribalism and simplistic explanations, incapable of emotional maturity, and prone to violent solutions. Sound familiar?

Agreed. But why and how has South Carolina become a bastion of anti-intellectualism? Are there maybe other factors that correlate to it that might provide a clue?

The piece then goes on to cite some of the embarrassingly high statistics related to societal dysfunction and how these statistics are highest in the Bible belt. The data isn’t new. In fact, Gregory Paul for years has been evaluating census, prison, and other data with a pretty conclusive indictment of religion as having a clear, undeniable correlation with both dysfunction and low educational achievement. His studies have been featured in Skeptic and other publications, but never any mainstream ones.

International quality of life rankings place America barely in the top ten. America’s rates of murder and other violent crime dwarf most of the rest of the developed world, as does its incarceration rate, while its rates of education and scientific literacy are embarrassingly low. American schools, claiming to uphold “traditional values,” avoid fact-based sex education, and thus we have the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world. And those rates are notably highest where so-called “biblical values” are prominent. Go outside the Bible belt, and the rates generally trend downward.

However Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, elaborates on how Fox News has tried to interpret the shootings as an “attack on faith” because the victims were attending church … and deny that the attack was a hate crime, an act of terrorism, or race-related in any way.

Fox News has begun to use the recent tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, in which an apparent white supremacist committed a mass killing of nine black men and women in a historically black church, as “proof” of the ongoing victimization of Christians.

On a segment discussing the hate crime during Fox & Friends, the hosts frame the event not as an attack on the black community, but as “a horrifying attack on faith.” The hosts even expressed their disbelief that civil rights organizations and advocates were claiming a racial motive, stating “extraordinarily they called it a hate crime.” Indeed, most of the segment focused on what host Steve Doocy called “hostility towards Christians” and recommendations for religious leaders to carry weapons in their houses of worship.

While this case is still developing, it’s important to look at the available facts. The shooter was quoted by a witness to the killings as stating, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Photos of the alleged shooter online depict him wearing clothing featuring the flags of two extremely racist government regimes, that of apartheid-era South Africa and of the Republic of Rhodesia. And black churches have long been targets of racist violence over decades in the United States—Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in particular “has a history of civil rights activism and has long been one of the most prominent historic black churches in the South.”

While Fox News cooks up these narratives for the consumption of its audience, a recent video was published where family members of victims publicly forgave the perpetrator during their Wednesday Bible Study, inviting him to accept Jesus.

Which makes me wonder how these Black Southeners, during their Bible study, will make of Leviticus 25:44-46, where God instituted slavery as part of his eternal covenant with humanity … or what they will make of Ephesians 6, where Paul told slaves to be loyal to their masters and to treat their slave-masters as if they were Christ … or what they will make of 1 Timothy 6, where Paul again advised submission to slaves, praising his own teachings by saying that they were a ‘sane doctrine’.

I am an Epicurean. One of the first things that the Masters of our tradition taught us–Polystratus in particular–is that when people pursue virtue without the study of nature, as religious people try to do, their virtue comes to nothing because it degenerates into superstitious fear, blind slavery to unnecessary and unhealthy societal conventions, and many other evils.

I will spare my readers the politically correct rhetoric that permeates mainstream media and I will dare name one of the main roots of South Carolina’s racial problems by citing a passage from the final chapter of Frances Wright’s A Few Days in Athens.

I have threaded the labyrinth to its dark beginning; I have found the first link in the chain of evil; I have found it — in all countries — among all tribes and tongues and nations; I have found it, — fellow-men, I have found it in — RELIGION!

We have named the leading error of the human mind, — the bane of human happiness — the perverter of human virtue! It is Religion — that dark coinage of trembling ignorance! It is Religion — that prisoner of human felicity! It is Religion —that blind guide of human reason. It is Religion — that dethroner of human virtue! -which lies at the root of all the evil and all the misery that pervade the world!

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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