“People say … where was God in all of this? We’ve threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed … I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.”
Those were the remarks of Rep. Gohmert of Texas on the day of the Colorado movie shooting, an event which he suggested came about as a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian Beliefs.” Indeed, what a protective hand God must possess.
Evangelical Jerry Newcombe added to the Christian moralizing bandwagon by stating: “I can’t help but feel that to some extent, we’re reaping what we’ve been sowing as a society. We said to God, “Get out of the public arena.” Lawsuit after lawsuit, often by misguided “civil libertarians,” have chased away any fear of God in the land — at least in the hearts of millions.”
Since the faithful, particularly Evangelical Christians, have wasted no time in co-opting the insanity of midnight Friday the 20th in Aurora, Colorado, for their own ends, it’s no doubt high time for a non-religious perspective.
Neither God nor Devil was in that theater with James Holmes and the moviegoers. God was not lording over his flock, weeping as chemicals teared up the eye ducts of the audience and bullets pierced flesh and haloed bodies in pools of blood, allowing “evil” to kill indiscriminately. The Devil was not whispering in the ears of Holmes and laughing as bodies hit the floor.
No. God and Devil are ethical and moral cop-outs.
God is the means by which an individual relinquishes his moral responsibility in this world. Morality, as the philospher David Hume suggested, has its foundations in sentiments of approbation and disapprobation—a negative sentiment against violence, for instance, or a positive sentiment following a charitable act.
Holmes acted alone. He did not act against God like Comte de Lautreamont’s shape-shifting rebel Maldoror. He did not act in concert with or at the behest of the Devil. Holmes and Holmes alone chose—chose—to align himself against the revulsion shared by the majority of Earth’s people, both secular (atheist, agnostic, humanist) and faithful alike, when violent acts are committed that lead to the extinguishing of life. As a species, our sentiments have, over hundreds of thousands of years, caused us to more or less value life (aside from warfare). Our moral arrangements, however, mean nothing to the Earth which we inhabit. It cares nothing for our ethics and morality.
Holmes did not share humanity’s general moral arrangement. He did not share the moral system of secularly and religiously moral people alike.
This much is true: we do not have a window into Holmes’ his state of mind. We can infer from his bloody rampage that something was psychologically wrong with him—that he did not have the ability to empathize with others, which is the mark of a sociopath and psychotic.
That he could no longer generate positive moral sentiments is clear enough, but where does it leave us? If there’s anything even mildly interesting in his actions, it is staging of the violent act—how it was so very simulated in the Baudrillardian sense.
We live in a world of signs and symbols: our words and various media forming our perception of reality. We are lost in a maelstrom of messaging from TV ads, billboards, the movies, books and the Internet with we constantly interface, where to some people Facebook becomes more real than the real world itself, or at least what passes for the real world pre-Facebook log-in. An unreal or hyperreal world of continuous sensory abuse, where everything is a product and we hardly ever deconstruct something into its component pieces.
Nothing is as it seems. We are lost in a haze of disinformation. It is truly a wonder that more people do not lose their grip on reality, or whatever we want to call this current arrangement of shared consciousness.
In the Aurora mass shootings, we have an audience, who already exist in a daily stream of simulation, heading into a theater for some more simulated reality (a film); and then Holmes exits the stage, as it were, only to return from the wings like an actor in costume intent on unleashing yet another wave of simulated reality on the audience and himself. To say that he was lost in various layers of simulation seems almost laughably obvious when consider what happened. Holmes, in a very hyperreal way, carried out an act that was itself a simulation.
Not that the crime did not happen, but that it was a simulation or reproduction of what Holmes imagined or was conditioned to believe a destructive act should be. But simulated reality has real world consequences. It is not like theater or film where the stage lights extinguish or the last frame of film passes through the aperture and gate and the spectacle ceases to exist. The blood is real. The dead bodies are real.
Holmes, in essence, created just one more spectacle to pass before our eyes in this hyperreal world. At some point, through an aggregation of events, Holmes lost the thread or cut the connective tissue linking him to our shared moral consciousness and sought refuge from modern existence in something that might have seemed more real to him.
He alone crossed this threshold and neither God nor Devil helped him in his transgression.