In the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown a year ago, evangelical personalities, and even a former GOP candidate for president, took to the airwaves and lamented the heart wrenching carnage as a symptom of a godless society.
Garnering the most attention was former Arkansas governor and Fox News pundit, Mike Huckabee, essentially laying the charge that people who don’t believe in an afterlife are lacking any fear of eternal judgment, making massacres like the one at Sandy Hook a predictable phenomenon.
Many people, both religious and nonreligious, find this kind of rhetoric deplorable. But what’s lost in the ensuing debate is the fact that Huckabee, and others like him, are insinuating that secular people (nearly 40% of Americans) participate in an ideology that views the sadism of mass murder as more of an unpleasant inconvenience rather than an immoral abomination.
Although he was forced to walk back his comments after the resulting uproar, there’s no mistaking Huckabee’s original intended message:
“Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”
The fallacy that says nonbelievers are less bound to moral principles than believers has long been a rhetorical weapon of religious fundamentalists from all faiths.
During recent holiday seasons, conservative media voices have made a lot of racket about an encroaching “War on Christmas” waged by God-hating atheists who aim to erase religion from the public sphere. While most disputes about public displays of religiosity have less to do with hate and fear and more to do with issues of Constitutional interpretation, the War on Christmas propaganda serves as an effective diversion from a much more sinister campaign against secularism being waged by the Religious Right.