“Colorful birthday cake with candy frosting stars” by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Gods, Guns, and Gut Emotions

“Thoughts and prayers” is fast becoming the “let them eat cake” of our era. Even those who believe that prayer has some efficacy are finding the phrase risible in the face of constant mass shootings.

“Thoughts and prayers” reeks of hypocritical piety and an embrace of the status quo. “Thoughts and prayers” is a condescending “there, there” to people in actual pain.

The saccharine phrase offends because it is the polar opposite of that famous phrase attributed to a chaplain aboard one of the ships under attack at Pearl Harbor: “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

We Humanists like to shorten that phrase further: “Pass the ammunition.”

But these days “ammunition” is particularly inapt, isn’t it?

In the case of constant gun violence, “pass sensible legislation.”

Fact is, our technology has far surpassed government’s ability to legislate, even if — a big if — government weren’t corrupted by money.

Just as we now live in a geological epoch created by human hands, the Anthropocene, we also live in a time when wonders of destructive power are for sale at the local big box store.

The US Constitution was written at a time when a practiced person could fire two rounds a minute. Now the number is 600 rounds per minute.

The very act of careful deliberation built into the US Constitution and consequently state constitutions causes, on the one hand, inaction, and, on the other, maniacal haste, as happened with the “War on Terror.”

Adding to the challenge of inadequate government is out-dated theology. The chaplain at Pearl Harbor knew when to stop praying and start moving ammunition. There are no gods prepared to fix America’s love affair with guns.

Fact: Just as money corrupts decision-making, it greases the rails for technological development. “Thoughts and prayers” slows down legislation, but not technology.

Technology is driven by reason; government is driven by emotion. That’s a problem.

Marie Antoinette didn’t really say “let them eat cake.” Even French royalty weren’t that out of touch with reality. But a good many US politicians are that out of touch with reality. They quite literally send “thoughts and prayers” while receiving very real cash for their votes.

We Humanists believe that human beings create problems and human beings can fix them. Fact: our technology has begun to destroy us.

It’s time to stop looking for ghosts in our machines. Gut up and find the “off” switch.