Las Vegas & Lack of Belief



(The FreeThinking Theist)


October 8, 2017

The Monday morning of October 2nd, 2017, America awoke to horrible news that some are calling “The Las Vegas Massacre.” At this early point in the investigation it seems as if a “lone wolf” booked a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. From this elevated position, and after weeks of meticulous planning and preparing for this cowardly act, and with a plethora of fully automatic rifles at his disposal, Stephen Paddock fired on the crowd of defenseless civilians who were previously enjoying the final act of a three-day Country Music festival.

I must be honest, when my wife woke me to share that there had been a mass-shooting in Las Vegas, my thoughts instantly went to the Islamic terror attacks that have recently occurred in Europe and at The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I was expecting to see a Muslim terror group behind this horrific event. However, to my surprise, this mass murderer was a wealthy retired accountant in his mid-sixties. What could his motive have been? Moreover, what would possess anyone — especially a guy with this specific profile — to commit the worst act of gun violence in modern American history?

Are Guns the Problem? 

The quick knee-jerk reaction is to blame this event on guns! Politicians and other talking heads immediately called for more “gun control” or the outright repealing of the Second Amendment. With all due respect, I contend that these folks are blind to reality and that to focus on guns is to miss the much bigger picture. In fact, focusing on gun control after evil acts is tantamount to trying to put a band aid on a severed jugular! Using guns or anything else for an evil purpose is merely a symptom of not understanding the objective purpose of humanity.

One error with jumping to the conclusion that “guns are the problem” is that it does not take into consideration all of the other means by which evil people can accomplish their plans. After all, the Nazis used poisonous gas to kill millions of Jews, the Ku Klux Klan used rope to hang African Americans, Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill 168 people in Oklahoma City, and Islamic terrorists have recently employed trucks to kill and injure masses of humanity in Europe and also killed thousands of Americans on 9-11 without firing one single bullet.

Banning guns will only result in law abiding citizens being the ones who are defenseless  — while those who do not care about the law will remain fully armed (after all, making meth illegal does not stop criminals from selling meth or addicts from attaining as much meth as needed to feed their addiction)! Moreover, if one thinks banning guns is going to stop all hate crimes, then, to be logically consistent, they must also strive to ban all gas, rope, fertilizer, trucks, and airplanes too. This is obviously ridiculous because the real problem does not lie within the tools that an evil person uses to accomplish dreadful desires, but the thoughts and desires of the evil person. If all guns, rope, fertilizer, and airplanes were banished from the face of the earth, evil-doers would continue to find ways to accomplish hateful plans.

Any kind of violence is a symptom of a much bigger issue. The fundamental problem is not guns; rather, it is rooted in specific ideas and beliefs. Or in some cases — perhaps like the Las Vegas massacre — a lack of belief.

Is Worldview the Problem? 

At this stage of the investigation of the Las Vegas shooting, there seems to be a lack of motive. According to his brother, Stephen Paddock “had no religious affiliation.” If this is accurate (I stress the “if”), then it stands to reason that the shooter may have been an atheist — or more aptly, an agnostic. Whatever the case may be, he probably had a “lack of belief” that a certain religion was true — if not a “lack of belief” in God altogether. We will have to wait for all of the facts to surface before we can logically infer if this is the case, or what worldview Paddock probably affirmed.

Make no mistake: everyone has a worldview! It is unescapable. A worldview is a foundational set of beliefs (or lack thereof) that ultimately influence or determine all other beliefs and ideas built upon this foundation. This would include influencing thoughts to commit mass murder.

Consider the worldview of atheism. Many times atheists do not claim to defend the traditional definition of atheism, but instead merely claim to offer a weaker position that they simply “lack a belief in God” (which is technically agnosticism). Either way, if one lacks a belief in God — and especially a belief that God created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose to love all persons, as Jesus made clear (Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39) — then one has no objective standard to approximate when it comes to moral thoughts and actions. It makes no sense to “take your thoughts captive to obey Christ,” if one thinks that Jesus was wrong about the objective purpose of mankind.

It is vitally important to understand what consistent atheism logically implies: If God does not exist, then there is nothing objectively good, bad, right, wrong, fair, or evil with murdering masses of humanity because humanity was not created on purpose or for any specific purpose. Even if one merely “lacks a belief” in God, then they also lack the belief that it is really wrong to murder fellow human beings. Beliefs, lack of beliefs, and all ideas have consequences!

The consequences of atheistic ideas — and even merely “lacking a belief” in the existence of God — are quite dangerous! It logically follows that if atheism is true, then there is nothing really wrong with Stephen Paddock’s murderous actions. Moreover, if naturalistic atheism is true (the belief that only scientifically testable or discoverable things exist), then Paddock had no choice in the matter, as the laws of physics and chemistry forced him to believe and behave exactly as he did, in fact, behave. It simply was not his fault if physics and chemistry were running the show.

To make matters worse for atheists, history is not on their side. This past century has provided evidence as to the consequences of following atheistic ideas, as communist nations governed according to these atheistic ideals usually end in suffering and mass human slaughter. The atrocities committed by espousing atheists like Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao have caused devastating collisions with the reality of morality; human suffering and death has followed on a massive scale.

If naturalistic atheism were true, then there would be nothing really wrong, bad, or evil with any action and there would be no ability to make moral choices. Couple that with the historical fact that communist governments officially adopting atheism make all murders under the umbrella of “religion” pale in comparison. Why would anyone want to hold to an incoherent worldview like atheism over the ideas of Jesus teaching all people to love all people? Can you imagine a world where everyone loves everyone? That sounds like heaven to me — maybe Jesus was on to something!

A Comparison of Worldviews

With the Las Vegas massacre in mind, consider the glaring difference between consistent atheism and Christianity, and the consequences that logically follow from each worldview:

1- Consistent Atheism: there was NOTHING objectively WRONG with this assault.

That is to say, nothing that Stephen Paddock did was in opposition to the objective purpose of humanity because on atheism there is no objective purpose of humanity. Moreover, on naturalistic atheism Paddock’s actions were unavoidable as he was powerless to think or act in opposition to the manner in which the laws of physics and chemistry were forcing Paddock to think and act. Stephen Paddock was, therefore, not responsible for his murderous actions. Blame it on the initial conditions of the big bang, the laws of nature, and perhaps some quantum events.

2- Consistent Christianity: this attack was objectively WRONG and EVIL!

According to the law of Christ, not only did God create humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to love all other humans, but Jesus made it clear that we are to love all of our fellow humans (even with whom we disagree). According to Jesus, we are to love everyone from our neighbors to our enemies. Thus, one who consistently follows the teachings of Jesus will demonstrate love to all people!

Is there a best choice option? Yes there is. The one supported by all of the evidence and the same one commanding us to love!

Steve Williams, a regular contributor to FreeThinking Ministries, pointed out that although not many clues are currently available regarding the motive or mindset of the Las Vegas shooter, one thing is certain: Paddock was obviously not a Christ follower. Williams noted,

When asked why the most genocidal regime in modern history — The USSR — descended into hellishness, Aleksander Solzhenitzin answered: “We forgot about God.” Stephen Paddock obviously forgot about God too. I pray that the remainder of the country does not.

I pray that our country does not lose sight of the objective purpose of human existence. The problem is that it is becoming harder and harder — if not illegal — to have these logical discussions in the public square and in public schools. This contributes to a much larger problem; the symptoms of which express themselves in horrific displays of violence.

What is the Solution to the Problem? 

The day after the Las Vegas massacre, late night personality, Seth Meyers asked a good question,

“To Congress, I would just like to say, are there no steps we can take as a nation to prevent gun violence?”

Yes, there are steps we can take, Seth! In fact, there are steps we can take as a nation to deter all kinds of violence (not only gun violence)! We can start by teaching students what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind and about the theistic foundation upon which this country was established. That is to say, government does not grant rights to mankind; these rights are not up to Congress! Rather, our Founding Fathers recognized the purpose God had in mind for all men and women when He created humanity.

The Founding Father’s views are clear:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Declaration of Independence opposes atheism. If God does not exist, then life was not created — by a “Creator” (note the capitol “C”) — on purpose or for any specific purpose. Thus, on atheism, there are no objective or “certain unalienable rights” possessed by humanity. Atheism is simply un-American as it is at odds with the Declaration of Independence and the logical foundation for objective morality and unalienable rights. These beliefs, or “lack” thereof, entail that there is nothing really wrong or against an objective plan for human beings because there is no objective plan for human beings. Thus, it follows that there is nothing objectively wrong with violence towards human beings if atheism is true.

Be that as it may, and to answer Seth Meyers’s question, American public schools could begin to change the rising tides of all kinds of violence in this nation by teaching students the foundation upon which this nation is based — the belief that our Creator (God) created ALL human beings on purpose and for the specific purpose to love and flourish. This objective purpose is what logically grounds objective unalienable human rights and what logically demonstrates that acting in an unloving manner to other humans, as Stephen Paddock did, is objectively evil!

Lest one object and assert that our national institutions cannot discuss the objective logical grounds of morality (God) while chanting the “separation of church and state” mantra, a question is raised: If we are willing to discuss repealing the Second Amendment and violating the Declaration of Independence, then why can we not engage in this conversation as well?

Bottom line: If you agree that the mass murder of music fans in Las Vegas is objectively wrong and evil, then, to be logically consistent, you must reject atheism. Moreover, you must also reject a “lack of belief” that God exists or any other view that disagrees with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, if you think it is objectively wrong to murder, then you ought to be a Christian!

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18), and love one another (John 13:34-35),

Tim Stratton


About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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