In the week since six people were murdered and 14 others injured outside an Arizona shopping mall, we have learned more about may have motivated the man accused in the shooting.
And though it is impossible to know exactly what was going on inside Jerod Loughner’s head, we do know what was going on inside the culture. The Left’s explanation — that Loughner is a product of a climate of extreme emotion and impassioned rhetoric — has it exactly backwards. Loughner is a creature of a culture that breeds apathy and indifference, toward God and our fellow man.
Friends say Loughner did not have much use for God or religion. Loughner was a Nihilist. According to his friend Bryce Tierney, he believed that “life had no meaning and that the world literally had no substance.”
There apparently was an occult shrine in Loughner’s backyard. Friends say he was obsessed with a documentary film called “Zeitgeist,” which advances various conspiracy theories, including that Christ didn’t exist.
We once taught our children that they were made in the image of our Creator and that each life had dignity and worth based on that fact. Now we teach them that their existence is a cosmic accident.
Loughner, who is 22 years old, is part of a generation that has moved away from God and the community of the faithful. A 2009 Pew Research Center Forum on Religion and Public Life survey found that “the number of Americans who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today is 16.1 percent, more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children.”
Among Americans ages 18-29, “one in four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.” Research by Robert Putnam and David Campbell finds that young Americans are dropping out of religion at 5 to 6 times the historic rate. Their research suggests that 30% to 40% have no religion today, versus 5% to 10% a generation ago.
The cheapening of human life and decline in religiosity have created a generation of young people who show a disturbing callousness toward one another. Violence remains the second leading cause of death for young people between ages 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Last year in Missouri, a 15-year-old girl was arrested for allegedly killing a 9-year-old girl because she “wanted to know what it felt like.” In Mount Vernon, N.H., four teens broke in to a randomly selected house and robbed and killed a woman with a machete, and nearly killed her 11-year-old daughter.
Every day, incidents like these remind us how cheap human life has become. In the New Hampshire case, several hours after the murder, one of the teens allegedly involved wrote on his Facebook page that he had had “an awesome time.” That was the same sentiment Loughner’s face conveyed in his mug shot hours after his arrest.
None of this should shock us. Our courts have established as a constitutional right the prerogative of a mother to pay a doctor to slaughter her own child, even mere moments and inches from birth. Our president believes that act is “one of the most fundamental rights we possess.”
In another context, the murder of the same child would constitute “intentional homicide on an unborn child” and the murderer would be placed on death row. People sell their newborns on Craigslist for pennies or abandon their teenage children at safe havens to avoid caring for them.
More than anything, Loughner appears to have been socially alienated and emotionally isolated.
Classmates and former teachers have recalled a young man who was disconnected from reality. There are stories of drug use and spurned romantic advances. The Internet appears to have been an important part of his life. But even there his chat-room questions and comments typically solicited mocking responses or silence.
Under the title “Why Rape,” he once wrote, “The loneliness will bring you to depression. Being alone for a very long time will inevitably lead you to rape.”
There is in our culture a pervasive and secular sense that we should not get too involved in other people’s lives, even those close to us. In fact, alienation is an entire field of study in sociology as we move further and further apart.
When, on Christmas Day in Brighton, England, 42-year-old Simone Back posted on her Facebook page that she was about to commit suicide, none of her 1,082 “friends” checked in on her. “Took all my pills be dead soon so bye bye every one,” she wrote.
As Britain’s Daily Mail reported, “One user replied calling her a liar who ‘overdoses all the time’ while another said it was ‘her choice.’ ” “Miss Back,” The Mail continued, “is thought to have been dying of an overdose as the messages were posted on Christmas Day.”
Miss Back’s friend, Samantha Owen, said, “Everyone just carried on arguing with each other on Facebook like it wasn’t happening. Some of those people lived within walking distance of Simone. If one person just left their computer and went to her house her life could have been saved.”
But no one wanted to interfere. Everyone was too busy with their own lives — and it led to death.
Fort Hood shooter Army Maj. Nidal Hassan showed all the signs of someone under the influence of radical Islam. It was clear to his teachers, fellow soldiers and his superiors. But no one intervened, nobody acted.
Many in Loughner’s life — his family, friends, teachers, the police, and even his online friends — saw the erratic and troubling behavior. But no one, apparently, went out of the way to get him treatment.
Perhaps no one could have stopped Jared Loughner from committing his heinous crime. The question is: Did anyone even try?