What Mass Shooters Believe (Illustrated)

In the article What Do Mass Shooters Believe?, writer Isaac analyzed the ideology of the mass shooters with 10 or more victims. The results are interesting and are worth delving into further.

The Data

The following graph shows the ideologies of the shooters:

Of the 18 mass shooters with 10 or more victims, 7 were atheist. This represents 38% of the total number of shooters, by far the highest represented ideology. If we treat atheists and agnostics as a related ideology (don’t positively believe in God), then this number is 44%.

The following graph shows the number of victims by the ideology of the shooters:

Mass shootings by atheists and Muslims disproportionately create more victims than other ideologies.

The Analysis

The raw data shown above indicates that there may a relationship between certain ideologies and mass shootings. In order to analyze this, it’s important to weight the data according to each ideology’s representation in the total population. In the general population, Christians make up about 74%, atheists 3%, agnostics 4%, Buddhists 1%, and Muslims 1%. Weighting the data yields the following result:

This chart shows the likely ideology of a mass shooter given equal populations of each group. Atheists and Muslims stand out as having a disproportionately high incidence, while Christians stand out as having a disproportionately low incidence.

It’s fair to consider what those 22% unknowns would do to the proportions if we knew they were a member of one group or another. Let’s arbitrarily assign all of the unknowns to Christians and see what happens:

The effect is insignificant. There are just too many Christians in the America for the small number of Christian mass shooters to impact the likelihood that any given Christian will be a mass shooter compared to other ideologies. Christians have significantly below average incidence of mass shooters given the size of their population. Indeed, Muslims are 100 times more likely than Christians to be a mass shooter than Christians, while atheists are 80 times more likely than Christians to be a mass shooter.

Now look what happens when we assign all of the unknowns to Atheists, the group most represented in the raw numbers:

If the unknowns turned out to be atheist, this would mean that atheists are 130 times more likely than Christians to be mass shooters. Given the distributions we do know, atheists may be underrepresented in the statistics.

Questions

The analysis leads to many follow-up questions.

We know that the rise in mass shootings over the last few decades coincides with a corresponding decline in Christianity. Could it be that the decline in Christianity and the rise in other ideologies is, at least partially, responsible for the rise in mass shooting?

Why have mass shootings risen in overall incidence as overall access to guns has declined?

Is there something about Islam that encourages mass shootings?

Is there something about not positively believing in God that contributes to mass shootings?

What is it about Christianity that leads it to be so relatively peaceful?

Is there a relationship between religious and political ideologies in mass shooters?

Is there a relationship between religious ideologies of mass shooters and mental illness?

Is there a relationship between religious ideologies of mass shooters and broken families?

Notes

The Christian shooters represented were all white nationalists. It is not clear to what extent their Christianity (if anything) contributed to their mass shooting. There are two ways to approach this:

  1. We can lump their Christianity in with all other Christians. This avoids the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. If we do this, we find that Christianity as a whole is significantly more resilient to these acts of violence than other ideologies. This is the general approach taken here.
  2. We can distinguish between Christians who follow Jesus’ commands to live peacefully and those who do not. This would result in a disproportionate representation of White Nationalists (i.e. extremist Christians) in the statistics, but decrease the incidence of the normative Christian. It would also open the door to discussions on the impact that the philosophies and doctrines of Islam and Atheism have on mass shooting incidence. As originally noted: “Nearly the entire list is composed of people holding to just 4 fringe ideologies: nihilist atheism, occultism, white nationalism, and Islamic extremism.”

2 Comments

    1. Derek Ramsey

      “Of course, they may also have been [..] left-handed”

      Atheism and being left-handed are positively correlated. Being atheist is—at the population level—suggestive of higher mutational load (i.e. lower genetic fitness).

      “…they may also have been [list of random attributes]…”

      Treating mass shootings as statistical noise is also a rational take: so rare relative to the size of the population that they are not worthy of society taking notice. I can understand why you’d make that argument. Can you imagine mainstream media, leftist politicians and voters, or anti-theists being this rational? I can’t.

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