Atheist murderer unjustified
On Feb. 10, Craig Stephen Hicks, an atheist, murdered three Muslims — Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha — in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The killings are being described as a hate crime, and unfortunately, they may be right.
Hicks was openly opposed to religion, antagonizing it on Facebook and calling it superstitious nonsense, and how he’ll leave religious people alone once they leave him alone.
Hicks also dismissed conspiracy theories about Obama being a “secret Muslim,” and he wasn’t opposed to the Park51 “Ground Zero Mosque,” pointing out that while Christians claimed it represented conquest over the US, churches often represented conquest over Native Americans.
But he also fits the profile for spree killers. He is a gun-rights advocate, owning a dozen firearms. His neighbors constantly felt threatened by him. Family members distanced themselves from him (sometimes over his anti-religious rants). He fits the angry white man profile that we’ve seen at Columbine, Aurora, Isla Vista or Sandy Hook.
Some people claim that the shooting wasn’t about religion, but road rage. Killings over parking spaces are not rare — there were parking lot shootings earlier this year, in fact. But given the extreme anti-Islam rhetoric in today’s media, no one should be surprised if bigotry was a motivating factor (just like in Ohio, where Christian Randolph Linn pled guilty to burning down a mosque, saying he was “riled up” by Fox News).
Sure, we don’t want Hicks’ atheism to have been a motivating factor because that taints the rest of us. I’m sure some of his rhetoric isn’t too different from what I’ve written at times. But, if we want to be rational, we must examine the extent to which the harsh language atheists sometimes use, and how potent it can be. His beliefs were likely not the only cause, but they’re probably one of many.
Nonetheless, atheist and humanist organizations quickly condemned the shooting.
Ronald A. Lindsay, president of the Center for Inquiry, said in his statement, “There is absolutely nothing about the lack of belief in a god that supports the murder of innocent people.”
American Atheist president Dave Silverman said, “No person should be a victim of violence because of their religion. Anyone who would attack a person because of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, attacks the very foundation of freedom.” Richard Dawkins tweeted, “How could any decent person NOT condemn the vile murder of three young US Muslims in Chapel Hill?”
Samantha Jackson, a board member of the Secular Student Alliance at the same college the victims attended, said, “We at the University of North Carolina Secular Student Alliance absolutely condemn these murders, and we stand in solidarity with the Muslim community.”
To honor the victims, the secular non-profit Foundation Beyond Belief created a fund to support the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation. Barakat, one of the victims, was studying to be a dentist so he could perform emergency dentistry in Syrian refugee camps. The fund will help SAMS afford medical equipment. So far, it has raised over $22,000.
Extremism knows no religion or political party. There are extremist Christians, Muslims and atheists. Despite being an atheist, I’d rather have moderate theists in the world than extreme atheists. I want people who use reason and humanist values to make decisions. If he thinks Muslims are terrorists, you don’t fight them by becoming a terrorist yourself.