Atheists need to confront the (anti-Muslim?) Chapel Hill shooting

On Tuesday night, three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill –Deah Shaddy Bakarat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha — were murdered, execution-style, at their condominium complex near campus.

Shortly thereafter, the police took Craig Hicks, a neighbor who was apparently involved in an ongoing parking dispute with the victims, into custody.

A quick scroll through Hicks’s Facebook page shows that he is an ardent anti-theist and gun enthusiast with frequent posts critical of religion and, in particular, Islam.

The victims had previously expressed concern about Mr. Hicks, and were clearly under the impression that his confrontations with them were largely due to their Muslim faith.

A police statement initially suggested that Hicks’s motivation for killing the three students was limited to the parking dispute, although they didn’t rule out anti-religious motivations.


Islam via Shutterstock

The police may not have already found Hicks’ Facebook profile when they made that attribution of motive, but given Hicks’s background, and the nature of his relationship with the victims, it’s hard to argue that religion had nothing to do with their deaths.

Also, if the tables were turned, and three white atheists had been killed by an Arab Muslim man with a history of troubling comments on social media, North Carolina would have passed another anti-Sharia Law bill in response to the “obvious” hate crime before the week was out.

So I think we owe it to the victims, their families and the Muslim community — to say nothing of our own intellectual integrity — to operate under the assumption that this attack has religious bases unless proven otherwise. There may have been a parking dispute either way, but I have a hard time believing that those students would have been killed, especially in the manner in which their murders were carried out, had they not been Muslim.

Which leaves outspoken nonbelievers such as myself with a few thorny questions. After all if an atheist can derive violence from their unbelief, then who are we to criticize a religious person for deriving violence from their belief?

We can only do so if we are honest with ourselves about our own identities.

We can only continue to criticize bad religious ideas if we acknowledge the role Craig Hicks’s own anti-religious biases — be they conscious hatred or unconscious prejudice — may have played in his actions on Tuesday night. In other words, we have to do what we have previously only asked the religious to do: confront the consequences of an ideology we identify with, and work to understand and repudiate negative consequences of that ideology.

In the aftermath of the shooting, noted unbelievers Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have commented on the tragedy via various channels. Dawkins took to Twitter to remind the world that Islam is still an evil ideology — a point that was tone-deaf at best — while Harris emailed a quote to the Washington Post, which read in part:

There is a huge difference between legitimate criticism of bad ideas and bigotry against specific groups of people (which, in the worst case, can result in hate crimes). It is one thing to believe that specific doctrines within Islam (or any system of thought) are unfounded, harmful, and in need of public criticism; it is another thing entirely to hate Muslims (or Arabs, immigrants, etc.) as people…

…If a person considers his atheism (a lack of belief in God) or secularism (a commitment to keeping religion out of public policy) a basis for hating whole groups of people, he is either deeply confused about what it means to think critically or suffering from some psychological disorder.

I’m with him 100% on the first paragraph, but a neuroscientists such as Harris should know that there’s a massive amount of cognitive space between disorder, confusion and hatred.

He’s right in suggesting that you have to intentionally misread God is not Great to think that Christopher Hitchens would advocate killing Muslims. However, if an individual spends enough time thinking about how “bad” religion is, without any context, it’s pretty easy to develop implicit biases against particular groups of religious people — biases that can, left unchecked by the group at large, lead extreme believers (or non-believers) to do evil things.

So we don’t get to say that Craig Hicks isn’t a “true” unbeliever, as that would make no more sense than claiming the Charlie Hebdo shooters weren’t really Muslims. We do, however, get to say that Hicks’s actions were reprehensible, and that, regardless of our theological differences, #MuslimLivesMatter.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Plisko

    Athiesm, like Religion (and politics) is sometimes genuine and it is sometimes just a tool for the human brain to use to make itself superior to others and to justify existing prejudices. When this happens, the prejudices become magnified in proportion to the self righteousness. That can occasionally lead to either tolerating violence (at best) or committing it (at worst).

  • UncleBucky

    I am with you completely on that. I will NOT mind my own business when a religionIST sticks his/her finger into my bidness. I WILL fight back. But if they would only shut up and hole up in their cult basements, I wouldn’t even think of them, except the nasty things they are probably doing to their children’s futures. {/snark}

  • rtb61

    The one thing atheist need to confront more than anything else, is the reality that the majority of religionist politicians are in reality just atheists who just use religion for personal advantage.
    So yeah, why do evil atheists publicly pretend to worship with various religions and what will honest atheists do about it, how will they tackle that problem of evil atheists hiding behind religion, keeping in mind they are not evil for being atheists they are evil for abusing religions for personal advantage, be that political advantage, economic advantage, murderous pursuits or just molesting children.

  • And that was my point as well. Medicine creates a great deal of these situations since there are few guarantees or absolutes. There are a lot of variables so we have to make the best judgment we can based on the information we have tempered with compassion. And yes, in this case a third party would probably have to make the decision. This can also lead to a public nightmare as in the Terry Schiavo case in which elected officials pandered to the emotions of their voting base and prolonged what was a rather clear decision on the part of every judge that heard the case. She was brain dead and nothing was going to help her. But no, a huge emotional outpouring egged on both by Congress and Gov. Jeb Bush and aided and abetted by our idiot mainstream media dragged that out for months.

  • mf_roe

    The point is there are ambiguous cases where there isn’t an answer. There are problems that cannot be solved without violating someone’s legitimate values. It doesn’t really matter which spouse gets their way, ultimately the baby dies and the relationship may well perish as well. There is a need for an impartial authority in such cases, but how is that authority created? Legislating morality usually fails, public opinion is little better.

  • FLL

    Criteria for newsworthiness? Case in point (Feb. 16):

  • Chris

    No we do not need to confront anything. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in any god or gods. That’s it. Saying that we need to confront this is exactly equivalent to saying that those who do not believe in Unicorns need to confront a shooting committed by someone who also does not believe in Unicorns.

  • cinorjer

    No, we don’t need to “confront” anything as atheists. What atheist church did this man go to? What branch or school of atheism taught him to hate Muslims? I’ve never been on an atheist forum where any poster calling for violence against the religious wouldn’t immediately get slammed from all sides as sick. Atheists are not an organization; we have no creed; and in spite of what some people try to claim, we have no prophets or priests that tell us what we should believe. And yes, that includes the likes of Harris and Dawkins.

  • FLL

    Here are three pictures of the men who represent the three sides in the Syrian conflict: Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria; Moaz al-Khatib, leader of the Syrian opposition; and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “Caliph” of ISIL. I think some commenters on this thread are stretching the term “racism” just a tad in their efforts to push their not-so-subtle (domestic American) social agenda. Why do I say that? Because the three leaders below all look like white men to me, and I think most Americans would agree. (Excuse the duplicate photo of Bashar.)

  • FLL

    Plastered all over the Internet is yesterday’s machine-gun attack on a free speech event in Copenhagen, Denmark which left one dead at the event and a second dead at a nearby synagogue, with a couple police officers wounded—an obvious emulation of the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the newspaper offices and kosher delicatessen in Paris. By the way, don’t use your cell phone in ISIL territory. A man gets flogged for that offense but a woman, apparently get her hands chopped off. Take a look at this headline from yesterday (link here):

    Isis chops off women’s hands ‘for using mobile phones’ in northern Iraqi city of Mosul

  • Theists often have trouble understanding that atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s lack of such. It’s like if you didn’t play any sports and someone thinking there were still rules to not playing any games.

  • AnitaMann

    No atheists do not need to defend anything, or distance themselves from this creep or even address this. Not any more than gun nuts need to defend gun nuts, which they do anyway, and no more than angry middle aged southern white guys need to distance themselves. The guy had views all over the map and grievances against half of society and was, by all accounts, a complete asshole. And as far as adding a hate crime to this, let’s see where that goes. If there’s evidence that it was solely or mostly anti-Muslim biased then yeah. But so far it doesn’t look like it is. Admittedly I haven’t been following every detail.

  • mikeyDe

    So true!

    In the spirit of conserving ink and paper, I was trying to limit my examination to those areas that contributed to the hate that led to the deaths of three students in NC. If the 20th century was the American Century, you could call the 21st Century the Blowback Century.

  • Mike F

    Aiding and abetting the crimes of the various and sundry despotic regimes in Central and S. America from the 40’s onward, from the death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua, to the Dulles brothers’ use of the USMC as their personal mercenary army to quell unionization in United Fruits’ Guatemala banana groves (setting off a three-decade civil which lead to over 250,000 dead), to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, and aid to the Argentinian junta. Torture, drone bombing (war crimes, and crimes against humanity). “Free speech zones”. Imprisonment and torture of Chelsea Manning. Authors and signatories to the various trade pacts taking away the rights of both American workers, and those in other countries which signed them. Realpolitik, and Henry Kissinger.

    Face it, considering volumes of books have been written about all of these, our lists could go on to include thousands of words.

  • mikeyDe

    Acknowledging that the unexamined life is not worth living (paraphrase attributed to Socrates, a fellow atheist), I keep coming back to the challenge that Jon Green and others in the media have posed. And I still can’t find anything to confront in my lack of belief in the supernatural.

    Other things I’d be happy to confront: American exceptionalism, American gun culture. American xenophobia. American policy of exporting arms. American foreign policy post-WWII: the arming religious extremists opposed to socialism, overthrowing secular governments in Muslim-majority countries to protect oil companies, invasion of secular countries led by admittedly evil men to divert attention away from our real enemies in order to protect oil companies, divide-and-conquer in order to keep the world on edge in order to, well, I can’t think of a reason other than to protect the oil companies. Did I leave anything out?

  • dougsa

    He sounds like an evangelical atheist. Why do people insist that everyone must believe as they do?

  • mf_roe

    Thanks for validating it was a failure of the government that allowed this tragedy to happen

  • Ninong

    Some people openly identify as believers in one of the many different religions on this planet and others do not. Some of those believers identify as Christians, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Jews, or something else. Other people lack such as belief. Does a lack of belief constitute an organization of some sort. How does a lack of acceptance of one of the various “faiths” constitute anything at all? In other words, how does nothing equal something? Really, who cares what other people believe or don’t believe to explain what they don’t understand?

    Why are some people freaking out right now just because Shirley MacLaine wrote something about her own personal beliefs that they find offensive? Shirley MacLaine has been saying and writing that stuff for decades! She believes in reincarnation. In fact, in one of her previous lives she was the brother to someone whose inner spirit was 35,000 years old… and they both lived on Atlantis. Apparently Ms MacLaine wrote something about the Holocaust being payback for something the victims may have done in one of their previous lives. She also said maybe Steven Hawkins willed himself into his disability. And maybe it was payback for something he did in one of his previous lives.

  • James Nimmons

    the killer was a nut.. there.. next issue?

  • hookstrapped

    Boy, the reference to “intellectual integrity” in the piece flew right over the heads of a lot of commenters, apparently swept up in the flailing attempts to deflect responsibility for the dehumanizing rhetoric common among New Atheists.

  • I don’t have the power to banish here. I do know the difference, however, between mental illness, which is itself not a crime, and the acts one may or may not be prompted to act upon due to the mental illness, which very much can be criminal acts.

    That said, I don’t want those who have a propensity for harming or killing others walking free, whatever their mental state.

  • Badgerite

    There is a obvious flaw in your reasoning and that is the the atheist murderer in question ‘derived’ the violence he embraced from his “non-belief”. Atheism does not posit violence or the lack of violence. Is it simply a non-belief in religion. It does not particularly single out any religion. That would have been something personal to this particular atheist murderer. Wouldn’t it? He certainly could not have ‘derived’ it from anything Dawkins or Harris or Maher have said.
    What’s more, since atheists are extremely in the minority in the world, the idea that atheism somehow implies that the world could be made better by killing Muslims or any religious person would entail killing off most of the human race. Atheists advocate thinking. They are committed to ideas. And anyone knows that you do not kill the idea by killing the person who thinks it. The idea lives on. Extreme minorities do not take on 99% or more of humanity through violence as it would be a losing proposition. The reasons there is such violence between religious sects and always have been is because neither sect constitutes an extremely small minority of the population. If there were, in the Islamic world, as few Shiites or Sunnis as there are atheists, there would be no occasion for attempts to achieve their religious ends through ‘cleansing’ of those who believe something else. The people who suffer the most from violence with religion at its root overwhelming the religious. Of one faith or another. And that has always been the case.
    That is the “context”. Atheism cannot win any debates by violence. It is an extreme minority in any society. The guy was simply a fruitcake whose prejudice was engendered by what he witnessed on 9/11. Not anything Dawkins said. He may have acted under religious animus. But it wasn’t somehow fostered by atheism. He may have latched on to what Dawkins said. But he clearly didn’t understand it. His was a personality that germinated a hatred based on what he witnessed on 9/11. No atheist I know of has ever called for a ‘Holy War’ against non-believers or referred to them as ‘infidels’ or blasphemers or whatever. They may refer to them as misguided, and identified religious belief as misguided. That is about it. That IS the context.

  • look, I take issue with those people on our side that want to lump all of them together negatively. I am also aware concerned with those people on their side that want to lump all of us together negatively.

    neither side should tolerate the intolerant among ourselves. a bit of a contradiction, but still.

  • FLL

    A few of the comments on this page (and possibly Jon’s mention of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins) exhibit a leitmotif in current discourse: any criticism of the deadly modern incarnation of fundamentalist Islam must entail racism since the vast majority of Muslims worldwide are not of European descent (white Balkan Muslims notwithstanding). This overlooks the fact that the vast majority of Hindus and Buddhists worldwide are not of European descent either. Sooooo… why does no one ever complain about any widespread manifestation of racist “Hinduphobia” or “Buddhophobia”? Just as there is a diaspora of Muslims in Western countries, there are also large diasporas of Hindu East Indians and Buddhist East Asians in Western countries. And there is no supportable claim that any criticism of fundamentalist Islam can only be rooted in greed for oil resources. Such criticism only began with the rise of fundamentalist Islam during the 1980s. Were there no valuable oil resources to engender greed and hatred before the 1980s? Not only that, but before the twentieth century, the Muslim world was seen as a refuge of safety and tolerance by many Westerners, specifically gay and bisexual men. Today, the religious nutjobs who run the ISIL state throw suspected gay men off the tops of tall buildings, but Europeans did much the same in earlier centuries while sexual dissenters who were lucky enough to flee to Muslim countries could live in peace.

    The accusations of racism every time anyone criticizes the current lethal variety of fundamentalist Islam are not only unsupported, but also deeply suspicious. It’s always worth asking who benefits from trying to shut down discussion of fundamentalist religion and its deadly consequences. No, I am not offering a one-size-fits-all explanation for what motivates the irrational demand that fundamentalist Islam should be treated as a sacred cow because the majority of Muslims are of non-European descent. I’m sure the motivation varies from one individual to another. What I am asking for is a substantive counter-argument to the criticisms made by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher et al. Those counter-arguments must explain to the reader why the atheist/secular critics of Islam are wrong instead of merely shouting “racism.” Vacuous name-calling combined with the absence of an argument just doesn’t cut it.

  • Baal

    I am also unconvinced. I think he fantasized about killing people for a long time, and these people triggered it. He was going to kill someone sooner or later.

  • Baal

    I think there is a big difference. The Michael Douglas character snapped one day, before that he had been a mild white-color guy. The terrorist who killed these kids in NC had frequently shown up with guns to intimidate them when he complained about parking or noise. But I agree with most of what you wrote, the guy is obviously bat$hit crazy, but maybe a little different from the character in the movie even though he identifies with him.

  • Baal

    But I don’t want to wholesale bash on Muslims, even though I find their religion and all others idiotic they are fellow human beings (and like these poor kids who just got assassinated, many are my students). There are more than 300 million people in the US, the same country as I am from, fellow Americans, and some of them are batshit crazy dangerous nutcases. Of all stripes. So nobody ever said there weren’t extremists here.

  • RepubAnon

    The answer, of course, is that there are very few restrictions on white people waving guns around. Had Mr. Hicks been a young black man in a hoodie threatening his neighbors, he’d have been shot by the police years ago. Had he been Muslim, there’d have been full-court press coverage looking for an ISIS / Al Qaeda connection. Thus, only white folks have Second Amendment rights – anyone else daring to carry a gun (or looking like they might be carrying a gun) can be gunned down with impunity.

    However, this was just another crazy white guy using his Second Amendment rights to make society “more polite” – to him. Because this is what really happened: terrorism by another white guy with entitlement issues.

    Thought experiment: what would happen if Mr. Hicks had shot them in the parking lot and tried the “I thought they were armed” defense… and the police found a gun in the car’s glove compartment. Because that’s the real lesson: don’t shoot them execution-style, and make sure to have an untraceable “drop gun” to place near one of the deceased.

  • Ah, so you want absolute morality? Neither is “morally wrong”. We have two competing world views. I’m inclined to agree with the hypothetical father that prolonging pain and suffering is bad. But the mother’s point of view is not without merit.

    You seem to be seeking an absolutist binary form of morality. There is no such thing, only claims of such. If situations like this were so black and white we wouldn’t need an appellate court system. We would just look up what to do in a book and that would be that.

    But since you asked, you tell me. Which one of those is right and which is wrong?

  • Yes. I actually read “avowed” as “and they actually ADMIT it!!?!”

  • caphillprof

    I wonder if Jon knows that Atheism is not an organized religion?

  • mf_roe

    Might we agree to disagree, I’d miss your insight were I to be banished?

  • Aaaaand, here is where you and I part ways.

  • mf_roe

    Wait, where were the Police. Hicks had a concealed carry permit but had repeatedly been reported displaying a firearm in confrontations. That’s a crime that would require his license to carry be revoked. Had the Police been doing their job this wouldn’t have happened. Hicks appears to be mentally ill and because of Police malfeasance innocent people died. Culpability rests with the PD.

  • Hue-Man

    Headline: “Catholic husband strangles Southern Baptist wife – possible hate crime”

    The USA is seriously broken and well on its way to religious wars reminiscent of Lebanon, Northern Ireland, etc. 18th Century American leadership aimed for a secular state to avoid exactly these kinds of sectarian disputes: “my religion is the only true religion and everyone else is a sinner worthy of death.”

    I don’t know much about these killings other than they happen far too often. Whether they were motivated by religious hate or by a ridiculous dispute over parking spaces, the deaths are senseless and unnecessary. They should be condemned by theists and atheists alike.

    BTW, I made up the headline. It wouldn’t surprise me if it has been used to sell newspapers and as click-bait.

  • mf_roe

    Consider this case, newborn baby sever abnormalities certain death universal agreement of medical opinion. Father feels that baby should be given palitive care only, Mother demands heroic efforts to extend life span. Which is morally wrong?

  • mf_roe

    You do know being a sociopath isn’t a crime. It just means that person has weaker internal restraint—precisely because emotionally they Don’t connect with those values. High function sociopaths can Intellectually understand them and conform but that doesn’t bind them as tightly as Your attachment to those values. They can tread a path far closer to Moral boundaries than you would be comfortable with and actually are more capable of dealing with morally ambiguous situations.

  • mf_roe

    His mother was Catholic and his father Jewish. Yeah by Jewish tradition that means he isn’t a Jew if his parent’s religions were reversed he would be (religious distinction). Outside of the Jewish community most people would consider him of mixed ethnicity, Irish?/Jewish (non-religious distinction). Was he ever baptized?

  • mf_roe

    Thank you. We sometimes disagree but I appreciate the amplification of my point..

  • Max_1

    NEVER AGAIN… that’s an absolute statement to consider.

    Many parts of the Old Testament are filled with principles society now finds aberrant.
    First Timothy of the New Testament is filled with the praise of slavery.
    We have learned to let those silly principles go. Many of which have been criminalized.
    It’s important to understand that MOST Muslims, like MOST Americans, don’t support the notion of a violent jihad just like MOST Americans aren’t KKK members. Yet even THAT doesn’t mean that there aren’t KKK members out there just like there are terrorists… NEVER AGAIN!

  • The_Fixer

    I’ve heard a variation of that, “avowed homosexual.” It means the same thing, and it is just as insulting.

  • Marcos Hardy

    Laughable comments.

  • You’re welcome. All I’m saying is those who have been saying, “Hey, we know beyond a doubt Hicks was motivated by anti-religion and anti-Muslim animus,” may in fact be jumping to the wrong conclusion.

  • Hatfield

    This is a very silly, even stupid post. Muslims have a problem since Islam promotes extreme violence toward others. So when Muslims follow their beliefs and kill others, other Muslims should take heed and consider what conclusions the greater population might make. As for atheists, since there’s no Atheist Pope or Atheist Imam, why the fuck would anyone draw a conclusion about atheists? Really Mr. Green, this post is incredibly idiotic. The shooting is a tragedy. That’s it.

  • crazymonkeylady

    I vow never to kill the religionists, no matter how ridiculous their (or my) opinions are.

  • mf_roe

    And Home Land Security will be AWOL, Pray for US.

  • mf_roe

    Thank you for posting the video.
    Anti-social and full of unfocused anger, hardly the type that would turn to religion. Religion relies on group re-reinforcement of some set of beliefs. Hicks just doesn’t seem the “Religious” type and came to his atheism because it was a better fit for his hostile nature. I think he is the type that has negative opinions of most of the people he comes in contact with. He may have felt more justified killing Muslims because of their social status in ChristoFacist Nation,but I think three Nuns would have fared no better if they push the wrong button

  • I know — it’s actually a good film, although from his ex-wife’s description, Hicks liked it for reasons you and I wouldn’t agree with.

    I’ve read through the CNN and WaPo and local reports, and while it remains debatable whether or not Hicks was an Islamophobe, one thing is clear: He was an exceedingly unhappy man. An angry and loud man who picked arguments with many people, not just those particular neighbors. A man who was apparently a total control freak about who was allowed to park in the apartment building’s parking lot and along a nearby street. The CNN story says he was constantly calling to have other people’s cars towed, so much so the towing company described him as “a problem” and banned him from using them anymore.

    This video here is pretty revelatory, in which the young woman describes Hicks as dealing out “equal opportunity anger”. This more than anything else has convinced me the dude, whatever his core beliefs, had a mental breakdown.

  • mf_roe

    Familiar with the movie, which is worth watching. In it Douglas’ character lashed out at people indiscriminately—targets of convenience. Some of them were people the character would have found irritating anyway but there wasn’t premeditation. Eerily similar to the Chapel Hill shooting, did the movie inspire him to act, did it give him a framework a blueprint. Does watching porn inspire sexual activity, Do people act out fantasy? To me Hicks seems to be mentally ill, I think that is the more plausable explanation than Islamaphobia.

  • I tend to believe (morality) is learned behavior.

    Perhaps some of the more subtle aspects. However, there have been a number of studies with human infants, simians, and even so-called unintelligent animals to suggest that the traits of fairness, empathy, and even compassion can be innate, not necessarily learned.


    It is not difficult to conclude it would be a survival-enhancing trait for any population of similar creatures or beings to value cooperation and altruistic behavior over selfishness and sociopathy.

    The problem arises when cultural groups among us humans then take simple, obvious morality — Killing other people is bad. Being generous is good. Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Treat others as we’d like to be treated and so on — and then begin glomming their cultural practices onto it. Such as condemning gay people or asserting that women are inherently inferior to men and thus should be ruled by them.

    You also make an illogical false-equivalency assertion there, SweetDreamn, in saying that morality from birth is what would prove the existence of a ‘Creator’ super-deity. There is no logical connection between those two, no morality-instilling effect with a solitary required cause.

  • BrandySpears

    Uhmm, NO. I don’t. Don’t flatter yourself. Stop lying.
    Now how did me critiquing your comment about Sam Harris trigger your Israel Derangement Syndrome (IDS)? Take your meds. Stay on topic.

  • GarySFBCN

    Maher is not Jewish. He was raised Catholic.

  • idendoit

    Why should I examine my own motives because of the actions of another?

  • According to a WaPo report relayed by Digby, Hicks was a huge and almost obsessive fan of the movie, “Falling Down” with Michael Douglas.

    In it, Douglas plays a man whose life is falling apart around him as he suffers from one indignity after another until one day he finally snaps and goes on a shooting rampage that ends up with him being killed.

  • Yeah, actually the atheist sites have been “confronting” this ad nauseum. And what they’re waiting for at this point is any actual *proof* that he was motivated by their religion rather than by his own mental illness. But most have also said that if it is found to be motivated by a reaction to religion, it was wrong and they condemn it.

  • I feel no need to apologize about this sociopath.

    Me neither.

  • Baal

    Yes, you have to disbelieve in something exactly the right way. Or……. or….. who the fuck even knows?

  • Baal

    That is actually a great point.

  • Baal

    Based on the present pattern of killing in the world of 7 billion people, who is MORE LIKELY to kill another person because he doesn’t like that person’s religion. An atheist? Or somebody who is very devout, especially in one of the Abrahamic religions? I think that answer is pretty clear at the moment. So we could completely concede the point that this one atheist killed those poor kids because he didn’t like their religion — which Becca, I completely agree with you is not at all clear — and I would still say it proves nothing. I feel no need to apologize about this sociopath.

  • yes, all fine.

    But, this person is a fellow American. Anyone who wants to wholesale bash on Muslims must remember that, they have their crazy extremists, but so do we.

  • Baal

    I’m even anti-religion because I think it harms people, but I am not anti-religious people per se.

  • Baal

    I’m not responsible for anything a bullying gun freak does. And the only think that I have in common with the terrorist who killed this students is that there is one thing that by coincidence we don’t believe in, and I suspect there are very few other points where our belief systems coincide.

  • Speaking for myself, I don’t say this. But yeah, I hear the stuff my fellow Americans are saying, and so I’m holding US to account.

  • Bill_Perdue

    He wants to have a nation in someone elses nation, Palestine.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I said I didn’t think you were telling the truth about Gary or about leftists. We tend to be against the cults and the insanity they promote. There’s nothing false in what I said. Politics is the science of illustrating the divisions and
    contradictions in society and resolving them. Pretending that there aren’t
    divisions is not going to make them go away.

    There may be people here who think they’re not rightist or left wing but if they do they’re in denial, and they’re usually people who are unwilling to accept the fact that the Democrats are moving right in lockstep with Republicans. Those dwindling numbers of people who are just confused and haven’t made up their mind. That will be taken care of as the war and economic crises created by of the twin parties of capitalism worsen and people are compelled by events to take sides.

  • 2karmanot


  • 2karmanot

    yes, an so?

  • And you continue with the false binary. Most of us are neither leftists nor right-wingers.

  • I not only think it’s fair to ask what happened that led to such a tragedy, I think it behooves us to do so. Unfortunately there are so many taboo subjects surrounding religion, gun laws and mental illness that we hardly ever get anything useful out of such a discussion. Were there warning signs that we should look for in others in the future? Gun violence is far too common in our culture. Why is that? I don’t ask that to blame anyone but to learn how to correct this defect in our society so this doesn’t happen again or at least less often.

  • Joe Bosse

    I hear there is madness coming up in march.

  • And I answered your question. That’s how we decide what is moral in a civil society. How do you propose we do it?

  • Bill_Perdue

    Since WW2 huge number of Russian Jews emigrated to Germany where they got welfare, educational benefits and other reparations. Good for them. The numbers were in the hundreds of thousands. In addition: “For decades after the Holocaust, many Jews harbored an almost instinctive aversion to things German. But today, tens of thousands of Israelis, Jews from the former Soviet Union and even many American Jews are actively choosing German citizenship. … According to a study by Dr. Sima Salzberg of Bar-Ilan University, 100,000 Israelis have applied for and received German passports.
    Read more:

    The zionists are very upset. They need cannon fodder and cheap immigrant labor. “Jewish migration – Next year in Berlin

  • mf_roe

    It’s a forest / trees problem their learned values seem innate to them and they don’t understand that if they were born in a different culture a different set of values would be “Right”.

  • mf_roe

    Weren’t there a lot of Russian Jews too?
    If America accepts Zionism, then it must also accept the repossession of southwestern states by Mexicans.

  • When Muslims do it, we call them all savages

    Speak for yourself, bub.

  • mf_roe

    Had he viewed “American Sniper”?

  • Bill_Perdue

    The invasion of Palestine by mainly European colonists, the theft of the most of the land, homes and businesses by those colonists, the rabid racism of the European colonists directed against Africans and Arabs and the murder of uncounted tens of thousands by those European colonists is a terrible thing.

    It will be corrected when the strength of the Arab and muslim workers movement is sufficient.

  • SweetDreamn

    Exactly, in order for there to be a creator, then by all rights a sense of morality would have to exist from birth. Some do argue this to be the case….I tend to believe it is learned behavior.

  • Thom Allen

    Truly we are juggling priceless eggs in variable gravity. Seems like we’re dropping quite a few of them: climate change, mass murder, cutting social supports, immigration and others.

  • John Masters

    Not sure this has anything to do with the faith of the three people murdered. As one commenter noted, it could have contributed a little bit…Maybe, if you’re that “against” religion, someone who literally “wears” their religion in such an obvious way (Hijab), could tip you over the edge, if you were headed towards the edge to begin with.

    But at the end of the day, this was just clearly a disturbed man who had anger management issues, but was still allowed to legally have a gun. (If only those Muslim terrorists had had their guns, this wouldn’t have happened [/snark]). If he hadn’t killed these three, I suspect it would have, sooner or later, been someone else in the complex.

  • mf_roe

    I like some of Maher’s views, his opposition to religion is mostly sincere. But when he allows his ethnicity to justify the crimes of Israel he loses creditability.
    He gives statements mildly disapproving of many Israeli polices that should be condemned as war crimes. He then portrays the entire Islamic religion as insane zealots. This from the guy that lost a show because he refused to call the terrorists on the planes cowards.

  • Bill_Perdue

    II don’t think that’s true at all. Gary has been critical of Islamists and Islam for years, as have I and most leftists, as well as very large numbers of trade unionists here and abroad and anti-racists.

    Leftists are critical of the treatment of women and children and of violence against the LGBT communities even when we recognize that in Iraq that’s the fault of the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama who reversed decades of semi-tolerance years of semi tolerance under the Hussein regime followed by mass murder of gays by sunni police and shiite militias, both armed by the US.

    Anything you can say about the degeneration of societies under the impact of islamist extremism you can also say about countries infested by christers and judaists fundamentalists. Child abuse, the abuse of women, violence against the LGBT communities, rabid anti-worker and anti-union policies are common to all three with different emphases in different nations.

    Right wingers on the other hand are often in the political company of anti-Arab and mulsim racists like the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama.

  • When Muslims do it, we call them all savages.

    When we do it? Oh, there is a “parking dispute”

    got it.

  • Bill_Perdue

    That also means we need to reject the views of every Democrat and Republican politician who supports wars of aggression in the Mideast and south Asia.

    Those wars are in pursuit of riches for oil companies and nothing else. During those wars American politicians and the Pentagon orchestrated the murder of half a million Iraqi children under Bill Clinton, then murdered a further million or so invading Iraq under Bush2 with the support of Hillary Clinton and they’ve gone on to commit mass murder in Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama.

    And it means we have to cut off all relations with the zionist colonizers in Palestine who’ve murdered uncounted tens of thousands, including the 2000 plus last fall in Gaza, a figure that includes over 600 children, most sheltering in well known UN shelters and who kidnapped and burned a young boy alive in the West Bank.

    “Mohamed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and murdered on Wednesday in a suspected revenge killing by Israeli extremists, was burned alive after suffering a head injury, the Palestinian attorney general has claimed…. The allegation is said to be based on initial postmortem findings that discovered soot deposits in his lungs suggesting he was still breathing when he was set on fire. The shocking details, if confirmed, would seem likely to exacerbate already toxic tensions.

  • *laughing* Too true. Take care, Joe.

  • What we’re seeing here are attempts to “seize the narrative.”

    A Muslim family who has almost without a doubt experienced anti-Islam bigotry is casting this senseless and tragic multiple murder through lens of this explanation and only this one. The militant Christians see it as a means to demonize atheists, even though they (the militant Christians) are usually at the forefront of hating Muslims and wanting them “killed or converted.” The ammosexuals hope nobody notes Hicks’s CCP and his propensity for flashing his gun when he wanted to intimidate someone.

    Few are paying attention to the increasingly evident context of “unstable and armed control freak who watched Michael Douglas’s character in the film ‘Falling Down’ and apparently said to himself, “He really had the right ideas there. Threats and violence really are the answer.”

  • Joe Bosse

    Never let it be said that I do not know my audience, even if i regularly troll them especially on RawStory. seriously though, who could not use a third hand?

  • fredoandme

    i’m an atheist. anti-religionist as well. i do not know this craig hicks and had nothing to do with his actions. a murderer is a murderer is a murderer. what he did has nothing to do with any other atheist, anywhere.

  • GarySFBCN

    Because I support a two-state solution and find Israel’s tactics abhorrent, you choose to seek me out and respond to me on every blog where I post.

    Notice how many others on this thread to which you have responded? Zero. None. Zip. Nada.

    Find someone else to stalk.

  • Bill_Perdue

    7 DECEMBER 2004



    Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Department of Public Information (DPI) seminar, “Confronting Islamophobia: Education for Tolerance and Understanding”, in New York, today, 7 December 2004:

    When a new word enters the language, it is often the result of a scientific advance or a diverting fad. But when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.’

  • Bill_Perdue

    The government and the rich they serve made that decision – most of us had nothing to do with it except for voting for Democrats or Republicans.

  • mirth

    Unless, of course, one is Palestinian and then, y’know, cockroaches.

  • I know. Without that Concealed Carry permit and the presence of a firearm, this might’ve been no more than a small by-line in an obscure Chapel Hill news site reading, “Two people were detained and one man arrested for disorderly conduct after an altercation over noise and parking spots that turned into a fist-fight. Injuries were minor and treated on-site by EMTs.”

  • Don Chandler

    Every Shooter is a gun rights dick. So you find one atheist among the bunch and this means what again?

  • Props and a ‘Like’ for the reference to “The Mote in God’s Eye”, one of my favorite SF novels of all time. :-)

  • Baal

    Let me reiterate something I wrote below. I teach at a university where there are lots of muslim students, sons and daughters of immigrants in this very large city, smart kids, nice kids. I get to know them well. When I saw the pictures of the students killed in NC, it really affected me, more than for some of the other senseless killings that have happened recently. And while I think the religious ideas these kids believe in are utterly absurd (as with Christians, and Jews, and with apologies in advance, “spiritual people”) I still like them a lot as people and I certainly don’t fear them.

    I fear gun nuts. I fear them a lot.

  • Bingo. And also to further demonize atheists as would-be monsters and savages.

  • Angry violent guy with easy access to guns ends up acting out on his anger and violence, with those guns. This could be a daily headline in the US.

  • Joe Bosse

    I’m still ambivalent about RS, on the one hand pushing those stories might make people think about it more and maybe we’ll figure out how to start talking about it. On the other hand, I’d say 80% is click bait (of which I usually fall for 67%give or take)
    In general I think exposure is probably worth it.
    On the gripping hand, I’d kind of like to use a drill on a few frontal cortexes.

  • It could. But y’know, from the various reports I’ve been reading, it sounds like this Hicks guy was a menace to anybody he didn’t like or who didn’t do as he said. Sure, the narrative has been seized as “militant atheist kills three Muslims in a hate crime.” The part with “and it was apparently triggered by noise and parking dispute, which offended Hicks for some reason” is relegated to a footnote. As is the fact this dude was apparently feared by a bunch of people at his apartment complex, at least some of whom were probably not Muslim, just going from likely statistics.

    The possible explanation of “he was an armed control freak with entitlement issues and a mental illness, and who thought that flashing his gun in a blatant attempt to intimidate people was acceptable behavior” is barely being mentioned. Part of the trouble is at least one of the victims’ families is out there in front of cameras saying, “Of course it was anti-Muslim, that’s the only reason” — even though they themselves don’t have evidence to back it up.

  • mf_roe

    My question involved how the values are to be defined for a morality created by a society, and you lecture me with and appeal to authority using your system of morality in terms of use of violence and burden of responsibility for the safety of others.

  • Joe Bosse

    It must have been forgettable, I’ve seen the original sometime in the last 15 years, and I really did just not get the connections I clearly had. Funny… what else do I not remember from 1978?

  • FLL

    In your reply, you are accurately describing the situation in an entire society. Obviously, there are people in those societies who are appalled by the status quo and want to see change. We should be supporting those in Muslim countries who are seeking change, and we should be supporting Sam Harris and Bill Maher for shining a light on some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet. Shame on those who want to shut down criticism of these human rights abuses.

  • You mean like the entire discussion about Phil Robertson’s interview in GQ was focused on his gay marriage comments to distract from the more outrageous comment he made that black people were happier under Jim Crow laws? Okay, I’ll buy that.

  • What Digby said:

    What strikes me are the reports that the alleged shooter had a history of angry confrontation with neighbors and had an obsession with parking and noise. He had a carry permit and displayed his weapon to the victims in a previous encounter. They and other neighbors were afraid of the guy. Enough so that someone previously called a meeting to discuss how to handle him. The faith of these particular neighbors could have been the factor that allowed the alleged shooter to finally vent his rage on them rather than others.

    But then there’s this background on the suspect: “Hicks was known for his temper and confrontational behavior. His ex-wife Cynthia Hurley, who divorced Hicks about 17 years ago, said his favorite film was “Falling Down,” in which a disgruntled and unemployed defense industry worker played by Michael Douglas goes on a shooting rampage. “That always freaked me out,” Hurley told the Associated Press. “He watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at all.””

    After tragedies like this, our first reflex is to ask, why? Mental illness, maybe. Ethnic hatred, maybe.
    Too many guns, maybe. Those are our default answers. They’re easy. But is there something bigger going on?

    Digby then goes on to note how so very many of the articles on the Raw Story front page are about rampant fear and paranoia and senseless acts of violence, by civilians and so-called law enforcement officers alike.

  • GarySFBCN

    And I agree with you that all Abrahamic religions – indeed even all religions – are harmful to humanity and that the world would be a better place without them.

    I really am anti-religion.

  • It could well turn out that he acted out of animus towards Muslims. There would need to be evidence of that, however.

  • Baal

    Well then we agree, sort of.

  • Baal


  • BrandySpears

    Thanks for you personal attacks, princess. You can’t defend your moronic OP.

  • I think the whole atheist argument has been for no other reason than to specifically deflect from having that debate.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    You’re right actually, on looking further it seems like I was relying on third-hand information. Now I see quotes from him like “While I am an outspoken atheist (obviously), I would never take away a person’s right to religion. I would even fight for their rights to have religion if it ever came to that.” I still hold though that atheists have no need to answer for the guy, any more than they’d have to comment on why he preferred black shoes to brown.

  • GarySFBCN

    That’s a good definition for those who need to wash blood from their hands.

  • Baal

    I think ideas inherent in Abrahamic religions are dangerous. Here’s why: People fight over resources, they always have. When people believe that there is a single road to “salvation” that thing they call salvation itself becomes a scarce resource, also so-called Holy Lands and Spirtual Paths, and all sorts of things that aren’t real. And the seed is always there. So yes, the ideas are inherently dangerous even if not all of the people who believe in them are dangerous. It doesn’t take very many loonytunes people to cause a lot of suffering, to everyone (including other members of what are more or less their own religion).

  • mf_roe

    Total agreement on that.

  • GarySFBCN

    Atheism seems to create reading comprehension problems: I never wrote that I’m not religious – I wrote that I am anti-religion.

    I’ve never been affiliated with any church or religion, EVER. I’ve never been baptized and, apart from travel related visits to the Sistine Chapel, etc, my total lifetime visits to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples is less than 20, and most of those were for weddings or funerals.

    Regardless, you don’t get to define me. By doing so, you are replicating one of the disgusting behaviors found in religion – the need to define other people.

  • Baal

    Well, yes, that was my point but I am trying to be polite to someone who posts here and whose political views I almost certainly agree with.

  • BrandySpears

    Zionist: a person that believes that Jews (like everyone else) should have their own nation.
    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  • I didn’t think that was ever really in dispute. There’s a reason why the entire Saudi contingent in the US was quietly flown out of the country immediately after 9/11 – even after the FAA grounded all non-military and first responder aircraft.

  • Whatever the fuck “spiritual” means. I have yet to hear an explanation of that term that wasn’t a big steaming pile of word salad.

  • mf_roe

    I respect your values and praise your efforts, I just recognize my innate potential for violence and make no promise to suppress that violence given sufficient provocation.

  • Should I bring up the “new” evidence that the Saudis funded the 9/11 attack? To which I respond, “Duh!”

  • BrandySpears

    Uhmm, the UN has no definition on the word Islamophobia.
    By your massively broad definition of racism, homophobia must also be racism.

  • Baal

    If you are “deeply spiritual” I would argue that you are religious. It’s your right to be whatever you want, but let’s be clear about our terms.

    I actually think that the religions in question do have ideas in them that are in fact dangerous and that people should be persuaded out of them. But I certainly would never have feared these poor kids who got killed by a lunatic.

  • That’s not what anti-theist means. Do you have any actual quotes to back up your thesis that his social media posts threatened violence against religious people because this is the first time I’ve read that.

  • FLL

    A perfect analogy.

  • I’m talking about whole countries, where whether it is all Muslims or not doesn’t really matter. What are you considering ‘extremist’? Maybe 2% are radicalized fundamentalists like the Taliban, ISIS or al Qaeda, but large numbers agree with floggings, beheadings as acceptable punishments, for even minor crimes. They’re not all ‘extremists’, at least not by our current definition. A solid majority in Saudi Arabia don’t believe women should be allowed in public without a chaperone, are those people all extremists? Afghanistan women aren’t allowed to do anything but tend the home. Public caning is becoming more common in Indonesia. In Jordan rape victims are forced to marry their rapists. These are not things being perpetrated by “extremists”, this is as mainstream as it gets in theocratic countries.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I think atheists need to speak up only to say “We’re atheists, not anti-religious-people-ists.” This guy apparently wanted to hurt deists. There’s nothing atheist about that. This guy’s a nihilist — go ask nihilists for comment.

  • It’s like “militant homosexual” which means “gay person not sufficiently ashamed of his sexuality to hide in the closet.

  • Yes, the false binary. Either we have to bend over backwards to defend horrible practices by Muslims or we are Islamophobic responsible for all violence against them. Meanwhile reasonable people can speak out against what Islam teaches and some of the practices, that are COMMON in Muslim majority countries without advocating that individual Muslims be mistreated in the West. In fact we do. And you’d know that if you actually listened to what Maher and Harris (not that I agree with everything they say) actually said or wrote instead of quote-mining them to fuel your lefty rants.

  • Ugh. This is so basic I’m embarrassed for you.

    Your child hits another child. How do you explain to them that they shouldn’t do that? Do you threaten them with hell if they don’t behave? Good luck with that. No, you explain to them that they wouldn’t like it if the other child did that to them and therefore it’s wrong. That’s how we teach morality to children. And it’s the basis of all our morality. I’m not allowed to break into your house and steal your stuff because I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me. Even traffic rules involve me needing to stop and the stop sign so as not to endanger the safety of others.

  • FLL

    “fundamentalist atheism”

    Screamingly funny. People uttering that phrase may just think the rest of the world hasn’t kissed their ass sufficiently.

  • mf_roe

    So how is a SOCIETY to exercise empathy and reason.

  • GarySFBCN

    Your tainted Zionist views eliminate your as a credible critic.

  • I’m surprised that hardly anyone has talked about this in context of gun control.

  • BrandySpears

    Sam’s quote about some ideas being worse than others irks you as “Islamophobic”? It’s analysis like yours that have made the word meaningless.

  • It’s fascinating to me that so many religious people can’t imagine that everything doesn’t operate like religion. I am basically a skeptic. My atheism is an extension of my unwillingness to accept something as true before it has been proven to be so. I regularly read religious nonsense about “Darwinism” as if science worked like religion, a practice in which people are expected to accept things without any evidence. I’ve even heard of “fundamentalist atheism” whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean. It’s usually a waste of energy to have a rational discussion with such people. They are incapable of rational thought, after all.

  • GarySFBCN

    So are you talking about all Muslims – as Maher and Harris are, or are you talking about extremists?

    I’m not asking for a civil debate about beheadings, etc. I am asking that we be CLEAR about whom we are talking.

    Less than 2% of all Muslims are extremists but you’d never know it from your post, or from what Harris and Maher said.

  • FLL

    Exactly. The quotes from Sam Harris and Bill Maher need to be read, or objected to, based on their content. Unless you can explain why Harris and Maher are mistaken, their arguments stand. As I said in my reply to Jon Green below, some supporting detail, please. Simply saying “You’re wrong” just doesn’t cut it. You have to explain to the reader why they are wrong.

  • mf_roe

    Morality is a construct, God was invented to give that construct Authority.

    A man made morality minus the authority of god becomes much less immutable
    which troubles those who live under is rule. How can something be wrong if by changing our minds it can be right?

  • Joe Bosse

    Thanks, I did notice it was Donald Sutherland, I just drew a blank on the movie.

  • I blame cars. If nobody owned personal vehicles, there would be no parking spots to fight over.


  • It’s hard to mind one’s own business when the religious are busy passing laws limiting your civil rights. I’ll be happy to mind my own business when it comes to religion when religious people start doing the same. I don’t imagine that happening in my lifetime.

  • FLL

    Bravo. The notion that atheists or even secular people march in lockstep to the same degree that many religious people do is just plain silly.

  • Most of us are capable of understanding that some actions cause harm to others and that we should avoid those actions.

  • Unless he is a sociopath, he was aware that his actions would affect others. To place an equivalence between not paying the parking meter and murder is ridiculous and you know it is. We can certainly have morality without god and there are entire books on this subject including Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape. Either educate yourself or stop embarrassing yourself by spouting ignorance.

  • Obviously, the Atheist Pope needs to make an immediate public statement.

  • With empathy and reason, just like everyone else. I certainly don’t get my morality from the Bible, a book that justifies slavery and genocide!

  • It’s the strawman against atheism. Well, one of many. Anyone who goes to any of the many atheist blogs would see that atheists disagree about pretty much everything except for the not believing in gods part.

  • And neither of those statements advocates, in any way, that people should go out into the street and start killing Muslims. Nor even that Muslims should abandon their faith. They’re simply stating, while admittedly at times not very eloquently, that we need to stop kidding ourselves. We need to stop trying to have a civil debate on human rights with anyone that thinks things like beheading, stoning, flogging, or any other form of violence against someone for even the most slightest of insults, are at all acceptable. We need to stop treating countries that consider half their population so inferior as to not deserve a proper education, or not even be allowed in public without prescribed clothing and a chaperone, as equals. They’re not, they’re living in the dark ages. The side of violent, oppressive faith has no interest in debating the issues, because their God has said they simply cannot be wrong.

  • mf_roe

    A kindred spirit, absent a packaged morality how is one to define right and wrong–surly not by majority rule. That leaves lowest common denominator,
    not very comforting.

  • There are certainly horrific acts committed “in the name of religion”. But not every act created by a religious person is done because of their religious beliefs. The assassin was an atheist. That does not mean that he committed the murders “in the name of” atheism. If we are playing that game then we can attribute almost every murder in the US to Christianity since most people in prisons here are Christians. I don’t think that would be fair, nor is the idea, without some further statement or evidence, that this man did this because of his atheism.

  • caphillprof

    Having gone through the comments, I would like to add that the perpetrator and the victims were of different generations. This age difference may have exacerbated the ongoing parking spot dispute.

  • Mike F

    “I try to be peaceful, but the monster sleeps within and the triggers are beyond my complete control.”

    Brother, ain’t that the truth. But that’s just anger. I’ve not committed an act of violence on anyone since I was ’round ten. Goaded on by some supposed friends, I laid into a kid who’s only trespass against my friends was having a German accent, as his parents had recently moved to the States. I still feel deep shame for that incident. However, I’ve since used that episode to guide my belief in the power of non-violence.

    Wherever you are, Christian W, may I extend my most heartfelt apologies to you. You did not deserve the treatment you received from me that day. I am sorry.

  • The only thing atheists agree on is that there aren’t any gods. Beyond that there is no dogma, no tenets and no doctrine. Someone just yesterday said that we should eliminate the word “atheism”. I agree. There is no ism there, just as there are no rules for not playing golf other than not playing.

  • I follow several atheist blogs. Everyone has been quick to condemn the shooting. I’m not sure what anyone expects beyond that.

  • SweetDreamn

    Morality most certainly is a myth….There is no “right” and “wrong” other than what man has made-up….The only way there could be a true morality, is if a supreme being created some sort of inherent moral code, that we are born with. Some set of laws to live by, given only to mankind and no other creatures?…..Hardly!……Any morality that man has man made up in his own pea brain, following his imaginary divine guidance.

  • GarySFBCN

    Sam Harris: ““Islam, at the moment, is the motherlode of bad ideas.”

    Bill Maher: ““It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, or draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”

    Bill Perdue is right – atheism isn’t the problem Islamophobia that is the problem. I find both of the statements above to be Islamophobic, and sadly spoken by otherwise wonderful and self-proclaimed atheists. I’ve actually given up on Harris, who I used to like – I have many of his books.

    My problem with some atheists is not atheism. It is that some embrace rather phobic ideas and project those onto entire groups of people.

    For the record, I am deeply spiritual, rabidly anti-religion and always guarding against anyone who tries to impose their beliefs onto another person. I find a person’s religious affiliations/religious beliefs or their atheist beliefs to be the least interesting part of your existence.

  • mf_roe

    If she will replace “don’t” with “can’t” I could appreciate her to.
    We might part ways on the pacifist thing, I believe humans evolved from scavengers to predators and this hardwired opportunistic aggression into our natures. I try to be peaceful, but the monster sleeps within and the triggers are beyond my complete control.

  • FLL

    What would support your argument, Jon, is a pattern—either recent or historical—that showed atheists committing acts of violence against members of one or more religions. However, there is no such pattern, so your argument falls to the ground. If Richard Dawkins has made comments critical of Islam, he does so as an individual, and his comments should be judged by their content, which you don’t attempt in your post. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts in the past, but this one is a very thin soup.

  • Yep. Comes near the end.

  • Mike F

    Good grief, this is the second time in as many weeks that I’ve seen someone write that “morality is a myth”, or “no true morality exists”. What rot.

  • Mike F

    My wife, also an agnostic, defines it thus:

    “I don’t know, and you don’t know either!”

    Love that woman.

  • To go to an extreme: Do you need some justification or ‘right’ to condemn an act of violence, to judge it as being morally evil? You don’t.

    I revere truth, compassion, love, tolerance and generosity. These ideals can be found among believers and unbelievers alike. That which violates those core positions, I’ll gladly judge harshly.

  • Mike F

    Hey, don’t peg this one on me or mine. I’m an atheist and a pacifist. The man is obviously another in a string of unhinged extremists who justify their actions by invoking whatever creed or belief–or lack thereof–to which they may be an adherent. He didn’t like certain people, and will likely cynically employ NC’s open carry laws to diminish his own culpability.

    Ours is a pathologically sick society, barbaric and cruel oftentimes, and Mr. Hicks is merely the latest manifestation of that disordered culture.

  • FLL

    Excellent point, Indigo. Religious belief almost always comes packaged with scripture, rules of conduct, etc. How can the absence of religious belief—whether atheist or just functionally secular—imply rules and codes that are accepted by all or most secular people. I’m sure that atheists or secular people have to be considered as unique and unrelated individuals in a much stronger sense than religious people. If that were not true, then the functionally secular majority in the U.S. would have organized and had their way long ago.

  • Seems to me that it’s even more simple than that. The United States, as a country, has decided that violence is the only acceptable response – to pretty much every possible question.

  • mf_roe

    I define myself as agnostic, I can not accept the atheist position that there is no god(s) because there is simply no way to prove that as fact, any more than there is a way to prove the existence of a god or gods. I do acknowledge higher powers, gravity, time, all the forces that comprise our existence. Whatever caused the “Big Bang” may well be such that IT is aware of my existence, I doubt it but I must leave that possibility open. This forms my sense of right and wrong, my sense of morality. I acknowledge no known higher power capable of imposing IT’s morality on me, I am left to derive my own, conformed to the societal morality of the group I identify with. I believe in the “Golden Rule” not because the xtians preach it but because it resonates with me as Right and requires no belief in Jesus to make it so.

    All that leaves me in a perplexing place, if I can justify my own system of morality how can I condemn someone else with an opposing set of morals. In short, what gives you the right to judge those outside your peer group?

  • Mike F

    Yes, it is the second iteration of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That’s Donald Sutherland opening his pie hole:

  • Joe Bosse

    That image, does it come from a pod people movie? It seems familiar but I cannot place it.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Undeniable, as it the overwhelming culture of racism promoted by Democrats and Republicans to justify their mass murder from Morocco to Pakistan.

  • Dear Jon Green:

    *obscene gesture*

  • JaneE

    Atheism and atheists are no more monolithic than religion or the devout. The existence of ISIS doesn’t make all Muslims bloodthirsty killers, and the existence of an atheist hater doesn’t make all atheists amoral. And it doesn’t really matter if he killed them because they were Muslim, or just because they were overtly religious. Intolerance is just that, and not the exclusive property of any group of people. So are anger and violence, and a whole lot of things that philosophies and religions have been trying to address for millennia. If humanity is lucky some of them manage to cause a small improvement in some part of the planet for some amount of time. Mainly our luck is bad.

  • Plus he’s white and his victims weren’t, which fulfills the other unspoken requirement of the basic premise that the 2nd Amendment and SYG laws only apply for Caucasian folks.

  • caphillprof

    On thing that definitely triggered these murders is the ready access to guns by any crackpot fighting with his neighbors over some parking space.

  • Yes good point even if you are those things it doesn’t mean you condone violence.

  • Yeah, that’s the part which always gets me. Unbelievers aren’t supposed to be offended if there’s a pro-religion billboard or a Bible in every single hotel room. But just say, “I don’t believe in God” — and all too often the response is one of those pod-person screeches about how offensive and unacceptable the mere statement is.

  • That’s rather simplistic, as well as indulging in stereotypes.

  • No one “needs to confront” this crime, whatever it’s motives, any more than any random Muslim or Christian or Jew or Hindu “needs to confront” crimes done in the name of their religion. In fact, I’m sorry to say this, but the assertion is actually somewhat offensive.

    (Fair disclosure: I am an agnostic who believes she’s seen enough weird things in this lifetime to discount the possibility that there are not “more worlds than these.” My spiritual practices are derived from Zen and Wicca, but I’m comfortable with my position of not-knowing, which is what agnosticism means.)

    Normally I’m with you on a lot of notions, Jon, but not this one. If this mentally ill guy had been part of a group that regularly espoused violence, that specific group would have much to answer for.

    No where have I seen atheists or atheist groups espousing or condoning violence in the name of their unbelief. Just because Richard Dawkins is an insensitive and often offensive dick doesn’t mean he speaks for atheism as a philosophy, nor does his existence and behavior somehow refute the entire position. I’m not even atheist, but every time Dawkins, Bill Maher, or some other prominent atheist is trotted out as an example of how rude and ‘tone-deaf’ all atheists apparently are (as if this is itself an indictment of atheism), I’m reminded of the way conservatives do the same thing with Michael Moore or Al Gore. It’s like walking up to some random Jewish person and demanding they answer for the actions and words of Netanyahu. Or a Christian and demanding they respond to every crazy-ass thing Pat Robertson has ever said, of which there seems to be an unlimited supply.

    An act of violence, whatever it’s motives, does not and should not require anybody to ‘confront’ it…which unfortunately in this context seems to mean, “I have to explain in detail why my beliefs don’t justify violence every time a heinous act is committed by someone whose beliefs comprise a Venn Diagram with even the teeniest bit of overlap with mine.”

    Honestly, I can and will continue to criticize anybody who uses their faith or beliefs or political philosophies as an excuse for violence and murder. I will tolerate anybody whose beliefs do not infringe on my civil rights and right to be left alone. Someone wants to believe in an all powerful, all knowing sky-god, fine, I don’t care. If they want to use that belief to then pass laws that essentially force me to live by their practices and rules, well, then we have a problem. If they want to use their beliefs, philosophies, political positions, whatever, as an excuse to harm or kill me…fuck no, that’s wrong. Whatever Hicks’ reasons for killing those three students, it doesn’t change the act itself from being anything other than wrong and evil.

    Here’s the real problem I have though, Jon: You’re presuming to speak for others with the invocation of “we”, which presumably means anybody who criticizes religion. The “we don’t get to say Hicks wasn’t a true unbeliever” part is a straw man position. And the bit about “being honest about our identities” makes no sense at all. Like I said above, I’m an agnostic, but one thing I respect about atheists is how there is no particular dogma and nobody is required to answer for how they came to their position of not believing in invisible sky gods. It isn’t organized like that. There is no “we.”

    I’m sorry, but you presumed way too much.

  • Bill_Perdue

    “Atheists need to confront the (anti-Muslim?) Chapel Hill shooting”

    No, we don’t.

    The problem is not atheists, but Islamophobes. Islamophobia has its roots in the oil wars of the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama and their repeated efforts to kill huge numbers of Arabs and muslims to aid predatory US corporation and to aid zionist colonists in Palestine. Islamophobia is a form or racism recognized by the UN. (Don’t confuse ‘race’, an unscientific concept, and Islamophobia, anti-African racism, immigrant bashing racism, anti-Semitism or any other form of racism. Racism is hatred of large groups of people. Muslims are not a race but they are subject to racist terrorism primarily by the US, England, France and zionist invaders of Palestine.)

    What triggered these murders has nothing to do with atheism and everything to do with a racist who emulated the Bushes, Cheney, the Clintons and Obama. They kill Arabs and muslims and pay zionists to do the same and the atmosphere of racism they created will continue to trigger more killings, here and abroad.

  • NC does have a stand your ground law. His defense is already written for his lawyer: He felt threatened.

  • BrandySpears

    What exactly is his “history of troubling comments on social media”? The silly anti-religion memes he posted?
    Either you have evidence that he had a bias against Muslims or you’re making shit up.

  • mf_roe


  • mf_roe

    With your obvious dependence on logic don’t you find living in America stressful?

  • Indigo

    What? Now there’s an orthodox atheism, complete with rules and regulations?

  • Thom Allen

    Religion and morality can be related, but they are hardly identical. God does not need to enter into the discussion at all. Your comment is at best, poorly written and your analogy is false.

  • mf_roe

    Love a clear mind and a concise explanation of a complex situation, Thank you. I completely agree with you but my appreciation of the eloquence would apply If I disagreed.

  • Thom Allen

    “I don’t believe in religions but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the people who believe in them.” Great sentiment!

    “. . . professor at a large urban research university with a large number of students who look a lot like those three kids who were murdered in cold blood by a terrorist, and it makes me want to weep.” Similar in background and exactly my feelings. Three, bright twenty-somethings slaughtered for no reason. These atrocities happen so frequently in the US that others may be being killed under similar circumstances as we read/write at this moment. Sickening.

  • SweetDreamn

    If he is an atheist then there can be no moral judgment made on rules from the sky-fairy, can he? For killing would be on the same moral plain as not feeding the parking meter, both man made laws, imagined morality, for no true morality exists, for where would it come from?….Other than jail, why would he care?

  • Baal

    “Which leaves outspoken nonbelievers such as myself with a few thorny questions. After all if an atheist can derive violence from their unbelief, then who are we to criticize a religious person for deriving violence from their belief?”

    There is nothing thorny here. People kill other people over religious beliefs. Any possible examination of the world around us will show that this if far more likely to happen when religious people kill over religion than when atheists do. But people and the world are complex and that atheist did it. I am pretty certain that this terrorist gun nut killed these kids in cold blood because he is a dangerous sociopathic bully who happens to also be atheist and hates muslims and who probably fantasized about killing for a long time.

    I am not just atheist, I am anti-theist and antireligious, but I don’t hate people (I think it is better to try to persuade), and again I say that it is very likely that the only belief I share in common with that murdering freak is the lack of belief in a religion or god. And there is a lot more than that which goes into making a person who they are.

    So there is nothing thorny about this.

  • Isn’t that just the point though? And really how this entire post plays their sad little game. Most theists take atheism as an inherent threat. To be atheist to them is automatically to be anti-theist. Even when most of the vocal atheists in the US don’t advocate for the destruction of religion, nor the harming of religious people. They advocate for religion to not have any impact on secular society (and more specifically, on people who don’t believe), and for everyone to be treated equally, regardless of religious affiliation. But those things alone are enough for theists to use to twist around and play the victim, crying about how their faith is being attacked.

  • Baal

    I am atheist, anti-theist and generally anti-religious, and yet I still condemn this evil terroristic act with every fiber of my being. I can speak and write to try to persuade people that these beliefs are harmful without wanting to harm the people who hold those beliefs.

  • Baal

    I am an atheist (and also an anti-theist), also a professor at a large urban research university with a large number of students who look a lot like those three kids who were murdered in cold blood by a terrorist, and it makes me want to weep. I don’t believe in religions but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the people who believe in them. And I don’t believe in murders by armed lunatics.

    So yes, I write frequently here about the absurdity of religion, the harm it does, I protest the privileged position those ideas some to demand, and I mock people who use their religion as a cover for bullying, ignorance and bigotry. And I’m not going to stop doing that.

    But the only thing I share with this particular terrorist is not believing in a god. It seems that all of the rest of our beliefs are different.

  • Joe Bosse

    This one is rough:
    Atheist: check
    White: check
    North Carolinian: check
    Gun enthusiast: Not really but I’m not anti-gun just anti-cowards with guns
    Mentally ill: I’ve certainly been called crazy more than once

    It looks like I should be falling all over myself apologizing.
    That is utter bullshit.

  • Thom Allen

    I don’t know if NC has a “Stand Your Ground” law, but many states have something similar if your home is threatened. Hicks may have felt that the parking space was “his” and been trying to keep the students from parking there. When arguments failed, he went for his gun.

    This is a tragedy. But even more of a tragedy is that something like this (just change the numbers of victims, sexes, races, religions, ages, etc.) of the victims so often.

  • UncleBucky

    Truth. It sounds to me like this is a combination of gun nuttery and a gun present with a reflex action, leading to a GUN KILLING three people whereas a rubber ducky in the same hand would have bounced off the first person.

  • UncleBucky

    BTW, is there a stand your ground law in NC? Or…. did Hicks maybe think that there was one or that he should be obeying one of his own creation?

    Terrible times we live in where a reflex action coupled with a gun present kills in microseconds.


  • UncleBucky


    There is a-theism (WITHOUT a belief in a supreme being or as I write, in a “sky god”).

    Then there is anti-theism (being AGAINST religions requiring a belief in a supreme being, etc.)

    The difference is very great. Atheists mind their own business, but only fend off theists when necessary.

    If a professed atheist minds other peoples’ business, religious or sky god, they are an ANTI-theist.

  • Thom Allen

    Hicks may have committed this atrocity because the students were Muslim. Or that may have been part of the motivation. But to dismiss the parking space issue as the cause, especially when the police speculated that that was the motive, needs some additional consideration. While Hicks used Facebook to proclaim himself an atheist and to make some mocking statements against believers, he never advocated violence against them.

    It’s not unheard of for acts of violence, or even murder, to occur over something that others perceive as a minor incident. You seem to dismiss the fact that sometimes a minor issue, and/or one that occurs repetitively (as in this case with the parking conflict) can lead to an irrational response. Here are a few examples of cases where a minor incident triggered rage and death(s). One man shot and killed his wife and some neighbors because the wife served him his breakfast eggs – cold. One twenty-something male twin killed his brother over an argument about chewing gum. One man shot three others when he became enraged as they were winning a game on his X-box. A man pushed his fiancee off of a roof after they had an argument over chopsticks. People have been killed over hair extensions, arguments over food, constant battles over what to watch on TV, arguments over the ownership of chickens, and, yes, in a disagreement over a parking space:

    “Oct. 16, 2010, Detective Brian Stevenson, left, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore police force, was out celebrating his 38th birthday when he became involved in an altercation with Sian James, 25, over a parking spot. James allegedly picked up a chunk of concrete and hit Stevenson in the head with it. Stevenson died later at a local hospital; James was charged with first degree murder.”

    So, to attribute the murders to a conflict between Hicks and the students over religion, when there is evidence that there was a pre-exisiting conflict over parking, is speculative, at best. Especially since Hicks was also a gun owner. Hicks’ wife and neighbors have said that there had been an ongoing conflict between the students and Hicks over parking. The father of one of the victims said that he (Hicks) had confronted the students in the past over the parking issue, each time Hicks was wearing his pistol in his belt. Sounds like Hicks was a proponent of open carry. After repeated arguments over parking he may have decided to stand his ground.

    Many news sources are referring to Hicks as a “rabid atheist” or “progressive atheist.” Yet I never hear of other mass murderers being referred to as the “crazed Baptist killer” or “Lutheran serial murderer.” Everyone seems to want to label Hicks as an ATHEIST who is a murderer. If his radical atheism is a the core of this murder, why have these been the only killings? Surely he didn’t become an atheist last week. He’s had plenty of opportunities to shoot Christians, Jews, Muslims and others in the past, but he didn’t. He lives in the Bible Belt. I’m sure that he’s had thousands of opportunities to shoot believers in the past, regardless of which religion they follow.

    My feeling is that there is an interplay of factors here. The repeated parking disputes, easy access to a weapon, perhaps underlying psychiatric issues and possibly the fact that the students were Muslim and he was an atheist. Hicks in in custody after turning himself in. We may get more information from him as to the reason for committing this horrible crime. But until then, I think the focus on Hicks as an atheist has gone way overboard.

  • I don’t get this…atheists are not nec. anti-theists or anti-religious; there’s a difference.

  • phein39

    Do you have some evidence that this murder was “derived from his unbelief”?
    His wife said it was over a simmering parking dispute.

  • keirmeister

    Craig Hicks describes himself as an “Anti-Theist”, but that doesn’t mean he murders because of it. From his posting that everyone keeps mentioning:

    “I don’t deny you your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out it’s ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people.”

    This is similar to what I’ve heard from other Atheists, and this doesn’t sound like someone who wants to kill another person for their religious beliefs. Perhaps there are more damning comments from Hicks that I’m missing?

    To me, this is about GUN NUTTERY. And I think Atheists are falling into the trap of allowing conservatives to make it about something else.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Exactly correct.

  • nicho

    What nonsense. If I were grading this as an assignment, I would give it an F– only because I could not give it a Z.

    This guy claimed to be an atheist, therefore “atheists need to confront….”

    He was also white. Therefore white people need to confront . . .
    He was a resident of North Carolina. Therefore people of North Carolina need to confront . . .
    He was a gun enthusiast. Therefore gun enthusiasts need to confront . . . (OK I’ll agree with that one)
    He was obviously mentally ill. Therefore mentally ill people need to confront . . .

    Just because one isolated person who claimed to be an atheist committed this crime, it does not lay a burden on all atheists. If there were a pattern of atheist killings, you might have a point. When atheist killing rampages reach the levels of those of Muslims, Christians, or even Jews, then you might have a point.

    Until then, you’re trying to make a pretty shabby case.

    Disclaimer: I am not an atheist. So I really don’t have a dog in this fight. I do, however, hate to see logic tortured.

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