Religion

Atheist Murders 3 Muslim Students Over Parking Spot

Well, this is horrifically sad: Craig Stephen Hicks, a white 46-year old outspoken atheist, gunned down three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Caroling yesterday. Their names were Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Police are investigating the motive (Hicks turned himself in, so that should be fairly easy), but have said that Hicks appears to have been driven to murder over a parking spot.

On the one hand, it is easy to say that this appears to be about a parking spot only, with nothing to do with religion or race. But on the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine what would drive someone to murder three people over something so stupid, unless the murderer for some reason did not see his victims as full humans deserving of the right to life. And if you have paid any attention to the current state of capital-A-Atheism, you would have to see the growing problem with the continued dehumanization of Muslims, women, and other marginalized groups by community leaders like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Lawrence Krauss, the organizations that support them with awards and speaking engagements, and the mass of young and angry atheists on sites like Reddit.

When you combine that dehumanization with violent rhetoric, it’s inevitable that someone will commit an act like Hicks. That’s how the “men’s rights movement” led to people like Elliot Rodger, and how the “pro-life movement” led to people like Scott Roeder.

Knowing what we know about the end result of dehumanization combined with violent rhetoric, maybe it’s time that atheists as a group decide to retire this cartoon, which may have been true once but hasn’t been relevant at least since Dawkins started Tweeting about why women who don’t abort fetuses with Downs Syndrome are immoral:

militant_atheists

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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15 Comments

  1. February 11, 2015 at 2:16 pm —

    Thank you for writing this. This is something that has long upset me about this community–the punching down.

    I managed a group on DeviantArt for skeptics and atheists that was only ever inundated with hateful garbage that was tantamount to blood libel, so I’ve all but abandoned it. My atheism was about uplifting mankind–celebrating our potential, our curiosity, and forcing ourselves to take responsibility for our collective future. That a scientifically minded, forward-thinking philosophy was good even for the people who didn’t subscribe to it. My firmly held belief is that we’re all in this–this weird, absurd experiment that is life, hurtling through an uncaring universe, granting meaning to the meaningless–we’re in it together.

    I gave up Christianity because it didn’t offer that. It was too narrow in scope; meet the minimum requirements to get into heaven, and pester other people about it until you get there. Christian radio was a community of judgy busybodies with no imagination, it seemed. Granted, that isn’t how my family feels about their faith, and I cherish them. They aren’t bad people. The Muslim people I know are all great people. The quality of someone’s character has nothing to do with their relationship to god.

    This event is just a damn tragedy. They were all so young.

    • February 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm —

      Funny, I always here atheists say these sort of things, and yet I have been a member of 3 congregations (1 Catholic and 2 Protestant), have attended other services while visiting friends/relatives (various denominations) or while on vacation and have yet to be told what I need to do to get into heaven. Perhaps you should have shopped around to find a community that fit your philosophy.

  2. February 11, 2015 at 7:13 pm —

    I’ve noticed a couple of things about our fellow atheists and skeptics that have bothered me for a while when it comes to Muslims.

    First, many skeptics and atheists speak of Islam as monolith in a way they would never do with other religions. Like when Sam Harris said

    We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

    Despite his ridiculous defense of those words they were seen as insensitive at best and down right racist by many. The thing is, while this is an extreme example, it is not out of line for how many atheists speak about Muslims.

    How many times have you heard an atheist say “that’s just how they are” when it comes to Muslims, or have some skeptic pull out the survey that shows most Muslims in Islamic countries support the policies that we see as barbaric, or defend some atheist leader or other without really examining what it is they are defending.

    And it comes from fairly liberal places as well, I can’t even tell you how many times I was disappointed by people that I agree with on almost all fronts who jumped to the defense of Sam Harris and Bill Maher when Ben Affleck pointed out that painting all Muslims with the brush of terrorism is racist. Far too many of them talked about some vague over-reverence that far-left liberasl give to religion, or how Islam is not a race, or by pulling in that survey without pointing out that there a plenty of people in America that “support” all sorts of heinous things because they don’t think too much of it. But the thing is, the way Sam Harris and Bill Maher discuss Islam is racist, and the way you can know that it to do a little substitution is Harris’ statement.

    He would have never have said that same thing about Jews even if he believed it, because he would have rightly been immediately seen as anti-Semitic, and he would have never have said it about Christians because on it’s face it would have been seen as ridiculous because we all know that Christians just look like regular people (but then again so do Muslims). The only way his statement makes any fucking sense is if he believes that Muslims have a certain look about them, hmmmm… what look might that be? His answer amount to, I don’t know but I’ll know it when I see it. Quite helpful.

    And the second thing that bathers me is one that we are always accusing theist of doing. We need to stop excusing people on our side when they are wrong just because they are on our side. When Dawkins is being an ass we need to say so, when Maher is going too far call it out, and the next time an actor calls Harris out for being racist toward Muslims maybe we shouldn’t jump to his defense without asking if it might be true.

    • February 11, 2015 at 7:24 pm —

      Indeed. I always call out people who claim to be my allies when they do something totally un-ally-like. (Typical examples include denying someone’s personal experiences without any evidence, trying to arrogate indigenous identity while not being indigenous, and treating us like tokens at our own rally.) This should also apply when an atheist kills Muslims in the name of, what, exactly? That’s what I don’t get.

  3. February 12, 2015 at 7:23 am —

    Thanks for writing this.

  4. February 14, 2015 at 8:48 am —

    Thanks for writing this- there has been way too little about it in the media. I sense that this is a disturbing trend: when an ideological white man kills over his ideology he is quickly dismissed as an anomaly. But when the same is done by a person from an underrepresented demographic, it’s a hate crime representative of the group.

    • February 14, 2015 at 9:55 am —

      Yep, remember Anders Breivik was just a disturbed individual not a terrorist.

      It gets harder to write off when it’s a large group so the media simply ignored the implications of a group of “sovereign citizens” with sniper rifles aimed a BLM agents surrounding Cliven Bundy’s ranch, that just never happened, so it couldn’t be terrorism.

      • February 20, 2015 at 11:59 am —

        Mrmisconception,

        But of course if any of those guys had been Muslims, they would have been labeled terrorists, and rightfully so. Yet a non Muslim commits the same crime, not a terrorist, and they say the news media isn’t biased.

    • February 20, 2015 at 12:04 pm —

      Displaced Northerner,

      That’s the way bigotry works, blame all members of group X for actions of some people who happen to belong to group X.

  5. February 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm —

    Rebecca Watson,

    This is so sad. Innocent people murdered over a parking space.

  6. February 21, 2015 at 4:57 pm —

    Rebecca

    I came here from Jerry Coyne’s site last week. I was initially appalled that a supposed skeptic could make such terrible arguments but I decided to leave it for a day or two, re-read your post to see if I had missed your true argument (principle of charity and all that). But I have to say that I have re-read your post about 7 or 8 times now and if anything it gets worse. There is nothing in this post but malicious innuendo and mistaking correlation for causation. OK,perhaps some argument from ignorance. And you think that cartoon should now be retired? Seriously? Even if, for the sake of argument, I accept your premise that the killer was motivated by the dehumanization of Muslims etc, are you seriously suggesting that this one killing is equivalent to the thousands of people killed by Muslim terrorists?

  7. February 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm —

    Were the innocent lives that Craig Stephen Hicks any less valuable than the innocent lives taken any terrorist group, operating in the name of Islam or otherwise?

    No. But then I never said they were did I?

    Also if his victims had all been black, would it not be reasonable to at least suspect that racism might have been a motive? The family members also insist that the crime had nothing to do with a parking spot.

    Reason to suspect, maybe. Although not necessarily true. It depends. Regardless, Rebecca didn’t say that though did she? She wrote “…it’s difficult to imagine […] unless the murderer for some reason did not see his victims as full humans deserving of the right to life.” She’s saying that it couldn’t just be the parking dispute. Which is just argument from ignorance. Jumping to a conclusion that she had already formed before knowing the facts. Not how a skeptic is supposed to go about things.

    Go to the Southern Poverty Law Center and look up the “Anti Muslim” category, and you’ll see plenty of examples of Muslims being demonized for the actions of other Muslims? In addition you’ll find plenty of instances of innocent people being attacked, even murdered, because they were Muslims, or they thought they were Muslims.

    So what? What does that have to do with this case? You see, this is the malicious innuendo I was referring to. No need to show anything is connected, just throw some mud and hope it sticks.

    Hate Watch – “Anti Muslim”
    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/topics/anti-muslim/

    Why is it she wrote so unreasonable? Why are her suspicions so unjustified, especially when you consider that some of the rhetoric of certain popular atheists is similar to that of anti Muslim bigots like Pameala Geller and Robert Spencer?

    Again, nothing to do with this case, just mud flinging again.

    Is this what passes for reasoned argument on this site?

    Pamela Geller
    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/profiles/pamela-geller

    Still nothing to do with this case.

    Robert Spencer
    http://www.splcenter.org/get%20informed/intelligence%20files/profiles/Robert%20Spencer

    Ditto

    Now I my take some issue with Glenn Greenwald, but he makes some valid points here,

    Sam Harris, the New Atheists, and anti-Muslim animus
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/03/sam-harris-muslim-animus

    Very few valid points. Like many, he has trouble with the difference between criticizing ideas and demonizing people. As do you, apparently. This is an elementary category error.

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