Last weekend, self-described “militant atheist” James Maxie went to church with his girlfriend and ended up severely beating the pastor, Rev. Norman Hayes, after Hayes asked his girlfriend if she felt safe with him:
As I wrote earlier this week, Pastor Hayes did nothing to deserve the violent attack on him, while Maxie deserves whatever punishment he has coming his way.
It’s also worth noting that Maxie’s atheism was pretty incidental to this whole story. He didn’t beat up the pastor because he was a pastor; Maxie did it because he was provoked by someone and he had a short fuse. (Maxie once spent two years in jail on an assault conviction, by the way.) I’m not excusing him from his actions, only pointing out that religion wasn’t the primary cause for this attack.
But a headline reading “Criminal Commits a Crime” wouldn’t be very interesting… so the “militant atheist” phrase was used in every story I saw about the assault (and I feel justified in using it for that very reason).
That’s what worries me. I don’t want this particular incident to affect the atheist community at large because some Christians may argue that Maxie, despite being an anomaly, somehow “proves” that godless people are immoral or violent. We know the reality is far from that, but many others in our society don’t.
I reached out to Pastor Hayes (and a local reporter) earlier this week to see if there was anything we could do for him, but I didn’t hear back… until today.