In his latest podcast, posted last night, Sam Harris addresses the tragic murders of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad. After saying that he feels nothing but horror over the crime, and that the victims were by all accounts marvelous people, he addresses the assertion that New Atheists like him have “blood on their hands,” in the lovely phrasing of C.J. Werleman.
The deluge of claims of equivalence between this crime, and the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the daily behavior of a group like ISIS, has been astonishing to witness. You can sense that people have just been waiting for a crime like this that could conceivably be pinned on atheism.
But of course the analogy between militant atheism and militant Islam is a terrible one. It’s an anti-analogy. It is false in every respect. Atheists are simply not out there are harming people on the basis of their atheism. Now, there may be atheists who do terrible things, but there is no atheist doctrine or scripture; and insofar as any of us have written books or created arguments that have persuaded people, these books and arguments … only relate to the bad evidence put forward in defense of a belief in God. There’s no argument in atheism to suggest that you should hate or victimize or stigmatize whole groups of people, as there often is in revealed religion.
And what we’re seeing is that people like Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan, the usual suspects, the bevy of apologists for theocracy in the Muslim world, are using this very real tragedy in Chapel Hill to try to stoke a kind of mob mentality around an imagined atheist campaign of bigotry against Muslims. It’s an incredibly cynical and tendentious and opportunistic and ultimately dangerous thing to do.
Of course people like Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan are alleging that there is some kind of double standard here – that atheists are so quick to detect a religious motivation in the misbehavior of Muslims worldwide, [but] when it comes to their own, well, then they discount the role played by atheism. But this is just a total misrepresentation of how an atheist like myself thinks about human violence.