Open Question to Theists: Do You Condone the Use of the Phrase a “Murder of Atheists”?

I just learned about this. Apparently the apologist who runs the site has described Geisler’s response to The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave as a “murder of atheists.” (See here and here.) To be clear, the author is not calling for the murder of atheists. Rather, he says,

I am employing the term “murder” in relation to the group of atheists who have team [sic] up to produce a failure of a book-the term “murder” in this sense is taken from referring to a group of crows a [sic] “a murder of crows.”

If you are a Jew, would you feel if a non-Jew referred to a group of Jewish authors as a “murder of Jews”? If you are a Christian, how would you feel if an atheist referred to, say, the contributors to The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology as a “murder of Christians”? Do you condone the use of the word “murder” in this context?

To be clear, the author’s clarification notwithstanding, I find the use of the word “murder” in this context to be deeply offensive and very unhelpful for having genuine, respectful dialogue between theists and nontheists. I hope theists who read this will consider condemning this site’s incendiary language on their own blogs.

Update 21-Jun-12:

Steve Hays has responded to this post, questioning why I think Christians should condemn this sort of language.

Over at The Secular Outpost, Jeff Lowder has been calling on Christians to denounce what he regards as mistreatment of atheists. But it’s unclear why Jeff thinks we should do this. Does he think we ought to condemn these (alleged) offenses because they violate Christian ethics? Yet Jeff doesn’t believe in Christian ethics. It’s as if Jeff approves of Christians expressing disapproval on the basis of an ethical code that Jeff disapproves of. 

In reply, notice two things. First, Hays refers to “what he [Lowder] regards as mistreatment of atheists” and “(alleged) offenses” without actually acknowledging the “mistreatment” is actual, not “alleged.” Does he deny that these instances are mistreatment? Is he so opposed to atheists that he is unwilling to condemn mistreatment, even when he agrees it is mistreatment? Is there another reason?

Second, Hays seems (?) to assume that if two people (P1 and P2) accept contradictory normative ethical systems, but both systems agree that an action A is wrong (even if for different reasons), it’s unreasonable for P1 to ask P2 to condemn A. I find that bizarre. If they both agree that A is wrong, even if for different reasons, then surely they can both condemn A. If P2 claims to believe that A is wrong, then P2 already has a reason to condemn; P2 should condemn A because P2 believes A is wrong.

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About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • Rayndeon

    Jeffrey, I wouldn't take it so seriously. The Internet in general is a rather abrasive, very trolly place, and theists are no exception. Website in question is hardly an exemplar of theistic thinking par excellence, so I think it and its tone can be safely dismissed.

  • Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I agree with your second sentence. And I think this site crosses a line that goes beyond even what is typical for the Internet. Can you imagine the outcry if an atheist had written something similar?

  • Rayndeon

    The art of debate and internet apologia – on both sides, theist and atheist alike – is by and large to score points, not to engage in meaningful discussion. So, it isn't surprising when theists take something particularly stupid an atheist said and blew it out of proportion, but I see likewise happen on the atheist spectrum as well. People are people. Humans are humans. C'est la vie.

    Obviously, though, trying to raise the standard of conduct and behavior is a worthy task. My feelings on this are somewhat complicated, since I feel certain positions – on either side of the spectrum – are worthy of scorn and ridicule and both scorn and ridicule have their place – after reasoned reflection. That does not mean however that the status quo should be atheists and theists bickering non-stop to score points on some non-existent tally.

    This is part of the reason why my feelings are very closely aligned with several of the beliefs of this author:

  • Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Rayndeon — Thanks for sharing that link; I found it extremely interesting.

    Without taking a side on all of the issues raised by the author–some of which I haven't really thought about–I will say that I join the author in not basing my identity on my skepticism, though I do consider myself a skeptic.

  • Francois Tremblay

    I would rather prefer that we consider the term "an ascension of larks." An ascension of atheists is a good group term.

  • Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Update: edited the post to add a reply to Steve Hays' response.

  • Rayndeon

    And as usual, Hays says nothing useful at all. What else is new in the blogosphere?

  • Rhology

    Yawn. I've seen much worse from atheists and many more atheists refuse to condemn it.

  • Angra Mainyu


    Now Hays has added an offensive new post, in which he uses the usual derogatory terms like 'merely' and arrangement of matter, makes false assumptions about your position (and those of many other atheists), etc.

    Unfortunately, he and others will continue no matter what.

    P.S: I'd like to help out, but I'm afraid my time for posting is becoming more limited, so I'll have to step aside.

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