By now everyone’s heard about the horrific triple homicide that took place in Chapel Hill Tuesday evening. As I attempt to wrap my mind around the concept of a parking space supposedly being a catalyst for murdering people, I find myself pondering the monstrous acts’ implications.
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I will not do the illogical tap dance that I have seen some do. The shooter, Craig Hicks, was an atheist. That much is crystal clear. Since when is it acceptable to parade fallacious No True
Scotsman Atheist arguments about when we wouldn’t approve of it in any other situation?
Despite the killer not believing in gods, that doesn’t change the fact that he (like the rest of the secularists) doesn’t observe any alleged ecclesiastical pronouncements and isn’t inspired by an imagined supernatural code of ethics perceived to dictate what practitioners ought to or not to do.
My point: Just as it is mistaken to declare the atrocities perpetrated under the Stalin regime to be “in the name of atheism”, so too it would be wrong for anyone to exclaim Hicks slayed these innocents “in the name of atheism”. This is a foregone conclusion, however, there’s more.
While atheism itself isn’t an ideology, that doesn’t mean ideology wasn’t at all responsible for what took place. One could rightly state that there is a difference between the lack of belief in gods and “The Atheist Movement”. I concede that there are ideological components to the latter. A cursory review of Craig Hicks’ Facebook page reveals he was, among other things, somewhat ardent about his antitheist beliefs.
I’m not convinced this (antitheism) means anything but there have been reports which would lead one to believe he may have possessed some discriminatory views towards his victims, 23-year old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year old wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her 19-year old sister, Razan Abu-Salha.
Sadly, there has been an increase of Islamophobia infecting parts of New Atheism, and has long been reflected in certain kinds of public commentary, virtual spaces and published works. Many that do this likely do not properly comprehend this species of bigotry insofar as rightly separating criticism of the religious belief itself and anti-Muslim or otherwise prejudicial sentiment of Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim. Or worse, they may acknowledge the bias to some degree, but will attempt to justify it.
There have already been some atheists stating what transpired was only due to the parking space issue, that no kind of prejudice took part in Hicks’ irrational decision-making to ultimately execute three Muslims. Sorry, but I cannot help but be reminded of John Crawford III, murdered over a toy gun he never once held in a threatening manner. To say the slayings were only about the parking space dispute is similar to saying Eric Garner was approached and subsequently choked to death only because of him allegedly selling cigarettes and resisting arrest. It takes either an amazing dedication to intellectual dishonesty to deny, or an especially insidious case of privilege to ignore contributing factors such as implicit biases which inform negative stereotypes about out-groups (i.e., Muslims, brown-skinned people, etc.).
I do not profess to know Hicks’ full intent, of course. Regardless, I profusely condemn the slaying of these Muslim students, though I don’t think this is necessary. I likewise voiced my displeasure with some atheists who felt it was incumbent for all Muslims to denounce the recent terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo and the actions of Boko Haram in the Baga massacre, despite the vast majority of Muslims not being terrorists. And while I do see many nonbelievers (individuals, groups, organizations, etc.) condemning the Chapel Hill shooting, I have also seen some who don’t feel they’re obligated to do so. And I feel that. My thing is this: We must do better in avoiding generalized, communal blame of religious people for isolated events if we wish to sip from the same cup of collective exemption.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Hicks was also a very proud gun owner, one who went so far as to display his firearm online, as well as openly tote it on his hip when in public (including in prior engagement with his victims). This isn’t said to denigrate all gun owners, but gun violence is significantly high in his nation when compared to other developed countries, and one must consider the ideological implications of why that is as well.
I was asked by an ex-Muslim if it bothered me that she used #MuslimLivesMatter, to which I responded of course not. #MuslimLivesMatter is a statement that reverberates meaning that is well worth noting and considering. It does not at all derail the implications of #BlackLivesMatter – unlike #AllLivesMatter, which states a platitude that purposely attempts to undermine and even hijack the cause of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Nobody deserves to be executed as if they were subhuman refuse. I have read several articles from the atheist community regarding these murders, and was especially impressed by three. I would hope that whosoever reads this may also take the time to check out the following:
Sadaf Ali – An ex-Muslim’s words on the Chapel Hill shooting
Heina Dadabhoy – Craig Stephen Hicks & Me: In Condemnation of the Chapel Hill Shooting
UPDATE: Was fortunate enough to have someone send me this article. I find it incredibly thought-provoking. It challenges us all to stop and consider the way we perceive this and like situations: Chapel Hill shooting and western media bigotry