February 13, 2015

Atheists Condemn Murder

A 46 year-old North Carolina man by the name of Craig Hicks is in police custody, charged with the murder of three of his neighbors: Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. In the United States, things like this happen every day and are routinely ignored as part of our extremely violent culture. This one is a bit different because Hicks has been described as "an outspoken atheist" and his three alleged victims were Muslim.

The emerging media narrative, at least the primary one in the first 48 hours of the incident, apparently settled on "why several of atheism's biggest figures have singled out Islam for criticism" and whether this particular incident may have been motivated by hatred of Muslims or religious people in general. The main issue has seemed to be the alleged shooter's atheism and the speculation that this must have been his motive.
Whether Hicks’ had a particular focus on Islam isn’t clear. Among his hundreds of likes on Facebook are Harris and Dawkins, but his many anti-religion posts span focus from Islam to Christianity to Mormonism.
Hicks, assuming he does turn out to be the shooter, may or may not have been motivated by hatred of Muslims. Regardless of his motivation, it sounds like he is an atheist who was fairly active online in some of the same ways many of us are active online. That is, he appears to be a real atheist and one who was at least somewhat active online.

With details still emerging, I'm hesitant to say much about yet. But there is one thing I feel comfortable saying no matter what else we learn about it: murder is wrong and does not become any less wrong when the alleged murderer is an atheist. Violence is not an acceptable means of solving problems, and I condemn this despicable act regardless of its motivation or the identity of the perpetrator or the victims. I have little doubt that many other atheists will condemn this violence, and I find that encouraging.

I'd also like to note that my condemnation of murder is not limited to cases involving the alleged murder of Muslims by an atheist. I similarly condemn the murder of abortion doctors and the implementation of state-sanctioned murder in the form of the death penalty by Christians in the U.S. And I certainly condemn apostate killings, honor killings, and killings motivated by offense-taking committed by Muslims. I condemn all of these things without qualification or excuse-making, and I hope that Christians and Muslims will join me in doing so. Maybe if we all make it clear that violence is unacceptable, it won't continue to happen with such frequency.