AS110: Chapel Hill Shootings

I finish up the Spinoza reading from the Portable Atheist, and then I talk about the awful shooting deaths of three Muslims in Chapel Hill. Is atheism to blame?

7 thoughts on “AS110: Chapel Hill Shootings”

  1. We have no idea what caused it and might never know: the anger, passion in the moment situation had is all we have to go by. But I think the response and outright condemnation of this act has been very evident. It is nothing short of sad and tragic that this happened and we have no idea what act of thought came out of this. The situation played out and all we have is his anti-theism, the crime that happened (parking dispute(s) and the victims that suffered from this. We don’t see any outright call to eliminating all muslims and killing religious people so it’s very hard to judge what was on his mind. Perhaps there was xenophobia involved and muslim hatred and we may never know. All we can do is keep being kind loving people and openly promoting equality for religious and non-religious alike, show that we as atheists in the community stand firmly against what he did and we would never advocate killing those who disagree with us.

    I did find something really great (i say this with a heavy heart) in all of this, the charity Foundation Beyond belief is doing a charity drive in honor of Deah Bakarat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (victims of the shooting) with helping to continue to raise funds for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation. The organization is helping to continue the work he was doing by raising money to help fund emergency dental work for Syrian refugees. I think this would be a really opportunity to show that as an atheist/humanist/skeptic community want to honor the work he did rather than give time and attention to the killer.

  2. I agree it’s impossible for my atheism to result in violence. It’s impossible for my anti-theism to result in violence as well. My anti-theism comes from a concern for people who are infected by religion. I don’t hate religious people I hate religion. To argue otherwise is like arguing that someone who hates cancer hates people who have cancer.
    BTW did you see Glenn Greenwalds tweet “Radical atheist terrorist murders 3 Muslims in Chapel Hill” It’s quite ironic given the fact that he would have bent over backwards if a Muslim had done this arguing that he wasn’t a “real Muslim”, or motivated by religion, even if the guy was wearing a headscarf screaming “allahu akbar” while shooting 3 Jews in a temple.

  3. Is atheism to blame?

    Even if it is not, any negative actions done by an theist will be held up by some as “evidence” of our “immorality”.

    In a way atheist have to be more moral (better behaved) than anyone else, to ensure that doesn’t happen.

  4. Unfortunately watching this play-out it appears it will never be resolved. People like Greenwald, and Werleman aren’t going to admit they were wrong. They can always argue that this guy in his heart hated Muslims and wouldn’t have killed except for that. We have the victims families saying it was a hate crime, so Muslims everywhere will believe that in solidarity, and will continue to believe it evidence or not, and come out believing police are their enemy if they find no evidence of hate. I just hope they don’t charge this guy with a hate crime because it’s politically expedient. Not because I care about him, but because it would require such a stretch to make the argument that atheism could motivate killing Muslims that it could apply to any atheist.

  5. You should I understand know that Anders Breivik do not consider himself atheist, he claims to be a part of the Christian culture and have no personal relationship with any diety.

  6. I have to admit that I’m with CJ and the other people discussing this issue. You mentioned in the podcast that it’s a “strawman” to suggest that people think that because someone is a Muslim then their actions must be caused by their religion but if you just look at the actual news reporting, it doesn’t seem to be much of a strawman at all.

    For example, when Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed the soldier in Ottawa he was reported as a “terrorist” and it was splashed all over the news the fact that he was a Muslim. It turned out that he was a crack addict who believed that he needed to go to prison to get help and so he kept committing crimes to get locked up, and he had a long history of theft and violence before he even converted to Islam. But suddenly it’s because of Islam.

    I think the key point in your podcast was where you said that we shouldn’t reach conclusions about the motives of the Chapel Hill shooter until we do our “due diligence” (hopefully that’s the gist of what you said, unfortunately there’s no transcript to look through). I think this highlights a significant difference in how we tend to approach stories involving Muslims versus stories involving everyone else – they don’t get that due diligence. They get labelled terrorists, their religion is splashed across the papers, and it’s a conclusion before any work is done. It’s the same issue we get with white and black crime, where black people are “thugs” and there are “genetic” causes of why they’re horrible people, but white people are mentally ill, or had a rough childhood, or something else which doesn’t reflect on their race.

    I also disagree with the claim that someone’s atheism can’t lead them to do bad things. You try to defend this by appealing to the broad modern understanding of the term which means something like “lack of belief in god” but that’s like a Christian saying how can the belief that Jesus is the son of God cause violence? Obviously there is more to both atheism and Christianity than those claims, not in their definitions but in the communities they foster, the works they produce, the culture, their leaders, etc.

    So whilst it’s true that the definition of atheism doesn’t necessarily entail violence, it still can. Especially when we take Werleman’s position which is essentially that many of the Islamophobic beliefs from the New Atheists (i.e. beliefs which are more racist or directed at Muslims rather than their ideas) leads to the kind of anger and hate that can produce these results. Atheism doesn’t need holy texts to be responsible for the actions of people who follow specific branches of it.

    It just seems like we’re shirking the responsibility we hold for these actions by trying to dismiss it as “not True atheism” just because we disagree with the interpretations this guy had of our basic position. That’s exactly what we criticise Muslims for when they refuse to accept that someone interpreted their text that way and used it to kill, but instead of agreeing that it wasn’t real Islam, we just demand that their leaders apologise and make it clear they denounce it..

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