There was a terrible murder in Chapel Hill last night: three members of a family, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were gunned down by a bloody-minded fanatic. Part of the motive was obvious from their names. These were Muslims. We all know how much hatred Muslims get in this country.
Deah and Yusor had just married in December; Razan was her sister. Deah and Yusor were enrolled in the dentistry program. Razan was about to start studying architecture. These were young people in their late teens and early twenties, just getting a start on a happy and productive life. Let’s not forget that. That’s the crime here, three deaths of innocent people. But I have to talk more about the killer, scum that he is and as undeserving of attention.
The cowardly murderer was an atheist.
A regular social media user, his last three posts were a cute dog video about the Pavlov effect, a viral advert for Air New Zealand involving mountain bikes, and a picture from United Atheists of America asking “why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each others’ influence when they agree about so many ideological issues”.
TV programmes liked by Hicks include The Atheist Experience, Criminal Minds and Friends, while he describes himself as a fan of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
You can guess what the mailboxes of prominent atheists look like this morning. This is what I saw on Twitter first thing today…and in fact, this is how I found out about the murders.
Was the Chapel Hill atheist killer a reader of @pzmyers?
— Roosh (@rooshv) February 11, 2015
— Mike Cernovich (@PlayDangerously) February 11, 2015
— Mike Cernovich (@PlayDangerously) February 11, 2015
— Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) February 11, 2015
— Incompatible (@TwittingSystem) February 11, 2015
And just to be representative of the generic quality of the criticism…
@pzmyers You seem to be quite a fag.
— Mike Grover (@mike02828099) February 11, 2015
My first reaction was simple rejection: you have to be pretty clueless to assume that “Kill all the Muslims” is a philosophy compatible with Atheism+, and you have to not know me (or Rebecca Watson) very well to imagine that we’re sitting around day-dreaming about violently murdering people we don’t like.
You know — Not All Atheists, and Atheism is a Belief System of Peace.
But let’s get real.
People are tribal. People can easily dehumanize others with the right propaganda. It has nothing to do with religion or the lack thereof, and everything to do with the messages their tribe is sending. Religion is wrong and a foolish set of ideas, but religious communities can tell their followers “kill the infidel!” or “live in peace!”, and non-religious communities can do both, too.
Deah Barakat was a Muslim who happened to be in a tolerant community.
It's so freaking sad to hear people saying we should "kill Jews" or "Kill Palestinians". As if that's going to solve anything SMH
— Deah Barakat (@arabprodigy30) January 28, 2015
His murderer was an atheist who seemed to ignore the tolerant part of atheism — neither The Atheist Experience nor Richard Dawkins are advocates of executing Muslims — and translated contempt for bad beliefs into violent hatred for those who hold those beliefs.
It’s easy to do. I don’t think there’s a significant component of atheism that preaches for violence against believers, but there are a large number of atheists who seriously try to argue that atheism should include no moral component at all — that it should be only a narrow set of ideas about the nature of the universe, that we deal only with the hard cold facts of science, and that all that fuzzy emotional humanist stuff belongs elsewhere. They encourage the creation of a kind of moral vacuum in which we don’t judge how we interact with others. Muzzle velocities, blunt force trauma, and exsanguination are all perfectly compatible with the dictionary definition of atheism — why, we don’t even have to consider our godless philosophy when purchasing a handgun. It’s merely an arbitrary act floating in a void filled with other arbitrary actions.
Again, not to detract from the importance of the loss of three human lives, but I think there are two things that atheists have to consider specifically about this crime.
Maybe next time you determine that all Muslims are savages because some of them engage in terrorist violence, you should stop and think about how you like being judged by the example of the atheist who murdered Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. I don’t think you’re going to be able to forget that, because I guarantee you that every anti-atheist from now on will be throwing the terrorist violence of this killer in your face, just as every Muslim has had 9/11 pinned on them.
Maybe it’s time to abandon this pretense that atheism has no moral consequences, that all it means is “There are no gods” and “We are smarter than everyone else”. Atheism should be a philosophy that says we’re all alone in this life together, there is no divine paragon whispering in the ears of our righteous leaders about what to do, and we have to find our moral compass in our relationships with other human beings, the living organisms we are co-dependent upon, and Earth itself, not holy authority.
The killer was one of us. He had received the message that murdering Muslims does not expel one from the community of atheists. That has to change. You cannot say that atheism is merely an abstract idea without implications for human behavior and simultaneously dissociate yourself from this crime.
Wake up, atheists. You can’t hide from the meaning of your beliefs. You must consider and discuss what it means to live in a universe without a god, and think about what living in such a world should tell you about your relationships with others.
Deah Shaddy Barakat’s, Yusor Mohammad’s, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha’s lives mattered just as much as yours does. That has to be incorporated into your philosophy.
The latest news: it really can’t get more fucked up than this.
Police said in a statement Wednesday morning that a dispute about parking in the neighborhood of rented condominiums may have led to the incident.
“Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking. Hicks is cooperating with investigators,” Lt. Joshua Mecimore, a police spokesman, said.
It wasn’t even primarily a dispute about atheism and religion. He murdered three people over a parking space. What is wrong with someone that they’d kill over something so petty?