Statement on the Chapel Hill shootings

On February 10 a man named Craig Stephen Hicks turned himself in to the police after fatally shooting three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, NC. According to news reports, Hicks was a fan of The Atheist Experience, and had been critical of religion on his Facebook page. The precise motivations of Hicks are not currently known.

The Atheist Community of Austin strongly opposes violence in all forms, whether it is motivated by hatred of someone else’s religious convictions, or a parking dispute. Acts of unprovoked violence may be inspired by a complex combination of factors that include ideology, mental disposition, and the social acceptability of various attitudes. It is overly simplistic to reduce the cause to any one factor. It is vital for believers and non-believers alike to draw a sharp distinction between criticism of someone’s philosophical positions, and the use or threat of deadly force.

We condemn this senseless act of murder, and extend our condolences to the families of the victims.


  1. Narf says

    Huh. I hadn’t heard about this. I’m about 12 miles from there. I wonder if he was someone in one of my local groups. I’m not aware of anyone by that name, although there are too many of us for me to keep track of everyone. The nuttiest and most anti-social ones I know from the group are a couple of the anarcho-capitalist Libertarians. I don’t associate with them much, for some funny reason.

  2. Narf says

    Hmm, I got nothing by searching for “Hicks” in either of the two major groups. I only got one “Craig” without a last name listed. The other two Craigs have different last names listed.

    The Craig without a last name lives in Durham. Since the story lists Hicks as being a neighbor of the people he shot, the Craig without a last name listed can’t be him.

    I’m going with loner nut.

  3. Narf says

    Doesn’t look like it was religiously motivated in any way, though. From

    But a statement released by the Chapel Hill police said, “Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” adding that the suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks was “cooperating with investigators.”

    The Chapel Hill police chief, Chris Blue acknowledged the speculation about a possible hate crime. “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated,” Chief Blue said in a statement, “and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”

    You never know if the source of friction was extreme anti-religious behavior towards them, which would just manifested in the parking dispute. Hard to tell, at this point.

  4. ironchew says

    What a senseless act of violence. I hope the families of the victims have the support of others to help them through this.

    As for speculation on any motives Hicks may have had, I can’t say unless he responds on the record to a question like, “What do you believe and why?” I am prepared to accept the possibility that his atheism may have been one factor among others, but I also know that dishonest proselytizers will try to lay this at the feet of all atheists and atheism itself.

    Next week’s calls will be…interesting. Matt and Tracie will be up to the task.

  5. StonedRanger says

    People are already laying this at the feet of atheists/atheism. I don’t care why it was done, whether because of a parking dispute or because he hated muslims. Its still wrong. People will always find a reason for killing and ways to justify it to themselves if no one else. I have no idea of how to make it stop other than by not killing people myself, but I refuse to take the blame for what this person has done just because I too am an atheist. There is nothing in my atheism that would allow me to do something like this.

  6. Narf says

    Well yeah, Ranger. There’s nothing in default atheism that can lead you to any action. It’s just a rejection of a claim. As far as social groupings go, it would be a fairly meaningless one, if not for all of the religious nuts in the world.