Thursday, February 12, 2015

Atheism Has No Prescription To Kill

The internet is abuzz with the recent news of an atheist who allegedly killed three Muslims in what appears to be a hate crime. Reports have suggested that the alleged killings by 46 year Craig Hicks were over a parking dispute, but anti Islamic comments made by him on social media have lead many to think he was motivated by a hatred of Islam or Muslims.

First let me say that killing someone over a parking space is extremely stupid, and killing someone because of their religion is perhaps even more stupid. Being an atheist and killing someone because of their religion is perhaps the stupidest, and even more stupid than when religious people kill other religious people because of their religion.

But there is a difference between this incident and the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The Charlie Hebdo murderers were motivated by a religious prescription to not depict the prophet Mohammad in any way, especially not in a derogatory way. And Islam prescribes many situations where non-believers can be killed, beheaded, and forced to submit to Islamic authorities. The killers were avenging the prophet, as they shouted while leaving the scene of the crime. Their crime was clearly motivated by their religious faith.

Atheism by contrast, is just the lack of a belief in any gods. It says nothing about what moral philosophies or prescriptions one should follow. There is no holy book in atheism that says "Kill the believer where ever you find them." And while it is certainly possible for someone to kill in the "name of atheism," atheism and even anti-theism are neutral on violence. They simply say nothing about it.

So while these murders are despicable and should make everyone ashamed, this person's alleged hatred of Islam is not a prescription of atheism. On Hick's Facebook page he has a banner describing his anti-theism. I too describe myself as an anti-theist, but anti-theism, or the "conscientious objection to religion" as the banner defines it, does not entail the unwarranted killing of theists or anyone. Anti-theism is an intellectual battle against religious belief, not a physical battle. I do not condone the killing of anyone based on their religious beliefs, politics, race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else. And anti-theism doesn't stand for this. Period.

P.S. I'm glad to see so many prominent atheists coming out so quickly to condemn this violence.

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