An Atheist Reaction to the Chapel Hill Tragedy

Feb 23, 2015

By Herb Silverman

I was horrified when I heard of the tragic murders on February 10 of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. My sorrow was compounded when I learned that Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were shot by an atheist, Craig Stephen Hicks.

Media, of course, tried to learn as much as possible about Hicks and his motive for these senseless killings. Speculation included his hatred of religion, disputes over parking spaces, and whether it was a “hate crime.” In Facebook postings, Hicks said, “I hate Islam just as much as christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do.” Hicks might be more pro-Second Amendment than anti-religion, because one post included a photo of a revolver and the warning, “If you are anti-gun, defriend me NOW!!!” (Several people said Hicks would show up at their door, gun on hip, to complain about a visitor who had parked in someone else’s spot.)

While the atheist community and the rest of the country are unified in condemning this terrible act, there is no such unanimity about hate crimes. When Congress was planning to expand hate crime laws to add “sexual orientation,” I got a lot of pushback from my liberal friends for opposing this legislation. I was also in the unfamiliar position of being praised by a blogger for the Wall Street Journal who said, “Herb Silverman eloquently articulates what we’ve written before — that at best, the law could be merely symbolic and, at worst, the law could lead to strange outcomes.”

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2 comments on “An Atheist Reaction to the Chapel Hill Tragedy

  • Hollywood shows people shooting each other for the most minor annoyances. Some people get the idea it is perfectly ok to use guns to intimidate others in ordinary life, or even to shoot them for minor crimes that would not even rate a jail sentence.

    I think of a similar crime a few years ago where there was a murder for a trivial reason.

    On 2008-02-12, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed 15-year-old Larry King (no relation to the CNN (Cable News Network) interviewer). King had publicly asked McInerney to be his valentine the day before. School mates mercilessly teased McInerney. King had come out at age 10. He was very effeminate. He might have been transgendered or a drag queen since he liked to wear female clothing and makeup. McInerney could have simply said No, dismissed him with F* Off! or he could have beat King up, but instead he decided to murder him in cold blood. Why? I can only speculate:

    McInerney was gay himself, and King was blowing his cover.
    McInerney felt insulted that King thought he too might be gay.
    King had humiliated McInerney in front of his friends.
    McInerney had a Christian upbringing, and felt it was his duty to kill gay people.
    McInerney was steeped in Hollywood culture. Shooting was the expected response to humiliation.
    The result of this rash decision was being stuck in jail for 25 years where he will likely be subjected to repeated rape.

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