Since the Chapel Hill suspect has been revealed as atheist, many media outlets have begun to seize on the religious aspects of the case that left three Muslim youth dead over what was initially reported to be an argument concerning a parking space, according to WRAL.
While the reality is police don’t yet know what role religion — or the lack of it — played in this case, that hasn’t stopped the extra scrutiny. And that scrutiny has many atheists on edge.
It’s been a point of atheism in the past to point at wars and violent crimes of a fanatical nature as “proof” religion can poison society and lead to persecution, discrimination, and death.
Cases like the ISIS beheadings, the 9/11 attacks, Boko Haram, and the Oklahoma City bombing have served as the backbone for this argument.
But with some media outlets now flipping the script with the Chapel Hill atheist connection, it has some self-described atheists playing defense.
Reddit’s r/atheism subreddit has several threads discussing the issue and the potential fallout. Some have clung to the hope that the crime was, in fact, a simple parking dispute that grew out-of-control.
“What do your religious beliefs have to do with a parking disagreement which led to murder?”
Another commenter said Craig Stephen Hicks, the shooting suspect and professed atheist, was an “anomaly and does not represent Atheism or secularism.”
Others made it a gun issue.
“Atheists have nothing to apologize for. If anything, gun nuts are the ones who should apologize. They’re the ones who want to keep giving guns to crazy people.”
Another said it was angering to see rhetoric that “Atheism can be harmful too!”
“If a vegan/vegetarian went on a killing spree, because he hated omnivores, does that mean Vegetarianism/Veganism is inherently bad? Did he commit these horrific acts of violence because of some Veggie-doctrine? No…. To see the media not understand or honestly portray Atheism/Atheists, disgusts me.”
Still more said atheists should reach out to the families of the victims to “see what they need” and to show that Hicks isn’t representative of all.
And one commenter directly affected by the tragedy had this to say.
“I attend UNC, and am an atheist, and this makes me sick. Whether or not it was a hate crime, whether or not the shooter had a religion, it is a tragedy. But it sickens me to know that people still think like this man does, and that hate can go this far. It really has made it clear that these types of events can happen anywhere. The three were all great students and people, anyone could see that. I am disgusted that someone would do this, and hearts in Chapel Hill are heavy today. Three young, beautiful souls gone much too soon.”
Do you think the Chapel Hill shooter’s atheist background had anything to do with this tragedy, and if so, is it proof that atheism can be just as harmful as religious extremism? Sound off in our comments section.