Once it became clear that Craig Hicks was a huge Richard Dawkins Fan, Dawkins began furiously trying to distance himself from the apparent hate crime. He even went into one of his Twitter meltdowns trying to pin the blame for the crime on a parking dispute.
What Dawkins doesn’t comprehend is that there is no need for such simplistic either/or thinking. For both the parking dispute, coupled with a primal hatred of religion (fueled by the rhetoric of people like Dawkins), could very well have been in play. In other words, what began as a parking dispute ended as murder, with hate acting as the catalyst along the way. The parking dispute generates the anger. The fact that the three people triggering the anger were Muslims brings the hate into play. The hate mixes with the anger, resulting in a murderous rage. The hateful rage then causes Hicks to make the final step, resulting in murder.
It’s clear that Hicks was someone who regularly consumed New Atheist rhetoric and talking points. And as I have observed over the years, the New Atheist movement is a modern day hate movement that mocks, denigrates, and demonizes religious people. Consider some of the things the New Atheists leaders teach their followers.
They view religious people as “evil faith-heads,” delusional, dishonest, and/or stupid. Dawkins describes religion as “one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus” and has argued it is better to sexually molest a child than to raise the child in a religion. Sam Harris declared, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion” and argues that moderate religious believers need to be held accountable to the actions of violent, religious extremists. Jerry Coyne himself has insisted, “Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion.” Coyne would also like to see it illegal for a parent to give a child a religious upbringing. Peter Boghossian likens religion to a dangerous, contagious brain virus that needs to be contained by the State.
What you have from these men is a toxic brew of hate and anti-religious bigotry. Some people don’t see this because these men are educated, relatively soft-spoken, and don’t come across as wild-eyed hate-mongers. But consider the message they are sending to their followers: religious people are evil and dangerous. They are worse than child molesters and rapists. They are viral-infected faith-heads.
Along comes someone like Craig Hicks who laps up these talking points. At some level in his brain, he probably internalized the New Atheist message that those Muslim students, as representatives of religion, were indeed evil and dangerous. All he needed from there was the right spark to start the fire.