Parking Dispute or Hate?

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.

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6 Responses to Parking Dispute or Hate?

  1. And, don’t forget, utterly easy access to a gun.

  2. Michael says:

    Indeed – hate and guns do not mix well.

    Nick, I was wondering about something. Dawkins condemned the murder as follows:

    “How could any decent person NOT condemn the vile murder of three young US Muslims in Chapel Hill?”

    Why didn’t he write the following?

    “How could any decent person NOT condemn the vile murder of three young faith-heads in Chapel Hill?”

    After all, Dawkins claims to use the term only because it is “concisely factual.”

  3. Crude says:

    Indeed – hate and guns do not mix well.

    Yep. I’m sure that’s something Matzke could get on board with: Cultists of Gnu should not be trusted with guns.

  4. TFBW says:

    I’m wondering if Nick has a response to the question Michael raised re Dawkins’ use of “US Muslims” instead of “faith-heads”. It seems to me that there’s an obviously negative tone to “faith-head”, and that’s why Dawkins avoids it in this context — it would draw attention to the fact that Dawkins has been promoting negative attitudes towards Muslims (among others), and Hicks was a Dawkins devotee, right when Dawkins main aim is to deny influence in the affair. That being so, Dawkins’ earlier claim that the term is “concisely factual” is disingenuous to the extent that it implies tonal neutrality.

    Thoughts, Nick?

  5. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne, in his blog dated February 19, 2015, entitled, “Does creationism matter more because it’s connected with misogyny and homophobia?”, which nit-picks a fellow atheist’s emphasis upon opposing creationism in particular rather than Coyne’s preferred target of religion in general (“Now Scaramanga would be right if by concentrating on creationism, rather than on religion in general or on homophobia and misogyny, we could get rid of religion faster”), and says:

    “Now Scaramanga would be right if by concentrating on creationism, rather than on religion in general or on homophobia and misogyny, we could get rid of religion faster.

    “…oppression of women and of gays are matters of greater import than is the teaching of creationism, and if I could wave a magic wand I’d make the first two disappear before the third. But it’s important to recognize that the bigger battle for social justice, however you define it, is the battle against religion, not against its symptoms.”

    So Coyne is a good feminist and LGBTQ social justice crusader, is he? (In contrast to Sam Harris, who famously said, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.”) But Coyne lets us know he thinks the real battle is against religion.

    Atheist feminist Libby Anne, in her blog dated September 22, 2014, entitled, “Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion?”, gives a still-appropriate commentary on how Coyne and other prominent New Atheists use social justice issues not as something dear to their hearts but as a mere convenient weapon against their real target of attacking religion:

    “It is men like these [Coyne, Harris, Dawkins, and others] who confirm my decision not to engage in movement atheism. Despite their claims, I don’t see them displaying a greater willingness to question their biases or engage in critical thinking. Frankly, I have felt for some time that atheist activists are frequently only willing to call out sexism when they see it in religion. It’s one more way they can point to how thoroughly horrible religion is as they call for its demise. But the moment an atheist woman says she has encountered sexism at atheist conventions or at atheist gatherings, she is lampooned and derided, called all manner of names and even threatened with rape or death. But isn’t this the kind of thing these same atheists criticize religion for?

    “Frankly, it looks to me as though these atheist activists are just as willing to defend their heroes and leaders against allegations of rape or abuse as are fundamentalist Christians. I thought I left this stuff behind when I left fundamentalist Christianity, but I didn’t. It turns out that this stuff isn’t so much the product of religion as of being human—and atheists are every bit as human as the religious. Coyne can claim Dawkins and Harris’s willingness to call out sexism in religion shows that they care about women, but I don’t buy that. If they cared about women they’d be willing to examine their own biases, and they’ve made it clear they’re not.

    Frankly, I feel used. These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large. They are the sort of people who are eager to use the shooting of young education activist Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban to prove how horrible religion is for women but somehow fail to mention that Malala is a Muslim who speaks of drawing her inspiration to fight for gender equality from the Koran. This is not standing up for women. This is exploiting women as merely a tool in a fight against religion.”

    [Emphases original.] There’s a lot more: see

    Odd of Coyne to assume that “the bigger battle for social justice, however you define it, is the battle against religion”; strikingly ignorant, too: the battle for social justice is at the heart of the practice of many Christians — just look at anything the Archbishop of Canterbury has said recently; in Coyne’s much-paraded reading of Christian theological works in preparation for his forthcoming book, did he omit to read — or did he just fail to understand — commentaries such as Ched Myers’ book, “Binding the Strong Man”, subtitled “A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus”?

  6. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta has announced in his 13 June 2019 ““Anti-Theist” Craig Hicks Will Spend Life in Prison for Killing Three Muslims” post that Hicks has finally been sentenced, and sought again to deflect any suggestion that this was an anti-religious — specifically anti-Muslim — hate crime:

    On the surface, it appeared to be a hate crime. Hicks insisted, however, that this was a parking dispute that got out of hand. He said the victims were taking up too many spaces in their shared condo complex. He “overreacted.”

    Just a parking dispute according to Mehta, yet by Mehta’s own admission:

    Barakat had taken video of the incident … the video showed Hicks complaining Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters were using three parking spaces. Prosecutors said that wasn’t true.

    And in an earlier evasion attempt Mehta paraphrased a reporter’s account and added his own comment in parentheses:

    While his anti-religious feelings may have played a role, his concerns about parking were long-standing and appear to have pushed him over the edge (which makes little sense when you consider that the victims weren’t even in his spot the night he killed them)

    Yes, quite: Mehta was quite open that Hick’s claim it was (only) about parking makes little sense.

    Oh, there’s no evidence — none whatsoever, claims Mehta — that this was a hate crime, all the available evidence suggested otherwise.

    The families are upset that hate crime charges weren’t brought against Hicks, but that still appears to be the right call, at least legally. Criticizing religion isn’t hate on its own, and all the available evidence in this case suggested that the victims’ faith wasn’t the cause of Hicks’ rage.

    Well pardon me, “Hicks was a self-described “anti-theist” who posted a lot of memes mocking religion. While he wasn’t part of any organized atheist group, he “liked” several of them on Facebook”; Michael’s OP says he was a Richard Dawkins fan. It’s circumstantial evidence, it’s evidently been judged by the prosecutors to be insufficient evidence to get a conviction on the greater charge (with added death penalty liability) of a hate crime — itself circumstantial evidence Hicks has a keen interest in misrepresenting his motives — but it’s certainly not no evidence.

    Mehta’s confident distortions are almost Trumpian.


    Mehta’s 10 June 2019 “A New Book of Prayers Includes a Section About Using the Internet” scorns that section of the Church of England’s Book:

    The whole premise of the book makes no sense. The kind of people who wreak havoc online are hardly the kind of people who would read God’s word before they go trolling. But if you prefer reading a book of blessings before visiting 8chan, I guess you’re all set now.

    It does make sense: it’s a call for Christians to remain consciously restrained and civil on the internet, and internet-appropriate prayer is a good way to form and cement those good intentions. Mehta’s would to do well to follow that example instead of taking — as he evidently does, does in this post, too — every slightest opportunity to sneer, smear and denigrate.

    But read that quote again: Mehta’s opinion is that “The kind of people who wreak havoc online are hardly the kind of people who would read God’s word before they go trolling.” Re-phrased: Bible-reading, praying Christians are hardly likely to be online trolls.

    Mehta’s opinion that Bible-reading, praying Christians are “hardly the kind of people” to be online trolls is worth remembering when considering Richard Dawkin’s two “Love Letter” videos where he reads out trolling e-mails purportedly from Christians: Bible-reading, praying Christians are hardly “the kind of people” to have been their originators — according to Mehta, who’s no friend of Christians.

    So what kind of person is more likely than a Bible-reading, praying Christian to be an online troll and likely originator of one or more of Dawkin’s trolling “Love Letters”? Candidates eminently capable are anyone like Craig Hicks, that self-confessed “Anti-Theist” religion-hating New Atheist who lapped up the words of New Atheist celebrities such as Dawkins; when you are minded to pack a gun going to a peaceful neighbour’s door, to a neighbour who has never threatened violence, and then murder the whole family — when you are that vicious, online trolling is surely the introductory practice for such hatred and violence.

    Where there’s one there will be others, others with the modicum of intelligence and restraint needed not to take that last step while taking earlier steps like following Dawkins and Mehta, and trolling.

    It’s a pity that Hicks didn’t have and action that CofE book of prayers.

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