Parking Space Atheists

Nearly two weeks ago, atheist Craig Hicks shot and killed, execution style, three of his Muslim neighbors in Chapel Hill, NC. Soon after, screenshots of his Facebook page and extremely anti-theistic remarks surfaced (most ironically, a cover photo generalizing that religion kills people). Richard Dawkins and Reddit rushed to Hicks’ defense. His crimes weren’t motivated by his anti-theism, they were motivated by a parking dispute!* “Nothing to see here,” they yelled! While much of the world has moved on from the atrocities (outrage generally doesn’t last long when the victims are racial and religious minorities), the atheist corner of the web is still embroiled in the debate over whether or not Hicks’ Islamophobia was a motivator in the murders. Today, Kevin Moore over at The Nib (host to all sorts of fantastic cartoons) posted a brilliantly scathing depiction of the debate (click the image to see the entire cartoon):


I for one must disagree with Dawkins and believe it’s time to clean house on Islamophobia in our community. Who’s with me?

*Note for international readers: In America, shootings over mundane things like parking disputes are commonplace and can be ignored. An atheist shooting three of his Muslim neighbors is harder to sweep under the rug. 

Featured Image by Kevin Moore

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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  1. Look, prejudice against any religion is not okay. That being said, while a lot of people in the USA are afraid of Islam (hard not to be when Islamic extremists are constantly posting videos of them doing horrible things to other people), violence against Muslim people is not a real problem here. This was one isolated incident. Even if the motives for his attack were nothing but wanting to “kill some muzzies”, this is not a trend. I was trying to google search other attacks against muslim people in the USA, and it was hard to even find examples. I found the FBI’s website listing hate crime statistics for 2013. (didn’t look too hard for a different year, but I assume it doesn’t change that much)

    There were 1,223 victims of anti-religious hate crimes in the USA in 2013. That number sounds big, but it’s incredibly small compared to every other violent crime. That being said:
    60.3% were anti-Jewish hate crimes
    13.7% were anti-Islamic hate crimes
    6.1% were anti-Catholic hate crimes

    In other words, only 13.7% of 1227 hate crimes in 2013 were anti-Muslim. That’s 168 crimes. Compare that to the 890 hate crimes where the victim was gay or over 400 crimes for being Latino. To put it simply, us worrying about islamaphobia is just distracting us from other issues we should focus more on. I’m not justifying it, but this is a very, very minor issue.

  2. I agree. We need to call out bigotry more often. The anti-theist brand of unbelievers are allowed to live in an echo chamber of bigotry. When they post bigoted comments, they get plenty of “Likes” and positive feedback. They need to see more negative feedback when they do this.

  3. The thing is, even if it is hate crime, Dawkins is not to blame. Simply because he has never advocated such acts. Additionally, there have been other “atheists” who have committed even more heinous crimes. Japanese army during WWII or Stalin’s USSR come to mind very fast. Again, if one creates a religion out of atheism, it is not Dawkins’ fault. Of course it is possible, just as it is possible to deny the very existence of the sun or the earth. But as far as I have read Dawkins, I have never encountered anything in his writings that can be used as motivation for the actions of Mr.Hicks. Instead of an obscure call for “house-cleaning”, it would be better if you could find a link in Dawkins’ works that could be interpreted as call to violence. Until then, it is just empty words.

    Besides, Muslims are from a wide range of ethnicities and races. It is quite probable that Mr.Hicks was more of a xenophobic that an atheist. Still, it doesn’t matter that much. Atheism is not a religion and specially these “New Atheist” almost always advocate secularism and the rule of law. Hicks must be tried and punished for what he has done. That’s it and there is nothing more until more evidence becomes available.

  4. @Rizb –

    I would challenge you to find anywhere in this piece that says Dawkins advocates murder. But that doesn’t mean that Islamophobic comments like his (or Harris’ or Maher’s) don’t fuel such acts.

  5. @ Corey –

    Non-religious people are the least likely to be discriminated against in this manner (here’s a link to the study I’m familiar with: By this logic, I will assume you think we should absolutely never talk about anti-atheist crimes.

    It’s extremely cold to deem 168 deaths a “very, very minor issue.” Is it smaller than other problems? It could be perceived that way. But as humans, many of us are capable of focusing on more than one issue at a time without getting “distracted” from other issues. Your comment is the Dear Muslima fallacy at its finest, stating that because worse things happen to other people, we can’t talk about the smaller bad thing.

  6. @Corey

    Why is violence against westerners by a few extremists half the world away a justification for being afraid of Muslims, but significantly more violence in our own country isn’t justification for concern? The victims of 13 percent of all religious hate crimes in the US were committed against less than 1 percent of the population and you think that’s not alarming?

    This is basically like saying that more white people are killed by the police each year than black people so police violence against blacks aren’t a problem. You have to look at relative percentages.

    There are nearly 5 times as many LGBQT people in the united states as there are Muslims, if the populations were equal the number of hate-crimes against each would be about the same.

    17 percent of the US is Hispanic. If there were as many Muslims as Hispanics in the US, at the current rate of anti-Muslim violence, that would be 3570 people, more people than were killed in 9/11.

    Jewish population of US: 2.11%
    Muslim population of the US: 0.8 %
    Catholics: 26.0 %

    I would love to see anyone make the case that antisemitism in the United States just isn’t that big of an issue because there were only about 700 hate crimes in 2013 against Jewish people.

  7. EXCELLENT breakdown, Alex. Thanks for posting. That this is perceived to be a “smaller” issue only shows that people aren’t taking into account the statistics of the problem and are letting their biases paint the picture for them.

  8. Did I miss the part where the evidence for this being a hate crimes was found? I’m not saying with any certainty that it may not have been, but what evidence is there that this was directly motivated because they were Muslim? The cartoonist points out that this sort of extreme violence over the trival is common to the US. What about this act is different? Was there any Islamophobic rhetoric on any of his social media? Was he known by those in the neighborhood to have openly or even covertly hostile towards only his Muslim neighbors?

    With regard to the possibility that anti-theists maybe violent, I think it is important to have this conversation, especially if there is evidence of a growing movement towards violence against theists. But am I wrong in that so far no evidence has been shown to support the idea that there is some form of growing movement towards violence? If there isn’t, then why have we decided that we should be taken action against something there is no evidence for? This is often something skeptics criticize others for doing. So if I am wrong then please point me to the evidence that he was in fact Islamophobic. I mean that sincerely, not as a point of sarcasm, because I have looked into some but have not found anything to support it accept the murders themselves. But the action itself is insufficient to support the case for the motivation being bigotry. As I understand, he was a very confrontational, prone to intimidation, and obsessive over the parking in his building, but according to interviews with those who lived around him he was like that with everyone.

    While I am not in total agreement with persons such as Maher or Harris why is it considered to be Islamophobic to criticize a faith? Even if it is the whole faith, is it possible to do that, criticize a faith without condemn the people who practice it. If not then I think every skeptic and atheist who has been critical of say Judaism and Christianity maybe guilty of hate crimes. That is not to say that careless words cannot result in unintended violence, Maher is very much a fire brand, and I don’t much care for his tactless nature when criticizing Islam. But is that necessarily bigoted? Isn’t that what we do everyday? I guess I’m trying to ascertain what exactly it is that makes saying that Islam or any faith is dangerous if its scripture advocates violence. I am by no means saying it is only advocates violence, but that all the Abrahamic faiths have various calls to violence and oppression. Is it that way its being said or what is being said itself. I am very sincere in want to understand what makes you believe that it is bigoted. -Ed

  9. “Did I miss the part where the evidence for this being a hate crimes was found?”

    Please click the link in the article under the words “clean house” if you need to be caught up on this issue.

    “While I am not in total agreement with persons such as Maher or Harris why is it considered to be Islamophobic to criticize a faith?”

    It isn’t. This is a strawman. Harris thinks that we should profile Muslim people on flights. That isn’t criticizing faith. That’s Islamophobia.

    “Isn’t that what we do everyday?”

    Yes, I do think that tactless and bigoted statements toward Islam are made every day in the atheist movement. And that’s the problem.

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