By Scott Kaufman
Sam Harris addressed the role atheism may or may not have played in the murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha by Craig Hicks in Chapel Hill, North Carolina last week.
He began by noting that while many have blamed the “militancy” in the atheist community for these murders, “there’s absolutely nothing in my work or my mind that is supportive of a crime like this, and I would hope that this would go without saying — but it probably can’t. The deluge of claims of equivalence between this crime, and the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the daily behavior of a group like ISIS, has been astonishing to witness.”
“You can sense that people have just been waiting for a crime like this that could conceivably be pinned on atheism.”
“The analogy between militant atheism and militant Islam is a terrible one,” Harris continued. “It’s an anti-analogy. It is false in every respect. Atheists are simply not out there harming people on the basis of their atheism. Now, there may be atheists who do terrible things, but there is no atheist doctrine or scripture; and insofar as any of us have written books or created arguments that have persuaded people, these books and arguments only relate to the bad evidence put forward in defense of a belief in God. There’s no argument in atheism to suggest that you should hate or victimize or stigmatize whole groups of people, as there often is in revealed religion.”
Part of the reason that Harris believes atheism is being blamed is because people can’t fathom that a triple-homicide could be the result of a parking dispute. “This is the most common form of interpersonal violence! It never makes sense on paper!” he says. “You’re talking about people who fail to regulate their emotional states. And they have, in the US, ready access to weaponry that makes it incredibly easy to kill someone impulsively.”
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