The Chapel Hill murders: an atheist responds

I’ve received a ton of email from readers alerting me to various pieces about the murder of the three young people, all Muslims, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina…

… The implication is that I should say something about the killings, as they were apparently committed by an atheist, and that we have to somehow exculpate ourselves, or explain ourselves, or indict that aspect of the atheist “movement” that is responsible for what many see as a hate crime.

I can do none of these things, for there is simply not enough information about what happened, about the killer’s motivations, about whether he had an animus towards Muslims that was somehow inspired by atheism, or whether it was one of those frequent spur-of-the-moment killings that occur over minor altercations.

…Why did it happen? We don’t know. Now isn’t the time to speculate about that, as an investigation is under way. After such tragedies, the press (and bloggers) often begin to echo rumors about motivations, rumors that often turn out to be wrong. After the Columbine shootings, for example, goth culture, Marilyn Manson, and bullying were endlessly masticated by the pundits as possible contributions to the shooting—yet all of these connections proved to be bogus.

So it’s simply premature and inappropriate to begin pointing fingers, and using these murders as some kind of springboard to advance one’s ideological or political or religious agenda. And yet that is what I see…

…We are operating in complete ignorance, as the killer’s motivations are unclear. It makes me sick to see these young people, who had family and relatives who loved them, turned into a tool to leverage various social agendas. One of the most cringeworthy responses was this tw**t by Reza Aslan after Richard Dawkins condemned the murders:

As always on Twitter, I cannot find the tweet he was responding to. But I found this: