Atheists are not superior
ON 10 February 2015, an atheist man murdered three Muslims in the US allegedly over parking spaces.
Craig Hicks’ (lack of) religious beliefs might seem like an irrelevant detail to mention when reporting on his crime, but this man was not merely someone who didn’t personally believe in any gods.
A glance at his Facebook page and it’s evident that, to Hicks, his atheism, or, more specifically, his anti-theism, was extremely important to him.
His profile picture reads “Atheists for Equality”. His cover photo: “Of course I want religion to go away. I don’t deny you your rights to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out it’s ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people.
ANTI-THEISM: The conscientious objection to religion.”
Chris Hicks posted many photos like this on Facebook. One picture reads “I’m not an atheist because I’m ignorant of the reality of religious scripture. I’m an atheist because religious scripture is ignorant of reality.”
Another reads, “Gay marriage isn’t Special Rights, its Equal Rights. ‘Special Rights’ are for political churches that don’t pay taxes.”
If there’s one thing we know about Craig Hicks, it’s that he believed religion was a bad thing, a thing that encourages ignorance and bigotry.
This was a message that mattered to him, that he wanted others to hear. As recently as the 9 February, he was posting this to Facebook: The next day, he would murder three people.
The students Hicks murdered were Muslim, but many like to deny that there’s any significance to this fact. “It was about parking spaces”, many insist, “not religion”. Let’s assume this is true.
Can anyone explain why a man who considered himself an intelligent and good person would treat the lives of three other people as so worthless that he would murder them over something as insignificant as parking spaces? I know road rage is real, but is triple homicide is going a bit far for even the angriest of us.
In Hicks’ mind, atheists are by definition intellectually and morally superior to religious people. In Hicks’ mind, religion is the cause for all the worst atrocities in the world, while atheists can do little wrong.
I’m just speculating here, but is it possible this is that’s why he felt that it was OK to murder these three Muslim students over some parking spaces?
As far as he knows, Muslims are murdering, ignorant bigots, so why treat them as human beings with the same right to life that he has, right?
There is a problem among the religious where people become religious because they view it as a short-cut to moral superiority.
Religion encourages self-reflection and self-improvement with the focus on becoming a more moral, “good” person.
Therefore many assume that it’s the religion that makes people “moral” or “good”, rather than a personal desire to be good.
In the same way, many view atheism as a short-cut to intellectual and moral superiority. Rejecting religion often relies on questioning religion — questioning what religion defines as “moral”, or what religion claims to be true.
Atheism challenges bigotry and ignorance that is promoted in the name of religion.
Therefore many assume that it’s the atheism that makes people “intelligent” or “good”, rather than personal thought or a desire to be good.
Chris Hicks was an atheist, and because he believed atheists were intel- ligent and good, he believed he was intelligent and good. He also believed Muslims were ignorant bigots.
Then he murdered three Muslims over parking spaces.
Obviously, Hicks was wrong about his own inherent superiority, but the worst thing about him, is it’s easy to find plenty of examples of ignorant, bigoted atheists who also believe themselves more intelligent, moral and inherently more “worthy” than anyone religious.
The hypocrisy found in the atheist community is real. Hicks’ hypocrisy was just the most glaring example, but more and more atheists declare themselves intellectually and morally superior to others simply on the basis of their lack of belief in gods alone.
This is why, even though I’m an atheist, I do not believe getting rid of religion is ever going to be a solution to the world’s problems.
When all is said and done, personal morality tends to rely on a personal desire to be a “good” person. Intelligence and knowledge tends to rely on a personal willingness to listen, and learn, and examine, and think.
If he is never willing to self-examine, a violent-minded, ignorant bigot is going to stay a violent-minded ignorant bigot, whether he’s posting Bible verses or Stephen Fry quotes on his Facebook wall.
Religion isn’t going to save the world for violent-minded ignorance and bigotry, and neither is atheism.
Whether religious or anti-theist, people who claim to really care about improving the world for all spend often an awful lot of time demonising whoever they perceive to be on the “opposite” side of their beliefs regarding religion, and for what purpose?
When all is said and done, I have more of an ally in a Muslim feminist than I ever will in the sort of atheist who’ll murder three people over a parking space.
By fighting each other, those of us who care about a better future for all, no matter what our beliefs, are fighting the wrong enemy.