Remember that Behind Beliefs are People

We don’t yet how Craig Stephen Hicks calmed his conscience as he entered his neighbors’ apartment and shot three young people death. I doubt he allowed himself to see them as actual people.

This isn’t what atheists should be. This is why so many of us went beyond a simple dictionary atheism, why we try to remember that behind beliefs are people, and their lives have value, no matter how awful we think their religion is. This is why we try to punch up, not down; why we fight against the various isms that attempt to reduce people to things. Once you start seeing some people as less-than, it’s too easy to take another step and decide that their lives are worth less than yours.

Craig Hicks didn’t kill in the heat of the moment. Some reports say the main dispute was over a parking space, but he didn’t shoot these kids dead in the parking lot. This wasn’t a moment of overwhelming anger, or feeling threatened. He executed them. Somehow, he’d come to the conclusion that putting bullets through their heads was a reasonable thing to do. He probably was upset over the parking situation, he may think this is what led to him killing three people, but he couldn’t have gunned down three human beings if he hadn’t first stripped them of humanity.

Religion can do that. Ideology can do that. Even atheism can do that.

We have to be careful. Harmful beliefs must be opposed, but we cannot allow ourselves to forget that there are human beings behind those beliefs. We need to not only know that, but feel it, on a visceral level, right down in the core of us, so that we do not see killing as an acceptable solution to disputes. When we allow ourselves to accept death as a possible answer, we’re one step closer to becoming a Craig Hicks.

Be careful to remember that behind the religion, there are people, and their lives matter. Don’t ever forget.

Image shows a young man and two women in headscarves, one wearing a graduation cap, smiling broadly at the camera.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Image from Twitter via Butterflies and Wheels.

As for Craig Hicks, I wish him a long life in prison, where he’ll have plenty of plenty of time to regret what he’s done.

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Remember that Behind Beliefs are People
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6 thoughts on “Remember that Behind Beliefs are People

  1. 1

    And Deah, Yusor, and Razan were the kind of people we need more of on this planet. They were getting an education, and worked hard to provide dental aid to people who didn’t have it. Of course, that has nothing to do with their right to not be murdered.

  2. 2

    When I first saw this news, I was of course appalled. I confess that I also jumped to an immediate, unfair, and, as it turned out, totally incorrect conclusion. Particularly given where it happened, I assumed that the perpetrator would turn out to be a whacked-out member of the religious right. When I learned that he was, instead, an outspoken atheist it was a serious “Oh shit” moment. The only group that is already more distrusted than Muslims by most Americans will now also be characterized as a bunch of crazed anti-religion killers. I am glad to see that atheist bloggers like Dana are loudly condemning his actions, and making it clear that this is not at all what we stand for. I hope that it has some effect.

  3. 4

    We don’t yet how Craig Stephen Hicks calmed his conscience

    Based on the behaviour of earlier spree killers, I can sort of guess. Alcohol and/or drugs, both for courage prior to the killing and deniability afterwards.

  4. rq
    5

    Being an asshole murderer doesn’t require religion.
    Being afflicted with religion does not bad people make.
    I’m so sad for the families, for their loss, and I worry that the fears of my muslim friends are grounded in the horrible reality that these sorts of crimes may become more common. Ostensibly over parking or something equally mundane, but with a deeper-rooted fear and hatred of the Other.

  5. 6

    Dana:

    Craig Hicks didn’t kill in the heat of the moment. Some reports say the main dispute was over a parking space, but he didn’t shoot these kids dead in the parking lot. This wasn’t a moment of overwhelming anger, or feeling threatened.

    I’ve read comment after comment (in various places) to the effect that the murders were committed due to parking space problems. None of them acknowledges that he went to their apartment and killed them (and don’t get me started on the refusal of some to believe that Hicks acted out of anti-Muslim animus).
    Thank you for this.

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