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.
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.