The beginning of his post is satirical. Of course he does not believe atheism is evil. He is merely pointing out that we, as atheists, have gotten a taste of what a moderate Muslim feels when we blame Islam for the violence of extremists, all thanks to one Mr. Hicks. Hicks, as we know, decided that because his neighbours refused to follow the parking rules, they deserved to die. He also happened to be an atheist and his victims Muslim.
Mr. Clark, and this seems fair upon first perusal, just wanted us atheists to think about how much we blame Islam for, because we are finally getting a taste of something similar with the blame being placed on atheism for Hicks’ actions.
Of course, take a moment to mull that over in your skull and you’ll understand it for what it really is. Horseshit. So, Mama called the fella a tool, right there on Twitter in front of my followers.
James, of course, assumed I found his article tool-ish because I hadn’t read past the satirical part, so he proceeded to post another article calling me out for said tomfoolery. On the Huffington Post. I know. I’m flattered.
Evidently quite a few readers stopped reading either at the title or after the opening paragraphs. Responses varied enormously but fit a common pattern. Godless Mom tweeted her thousands of followers that I am an absolute tool; it went downhill from there.
Wouldn’t that be neat if it were true? It sure would be neat. The perfect opportunity to pull out your persecuted card and wave it about like a Bic lighter at a Bon Jovi concert. Unfortunately, it’s not. I read the post.
To Godless Mom and Mr. Badguy and everyone else who did not get past the first couple of paragraphs, I hope you’ll go back and see that later I wrote, without satire, “Is atheism evil? NO.” “Are atheists evil? No.” Moreover, I argued that it would be both factually and morally wrong to judge otherwise based on the case of Craig Stephen Hicks (even if you throw Mao and Stalin into the mix).
Ahh, here we have the original problem beginning to shine through. In his original post, Mr. Clark did indeed say that atheists shan’t be considered evil, despite the fact that Stalin and Mao were atheists. He also said that Craig Hicks’ actions should not reflect on atheism as a whole. He did say these things, but these things are problems and here’s why.
Stalin and Mao may very well have been atheists. However, their heinous actions, their murderous rampages were never claimed to be for atheism, caused by atheism or related to atheism in any way. The motivations of Stalin and Mao were politically based and came from a desperate desire for power. They did not kill in the name of atheism. They killed and slaughtered as fascist communist dictators.
When you compare and contrast that with what ISIS is doing, beheading Christians and crucifying children and slaughtering men and women, it takes little time at all to find evidence that ISIS openly claims to be doing these things because it’s how they’ve interpreted the doctrine of Islam. They openly admit that what they do has religious motivations, whereas Stalin and Mao did not.
So, saying that atheists should no longer blame Islam for some of the horrendous acts of extremists, because we now understand what it’s like to have our belief system blamed for the actions of Hicks, Stalin and Mao, is ludicrous. We blame Islam because the perpetrators do. We point to religious motivations, because the very men who committed the act claim religious motivations.
Atheism – not even a belief system to begin with – has never been claimed to be the motivation for any killings or violence. There has been speculation that perhaps Hicks or Stalin or Mao was motivated by atheism, but that speculation is heavily contradicted by evidence. Hicks, as I have said endlessly lately, seemed to have a problem with everyone, and an unhealthy obsession with rules. Things he said many times on social media and to family and friends, suggested he took no issue with Muslims, only Islam. Mao and Stalin? Well, you can ask any historian and they will tell you, their motivations derived from their insatiable hunger for power.
Finally, I hope you’ll go back and see that the essay was not at all about atheism or atheists. Instead the essay was really about us: white, Western, privileged non-Muslims (and media) who make hasty judgments about the motives of people who happen to be Muslim, and tarring all Muslims with the violence of a few.
No one is making hasty judgements about men who run from the scene of the crime declaring they have taken revenge in the name of the prophet. You see, the perpetrators themselves have told us their motivation. In my tweets to Mr. Clark, I mentioned the recent attack in Copenhagen as an example of a crime committed by a Muslim for which the motivations were still unclear. I didn’t jump on it, yelling “Evil Islam!” despite the fact that the time and place of the crime seemed to point to religious motivations. I only blame Islam, when the killers say they did it for Islam, and I would hardly say that’s unfair.
As far as tarring all Muslims with the violence of the few goes, it’s the classic misunderstanding. I have not heard one atheist say all Muslims are violent and yet this is what people seem to hear when we criticize Islam as a violent doctrine. It is very different to criticize the written word that millions worship, than it is to say all Muslims are bad.
Take, for example, this Surat right out of the Quran:
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
Or how about this one:
And fight in the cause of Allah and know that Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.
And how about this one, the passage which justifies the actions of suicide bombers :
So let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory – We will bestow upon him a great reward.
I could, if I had all day, go on and on and on.
Now, you see Mr. Clark, atheists read these passages and see the violence being committed in the name of Allah by the perpetrators’ own admission, and connect the two because, well, we’re not morons. The texts considered holy in Islam, it cannot be mistaken, support in full, the actions taken by extremists. This is our criticism. This is our concern.
The sad thing, and the thing that so few Islamic apologists fail to recognize, is that Muslims are the victims of Islamic extremism more often than not. We criticize this doctrine not just because it makes us ill to see the violence happening in Western countries. We criticize it because it is dangerous to good, loving Muslims the world over. They pray to the very doctrine that oppresses them and that could be the reason for their untimely and brutal death.
Proud be an atheist
We have concern for the moderate Muslim. Concern that their faith could lead them to extremism as it has so many others, and concern that the extremists in their faith could end their lives. We have concern for people following this doctrine, like a mother would have concern for her child who’s been drawn into a cult. We criticize Islam the same way we criticize Charlie Manson’s Helter Skelter. It’s a dangerous idea, especially when increasing numbers of people are drawn to follow it, and it needs to be reconsidered.
We do not now, and have never, said that Muslims are violent. We do, however, take no issue with saying that Islam is violent. How can you read the passages above and recall the killers running from the Hebdo headquarters yelling, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!” and not say the same?
Mr. Clark, I found it laughable that you tried to compare what an atheist felt like when Hicks’ actions were blamed on atheism, to what a moderate Muslim feels like when extremist’s actions are blamed on Islam. One is calling a violent doctrine out for what it is: dangerous and terrifying. The other, is blaming a negative response to the assertion there is a God, for something a psycho obsessed with parking rules did.
I maintain that attempting to compare the two makes one an absolute tool.