Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The ugly and vile spin some Christianists put on the Colorado church shootings
First, please note the word "some" in that title. As I expected, as PZ Myers expected, as most atheist commentators seemed to expect, there was some ugly and vile anti-atheist spin put on reports of the tragic shooting at Ted Haggard's old megachurch.
But I'm rather pleasantly surprised at how light it has been. Fox News and ABC News have been emphasizing the fact that Matthew Murray, the killer, "hated Christians" and ignoring the fact that he was mentally ill, he was reported to have heard voices, and that he was kicked out of the missionary school he shot up in their short lead-in reports. They pick up the more important details later though. A WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh leaves out the fact that he was homeschooled.
The most ignorant and vile of the spin I've seen so far came from future toddler chopper Vox Day who is himself, in all probability, mentally ill and I suspect he will one day do something violent himself.
Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, tried to cast a little blame on “the secular media” and the nut jobs over at Uncommon Descent, as expected, tried to find a way to blame Richard Dawkins but it could have been worse. Remember when Falwell tried to get away with blaming abortionists, gays and the ACLU for the 911 terrorist attacks?
The reason it could have been worse is because there really is a lot of "atheist anger" out there these days. In fact, it's bad enough that many former fundamentalists face enough recovery issues that it requires psychological counseling to help them get over their fear and anger and get out of their churches. It's the kind of anger Richard Dawkins doesn't understand because he left a far more liberal British church and never had to deal with such issues himself.
I wrote about my own emotional conflicts in breaking with semi-fundy Christianity over a decade ago in my essays, Hope is the Bait and Fear is the Trap.
Also located here:
One could say that blaming atheists in these cases is akin to blaming the victim of any abuse for their vengeance, but that's not quite right. The details about Matthew Murray's mental state are important because no one in their right minds would do such a thing. All the shooters, whether shooting up schools, churches or malls, have turned out to have serious mental health problems. It is counter productive and very irrational to go on a suicidal killing spree. The killer did this because he was not in his right mind. You can't blame atheism for that. You can't blame his church for that. While both were possibly contributing environmental factors in the end it was a biologically sick mind that shot those people.
In the end, most people who escape from fundamentalist and evangelical upbringings are pretty non-violent.
Atheists, especially those coming out of a fundamentalist background, have a lot of legitimate reasons to be angry. They've essentially been lied too, emotionally manipulated and mindfucked for most their early lives, and that's in addition to the bigotry and lies that all atheists in America face when you do come out. There are theists like Vox Day working hard trying to “aggravate atheists.” I get angry when the religious right wing tries to dismantle our First Amendment separation of state and church. I get angry every time another Bush administration scandal is reported (I recall that it was the religious right who put that idiot in charge). I feel angry when theists try to dumb down education with creationism and Intelligent Design. I get angry when Christians want to make children pray in school (yes that still happens in Indiana). I get angry when women in some Muslim societies are beaten for not wearing a burka. I get angry at Mormon polygamists who marry off girls to adult family members and throw boys out of their homes because they are competition for men. I get angry about Islamic terrorists trying to establish a global faith-based caliphate. I get angry when medical progress like embryonic stem cell research is hindered because some theists think God injects souls into embryos. The Bible refers to us as fools and then there was also the murder of Atheist Larry Hooper in Michigan by Arthur Shelton, murdered because he didn’t believe in a god.
Aren’t you angry about those things?
It's not wrong to be angry. It's wrong to misuse your anger. The trick is to put your anger to constructive uses. Alas, that's not always going to happen because not everyone is in their right minds.
When I wrote this post it seemed that Matthew Murray, the killer, might have recently gone atheist before going on his suicidal shooting spree. He had been posting on an Ex Pentecostal Forum and talked about hating Christians. However, those quotes were edited into articles out of context. Others found posts by nghtmrchld26, Matthew Murray's online name at the "Azusa Street Survivors - Ex Pentecostal Forum," that could not have been the beliefs of an atheist. He wrote: "We can be Christians, we can be spiritual and believe in God/the Cosmic Divine WITHOUT their abusive lying pentecostal charismatic Jesus People movements, groups, false prophets, churches, and programs." He also wrote: "Thanks for listening and all ... even though even many of you ex-Pentecostals don't understand ......(sic) See you all on the other side, we're leaving this nightmare behind to a better place."
If you do a Google search on "church shootings" you'll find that they are disturbingly common, from Idaho to California. Vox Day had claimed these shooters are usually atheists, but checking out some random links puts the lie to that claim. Terry Ratzmann, 44, in suburban Milwaukee was a member of the church he shot in. Larry Ashbrook in Fort Worth, Texas had both religious and anti-religious literature in his home but the most obvious cause still seems to be mental illness. One was a white supremacist in Indiana.Some are just total mysteries.