I live in Arvada, Colorado, and for many years I attended the church associated with the YWAM shooting on Sunday. Earlier this year I befriended two of the young men going through the training program there, one from New Zealand and the other from England. I am numb with sorrow, and my prayers go up for the families of the victims.
The media is reporting that Matthew Murray posted the following on the web: “I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. …God, I can’t wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”
Look at the last part of that quote closely. One wonders if Murray has been reading Dawkins or Dennett. By blaming the world’s ills on religious people do Dawkins and Dennett incite to hatred and make it more likely that tragedies of this sort can occur? I don’t know, but it is an interesting question.
Surprisingly, several commenters have suggested that unless I can prove a direct causal relationship I should be quiet. Stuart Harris as much as says that unless I can show that Murray read an atheist book last Saturday and started killing people on Sunday then I should “shut the hell up.” Mr. Harris, let me clue you in. Human motivation is rarely simple, linear and direct. The standard you set is patently unreasonable. A multitude of variables contribute to human actions, and one of those variables is what I would call the “intellectual climate” of the culture. Are Dawkins and his ilk guilty of contributing to a climate of hatred (or at least animosity) against religious people generally and Christians in particular? Hitchens calls religion a “poison.” Isn’t it axiomatic that poison is bad and should be eradicated?
Mr. Harris, the killer said that Christians are to blame for most of the problems in the world. One wonders where he got that notion. I think it is a fair question to ask whether Darkins, Dennett and Hitchens have gone too far with their inflammatory rhetoric. You can stick your head in the sand if you want to, but thinking people ask questions. Are Dawkins, Dennett or Hitchens directly responsible for Sunday’s murders? Obviously not. At the end of the day, my inquiry is not so much about “responsibility” as “irresponsibility.” Have the vituperative atheists been irresponsible in contributing to an intellectual climate that condones animosity toward religious people? It’s a fair question.