Church arsonists had a book on atheism in their house. So what?

I don’t like religion, but like most atheists I know, the thought of burning down churches is rather repugnant. There’s no need to create more religious martyrs by making it seem as though their beliefs are under attack. My preferred kind of “assault” is always verbal and intellectual, and I expect any other “Good Atheist” to follow suit.

Of course, there’s no way to know if every single non-believer out there is going to act with such decorum. Since atheism isn’t an organized set of beliefs or practices, there’s really nothing I necessarily share in common with an unbeliever other than the fact we have both chosen to reject the notion of God. That’s it. Anything else we DO share in common is entirely the product of our own ethic and moral code. Some people possess noble and heroic codes; others are violent psychopathic arsonists. It happens.

A few weeks ago a number of churches in Texas were burned down by these two guys, Jason Robert Bourque, and Daniel George McAllister, two childhood friends and obvious weirdos. When the police searched their homes, they found rifles, knives, a book on “Demon Possession”, and (wait for it) a book on atheism (gasp)! The Associated Press jumped on that angle, despite the fact there’s no reason to suspect this book would have motivated them to commit their crime. If anything, the book The Atheist’s Way is actually one of the least critical in regards to religion, simply offering a way for people who don’t believe to orient their lives in a meaningful and loving way.

Eric Maisel elevates the tag ‘atheist’ from a mere denial of the supernatural to a calling: a calling to a high-hearted life of diligence, creativity, and ruthless honesty in maintaining one’s integrity in the face of uncaring nature.” — David Cortes, Secular Wholeness

Perhaps these two morons are atheists, or maybe they aren’t. We still don’t know what motivated them to commit their crime, which is why I find it so cowardly for the AP to make the assumption atheism is somehow behind it. There’s nothing inherent to unbelief that would make one violent or psychotic, and any inference it does ignores all the studies (and simple common sense) that demonstrate this.

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Comments (10)

  • avatar

    Oscar

    PZ blogged on this yesterday. He pointed out that three bibles were found at Jason’s family home. Myers linked to this article
    http://www.kltv.com/Global/story.asp?S=12039830

    The second to last paragraph says:
    “Jason Bourque’s family home in Lindale was also searched, yielding a small plastic bag of “suspected” marijuana seeds, more Skechers shoes, and three Bibles.”

  • avatar

    Tom T

    …what Oscar said… :)

  • avatar

    Infinite Monkey

    Clearly, it was the book on demon possessions that drove them to do such an act.

  • avatar

    keeyop

    Poor choice of a sensationalist headline for the story. It could also have referenced finding the book on “DEMON POSSESSION”; Or the GPS, for that matter.

    But, the report comes out of Texas. Ignorance rules the day, in a land where atheism is just more of “the devil’s handiwork”.

    The guys were raised Baptist. Who’s more likely to promote belief in demons, atheists or baptists? They rebelled against the church. Literally.

    scapegoat fail.

  • avatar

    Jon

    If I may paraphrase Matt Dillahunty from The Atheist Experience, while you can draw a direct link from some of the passages in Leviticus to persecuting Homosexuals, there’s no correlation between “I don’t believe in a supernatural creator of the Universe” and burning a Church. You’ve got to add something else and I’m guessing that something else was more to do with upbringing and a dysfunctional environment.

    For some reason, this story reminds me of Judas Priest trial in Reno. Check out the documentary ‘Dream Deceivers’… those kids were also raised in a backwards-ass, dysfunctional and very religious town, but nooo… it must be Judas Priest that made ‘em done it!

  • avatar

    O'Leary

    Has anybody actually ASKED these guys why they did it and if they identify themselves as Atheists?

  • avatar

    zomnificent

    Hey, how about that, I’ve been reading The Atheist’s Way, and it is very mild. Nowhere in there does Eric Maisel tell the reader to burn a church, but he does talk about “making meaning”, so maybe that’s what these guys were doing.

  • avatar

    Alastair

    The implied false conclusions which the media presents to the public are dangerous. Not because all people are stupid (some are), but because of belief/trust in authority and perhaps by only having a few points of reference to weigh the concepts against. Unfortunately the media will have had an influence on public opinion towards Atheism and it may lead to an implied belief behind atheism which leads towards aggression against religion. This kind of news is just what evangelists will use in their arguments, and is damaging to the perception of atheists.
    Has anyone complained to the reporter for presenting such a bias?

  • avatar

    Ben

    Is everyone missing the most important point- that if someone believes in “demons” they obviously aren’t an atheist? Pretty lame the AP grabs onto that angle to try to get points or readers. Atheism isn’t a doctrine, the only thing two atheists have in common is a lack of belief in the supernatural. All else is circumstance; it’s like saying that if a person with a history book in their closet burns down a church, then all historians are evil church burners. Why don’t you point the finger of blame at the Timothy McVeighs and Osama Bin Ladens of the world before trying to blame atheism for what some stupid half-wit who doesn’t know skepticism from demons does?

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