Scapegoating After Colorado Shooting
Ed Brayton printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 01:30:09 AM EST
Barry Arrington, an attorney who writes at William Dembski's intelligent design blog has this post where he speculates that the nut who shot up a couple churches in Colorado the other day was incited by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and other prominent atheists who prompt people to hate Christians. He quotes a statement from Murray talking about how much he wanted to kill his victims and then says:

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.

Love that copout at the end. Reminds me of Paul Reiser's routine about how the phrase "I'm just saying" cancels out anything you said prior to that. He's not saying it's true, of course, he's just implying it. He's just sayin'. You know. But when challenged on it, he certainly tries to defend the claim:

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.

Let's forget for the moment that the shooter, Matthew Murray, was actually a member of the missionary group he attacked and was thrown out of the group, obviously suggesting that his hatred of them was personal. Let's forget for the moment that Arrington doesn't offer even the tiniest shred of evidence that Murray had ever read anything by Dawkins and Dennett. Let's just focus on one tiny little thing he seems to have forgotten:

Is Arrington really unaware that the very movement he is a part of has a long history of blaming all the world's problems on the very people he is accusing of blaming all the world's problems on him? Has he never read the innumerable diatribes from his fellow ID advocates blaming "Darwinists" for racism, Nazism and communism, abortion and every other bad thing in the world?

Is he unaware that hatred and distrust of atheists is far more common in our culture than virtually any other group? Is he ignorant of the fact that one inevitable result of being a plaintiff in an establishment clause case is that one is immediately accused of being an atheist - the worst thing such people can conceive of - and subject to harassment and death threats?

So deep is hatred of atheists in some circles that even Christians who advocate a strict separation between church and state - and this has happened to dozens of such people who have taken an unpopular stand in a church/state lawsuit, including the Christian plaintiffs in the Dover case -  are tarred with that label and subjected to threats and harassment.

And all of this is encouraged by fundamentalist preachers who blame such people for destroying the country and even of bringing down God's wrath upon us all by advocating sin and denying him. Now let's take this statement from Arrington:

Hitchens calls religion a "poison."  Isn't it axiomatic that poison is bad and should be eradicated?

And reword it a bit:

Jerry Falwell says that liberals, gays, abortionists and the ACLU cause God to withdraw his protection from the US and thus allowed the terrorists to destroy the WTC. Isn't it axiomatic that those responsible for invoking the wrath of God on our nation must be eradicated?

One could go on all day long with similar examples. Are those fundie preachers and religious right leaders who blame gays for wanting to "destroy marriage" and destroy the nation itself responsible when a gay person is attacked? To borrow Arrington's phrase, can we blame the religious right for "contributing to an intellectual climate that condones animosity toward gays"?

Of course we can. But remember, you can name the prominent atheists who write influential books on one hand, two at the most. Compare that to thousands and thousands of fundamentalist preachers teaching their congregations to hate. Compare that to a gaggle of radio talk show hosts ranting angrily at gays, atheists, liberals, the ACLU and anyone else they disapprove of. Do you really wanna go down this road, Barry? I don't think you do.

This whole situation is very grievous, and Murrey is as much a victim as anyone else.

Yes, he was a member of "Youth with a Mission", and yes, he was thrown out.  He is what is known as a "Throwaway"- even as those of us who left dominionist churches (under our own power) because of abuse are known as walkouts or walkaways.  I strongly suggest that you read some of dogemperor's and my posts about this aspect of dominionism- and realize that our experiences ARE VERY COMMON.  I'm active in the walkout community, and some of the "tales" I've heard are horrific!!!  (They also ring true to anyone who is a walkout, because the experiences are often common!)

Some points to consider:
(1) churches and groups like that have a history and reputation of treating any form of illness as "demon possession" and generally consider psychiatric help to be "of the world"- so it's frowned on.  There is some evidence that Murrey was showing signs of mental illness before; possibly it was why he was thrown away.  I do know from my own experiences that if a "slap on the head" doesn't "cure" you, you are blamed (you're supposedly holding on to the "demon" and inviting it into your heart- pure bullsh*t!!!)  This ideology holds fast, whether the problem is mental, emotional, spiritual, or PHYSICAL.
(2)"Youth with a Mission" is considered to be one of the more abusive "Coercive Bible-based groups", and from what I read, almost as bad as the defunct Maranatha Ministries (which got me involved in the Assemblies of God CULT many years ago).  You should read about the sort of mental/emotional/spiritual damage such a CULT does to the people in it.  Maranatha, by the way, was thrown off of multiple college/university campuses for brainwashing and other coercive behaviors!!!
(3) Murrey had been homeschooled- and the evidence it was in the fundamentalist homeschooling system.  That "system" has a reputation of reinforcing the very things you mentioned that are true about dominionism.  Dominionists often deliberately isolate people ("staying away from the world") and that only amplifies problems.
(4)People tried to reach out to him, but weren't successful.
(5)As bad of a time as walkouts have, throwaways have a much harder time of it.

One final point- there are branches of dominionism that are especially violent- the "Joel's army" flavor (and there are indications that Matthew may have been involved in that "flavor" of dominionism).  In many of their views, JUST BECAUSE  I AM A WALKOUT, I am condemned to death.  They DO advocate the old-testament penalty for apostasy, and walkouts are automatically considered apostates.

So Matthew Murrey may have already had "training" in violence long before he started- by the very group that his victims came from.

Obviously, the things that had been done (and taught) to him drove him insane.  The really unfortunate thing is that his insanity took a violent turn, and he killed people who were probably brainwashed themselves.  It is not unusual at all for walkouts and throwaways to have severe mental/emotional issues based upon what was done to them.  It is well documented that some of the things that the more "wacky" dominionist churches do ACTUALLY DRIVE PEOPLE INSANE (see dogemperor's posts about that).  

You can also look up one of my older posts if you want to get a small taste of some of the sorts of things that these people do.  They're not just a political threat (which is generally recognized here), but actually a danger to the members themselves!!!

I'm grieving about the whole situation- not just for the people that he killed, but for him as well.  

I'd like to quote something from one of my favorite books "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibron: "What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?"

Or to paraphrase it in modern vernacular:  How do you judge a person who murders, yet whose own soul has been murdered?

The whole situation is grievous and we all should mourn not only for the people whom he killed, but also for him.

The whole walkout community is grieving right now- for the WHOLE situation.  We reject violence- after all, that is often what is part of what is taught by the groups that harmed us.  Every walkout I know wishes someone had "caught" Matthew before he went off the deep end and put him on a better, HEALING path.  Violence is not part of healing process, as anyone should realize (and we all KNOW).

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 11:21:54 AM EST

Fundamentalist religions are a breeding ground for mental illness, particularly as the adherents aren't very good at recognizing it for what it is (calling it "demonic possession" too often), and when they do identify mental illness, they are prone to using unqualified lay counsellors.

What I find appalling is that the father of this young man was an M.D., a neurologist, and should be more aware of mental illness than most M.D.s. Also, perfectly conscious of what constitutes quality mental health care.

by NancyP on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 01:03:01 PM EST

They are worse than useless- the general trend of the couple I talked with was to blame the victim- you know- "have to take responsibility for what happens to you!" and "you can't blame the church- you're blaming God!"

Even though I've been away from the Assemblies of God for over 25 years now, they (and their "moles") are still a major problem.  Some of the "lay counselors" in the church we left a couple of years ago were "ex-AoG" (now identified as moles).  I've mentioned part of the stuff they tried to lay on me- and do you want to talk about a supposed professional pitching a screaming fit when I mentioned the Assemblies and tried to talk about the harm they caused (which I've recognized since I walked but didn't understand until lately)?

I've also had other "Counselors" in the denomination in which I no longer feel welcome suggest that I attend AoG "deliverance ministry" services.  I wasn't utilizing their "services", but they DID have to butt in on my personal business.   Yep- all people from the local AoG megachurch!   (By the way- it seems that they knew some of what I'd been trying to deal with through the services of one of those "unqualified Lay Counselors"- violation of confidentiality anyone?)

And the ones that "work" for the Assemblies? "Exorcism" anyone???  Or as I also experienced- being told "God" wanted me to give up everything I enjoyed, and that "God had specific plans for my life"- which by the way would have made my existence hell on earth!  They only reinforced what the preacher had been saying to me- which was the reason I saw them in the first place!!!

Connecting with the walkout community in the last couple of years has done more to bring spiritual/emotional/mental healing than all of the so-called counselors I've ever met (even the licensed ones!)   And, one of the big things that has helped me the most was realizing that I am NOT responsible for the hell they put me through, and that the mental/emotional problems I've been trying to fix on my own (with the only real help from my "other half") were directly because I'd been a member of a cult!!!

Considering just how bad the ones I've encountered were- if Matthew Murray  (Murrey?) went to them instead of someone that could have really helped him- is it any wonder he went insane?

Oh... and one more point.  Until the "licensed and trained" REAL counselors come to realize that some of the big-name "denominations" and churches are really CULTS, and start dealing with that fact (and I'd suggest getting exit counseling training)- they aren't going to be much better!

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 02:22:09 PM EST

by Meteor Blades on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 02:22:15 AM EST

Last night on the 700 Club, Pat Robertson actually turned this into a Second Amendment issue!  Like all the others, he placed the blame on the secularists and omitted that Murray was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and Christian homeschooled, but then he started going on and on about how the security guard at the church was a heroine for shooting the guy, and that this just goes to show why everybody should have guns.  It was pretty bizarre, but, then again, it was Pat Robertson.

by Chris Rodda on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 06:04:37 PM EST
On another site I belong to, one of the "good ole boys" actually said that it was "antiChristian" liberals that wanted to talk about gun control in the wake of the newest spate of shootings. He truly believes that guns are part of "God's plan". (Rolls eyes.) Any number of people on that site are blaming Rosie O'Donnel, Richard Dawkins, and liberal atheists in general for creating increased persecution of Christians. Mind you, their definition of "Christian" is an extreme Christian Nationalist. Scary. Very scary.

by phatkhat on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 07:49:57 PM EST
I am very much a liberal- and I can (and do) have arguments against gun control that call upon some of the issues I'm passionate about.

It drives the conservatives crazy- they don't like Native American rights (much less any other "race" issues) getting mixed up with their "things".  I've even had one advocate gun control for us, but not for them.  It's a bit scary- considering that was the case until not that long ago.

I also can give a more devastating argument against communism than I've EVER heard from the right.

At the same time, a "free market" capitalist would not like what I have to say about that either.

At the same time, some of the most compassionate, devoted Christians I've ever met were very liberal.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 10:30:56 PM EST

Sorry for not editing or reading my posts adequately!!!

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 10:32:20 PM EST

with us today...
I can just hear him: "I did it! Me and my family! We talked Murray into it!..."
Which would make just as much sense as blaming Dawkins or the secular media.

by nogodsnomasters on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 11:25:29 AM EST

According to Arrington, "Hitchens calls religion a "poison."  Isn't it axiomatic that poison is bad and should be eradicated?"

But, it is the eradication of the "poison" that is being advocated, not the eradication of the poisoned.

"Jerry Falwell says that liberals, gays, abortionists and the ACLU cause God to withdraw his protection from the US and thus allowed the terrorists to destroy the WTC. Isn't it axiomatic that those responsible for invoking the wrath of God on our nation must be eradicated?"

Isn't it telling that Falwell and his ilk tell us that "those responsible ... must be eradicated".

The rationalists and atheists would eradicate the diseased thinking (perhaps through better education), yet the religious want to eradicate people.  It's the obsessively religious who blow up health care facilities to make sure no woman can get a safe abortion.  It's this "believe as I tell you to believe or I'll kill you" approach that has been the hallmark of religion since the beginning of recorded history.

by PatrickH on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 04:18:42 PM EST

I am weary of having to enforce this rule so be on notice that my patience has worn thin.

Religion bashing is not only off topic but a bannable offense on this site. (So, for that matter lest anyone get confused, is atheist and/or secular bashing. And yeah for those just tuning in, our record has been quite consistent in that regard.)

It's this "believe as I tell you to believe or I'll kill you" approach that has been the hallmark of religion since the beginning of recorded history.

The terms of service and the site guidelines really couldn't be clearer. When you signed up for the site you checked off a box to show that you had read, understood, agreed with and agreed to abide by them. Please abide by your agreement.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Dec 12, 2007 at 04:56:38 PM EST

sorry, I am html-challenged, please copy and paste.

Apparently, some listserv posts have been retrieved in which Murray stated he was bisexual.

Now waiting for the sh*tstorm of right-wingers saying that naturally Murray went off the deep end, he was unstable because he was gay.

And the sh*tstorm of LGBTA activists pointing out that naturally the ostracism drove Murray crazy-homicidal-suicidal.

by NancyP on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 09:49:27 PM EST

A couple of days ago, I stumblied across a site that had transcripts of Matthews' postings on a blog site. I wish I had saved it as I have not been able to find it again.  In it, he describes his home life and his realization of the hypocracy of the "do as I say, not as I do" world he lived in.  Home schooled, he was unable to socialize and was an outsider at his school.  For this he blamed his home schooling and earlier life under strict christian control.
He did reach out, in his blogs and other groups for help.  He didn't succeed.  The voices in his head, indicative of perhaps schizophrenia, were passed off as of heavenly/supernatural origin. He reached a breaking point and became violent and struck out at what he felt was the root cause of his condition.  Unfortunately, others died.  It would follow then that perhaps the greatest sinner is the one most sinned against.

by Concerned on Sat Dec 22, 2007 at 02:53:11 PM EST

I've now found the site for Matthew's posts:
Very sad.

by Concerned on Sat Dec 22, 2007 at 05:21:36 PM EST

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