virus: Students saw signs of trouble in gunmen <- Really short for once :-)

TheHermit (
Thu, 22 Apr 1999 17:44:25 -0500

re your story "Students saw signs of trouble in gunmen" by Valerie Richardson ( )

It opens with "In retrospect, it seems like a recipe for disaster: a pair of high-school atheistic outcasts consumed with hatred for popular athletes and obsessed with death, Adolf Hitler, war and weapons.... and follows with "They were Gothic -- they didn't believe in God, they believed in the devil and what Adolf Hitler did".

It is not valid to put these two issues together like this. An atheist does not "believe" in things, and certainly not "the devil" an invention of the early church.

Atheism has nothing to do with hatred. Given that atheism simply means without belief in gods it is difficult to see what purpose your linkage had to do with anything. There are smart atheists and stupid atheists, loving atheists and hating atheists, sensible atheists and confused atheists. Just as there among people who believe in gods, nature or spirits. Despite the projections of the Religious Right, who would no doubt subscribe to President Bush's statement "No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." "A" + "theism" says nothing about citizenship or about patriotism. Perhaps President Bush and your author both failed to realize that Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the other eminent political philosophers who wrote the American constitution and amendments would have been mortified by this attempted division of the nation on religious lines. They were aware of just how dangerous such sentiments are. As another great thinker [Israel Zangwill] put it "The Jews are a frightened people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have broken down their nerves."

Your reporting of childish prejudice as newsworthy statements clearly attempts to link "atheistic" with "hatred". Did you write "a pair of high-school Baptist outcasts consumed with hatred" of Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, when those youthful murderers in the Jonesboro shootings were arrested? The front-page position of this article can only serve to further confuse people and stir up passions and distrust of atheism. "What the mind doesn't understand, it worships or fears." [Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar]

Mind you, your entire article appears to be based on stirring up stereotypes in an orgy of confusion. Was "the youth spent "a lot of time on the Internet playing war games like 'Duke Nuke 'Em' and 'Doom.'"" informative? Many thousands of people (not all of them children) spend hours playing "war games" without feeling the need to assault anybody. Then too, "some members of the group claimed to be bisexual. "Boys would hold hands in the halls sometimes," he said" indicates a certain prurient fear of homosexuals and bisexuals. All that this kind of report indicates is that the school system is not doing a very good job of teaching children not to divide the world into "us" and "them" and that children are just as prejudiced and filled with damaging stereotypical imagery as some adults. Perhaps some lessons on what an atheist is would help these children. It certainly would not harm your reporter.

How would you report an assault (motivated by centuries of examples) by a group of "Christian" children perpetuated on atheists or homosexuals? How would you report on the idea that "violent games" should be banned? Would you accept for a moment a suggestion that breathing air should be banned? After all, all of the perpetuators of "school violence" breathe air.