Jared Lee Loughner, suspected shooter at a Tucson, Arizona Safeway store that killed at least 6 people and injured another 14 on January 8, 2011, is an atheist. Does this prove atheism leads to mental illness? Does this prove atheism inspires murder and/or violent acts? Atheists will be no doubt be quick to say, perhaps even scream, that it does not; there are atheists who may even become angry or enraged over the very suggestion or question.
Think back, however, to April of 2009 when self professed Christian Youtub user Anthony Powell murdered Asia McGowan, a girl with whom he was obsessed, before taking his own life on the campus of Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan. Many of you may not remember or even know of this incident as it received minimal coverage in the mainstream media. It was, however, a sensation among atheists on the web. If you are unfamiliar with this tragedy, search for it on Google and/or Youtube. Many atheists to this day exploit this tragedy to rage against religion. These individuals are quick to not only point out Powell’s Christianity but also fallaciously assert that this proves religion if it does not cause mental illness certainly nurtures it by, among other things, encouraging people to stay clear from professional, medical treatment of such illness. These are just some examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Many have also found it appropriate to blame Youtuber VenomFangX for the murder-suicide because Powell was a fan of his. Some have blamed VenomFangX more directly while others take the indirect route, implying a connection.
Many atheists are quick to point the finger at religion, or some particular religion, for allowing and/or encouraging the crimes or violent behavior of a person who happens to hold religious views. These atheists cannot provide any substantive evidence or logical reason for such a conclusion, which, it seems, is merely the product of their irrational anti religion prejudice and hate. Thus, if we are to apply this same logic, perhaps atheism should be blamed for the crimes and violence committed by atheists. In Loughner we have an atheist whose Myspace and Youtube accounts paint a picture of a psychologically disturbed man vehemently and militantly against religion, God and the US government. Upon this hate, Loughner’s motivation and justification for his murder spree was founded. Though their precise philosophical foundations may have differed somewhat, we have seen many atheists just like Loughner in the past. Pekka-Eric Auvinen, Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Cho Seung-Hui, Matti Saari, and Russell Williams, to name a few.
Is it now fair and time to put the blame on atheism for encouraging and fomenting the thoughts and actions that lead atheists to engage in criminal and violent behavior in the same way atheists have blamed religion? After all, the common thread among these atheists is their atheism.