Seattle Times Prints Bigoted Guest Column Blaming Mass Shootings on Atheism

In recent years I’ve heard complaints from credible representatives of credible advocacy groups—even elected officials—that they’ve had little luck getting a guest column into the Seattle Times on important issues of the day. Union leaders and educators particularly feel shut out.

It wasn’t always this way. Back before the demise of the P-I, under Jim Vesely’s rule, the editorial page used to at least make an effort to give equal space to opposing views, even those they strongly disagreed with. But current editorial page editor Kate Riley makes little more than a token show of it. Instead, what progressive community leaders usually hear back is sorry, space is tight, there’s a lot of demand, and so the editors have to be very, very selective.

Okay. Maybe. But then how do they explain making room for this rambling guest column blaming our epidemic of mass shootings on the growing scourge of atheism?

Regardless of where our country went wrong, we now have a problem. Many Americans do not believe in an afterlife and divine judgment. Thus, homicide is attractive for revenge and the expression of emotional pain, and suicide is attractive for escape.

First of all, I don’t have the data at my fingertips, but I’m pretty confident that access to rational empiricism is much less strongly correlated with homicide and suicide than access to, you know, a gun. Further, the writer’s whole premise is unsupported by the facts. According to the religion and spirituality website Patheos, most US mass murderers are Christian (though in fact, the most overwhelming common denominator is that they are male). And then there’s the whole thorny history of our species routinely torturing and slaughtering each other in the name of one True God or another. But to be clear, it’s the gun that makes acting on murderous impulses so damn easy and efficient.

And second of all, could you be more bigoted and offensive?

Really. Had she written that “many Americans do not believe in Jesus Christ as their savior,” or had she pointed the finger at Judaism or Islam as belief systems that make homicide “attractive for revenge and the expression of emotional pain” (see, Gaza), the editors would have dismissed her column as the intolerant ramblings of an unrepentant bigot. But paint atheism as the “problem”—and by association, the millions of non-believing Americans like me who identify ourselves as such—well that’s the sort of important civil discourse deserving of rare column inches on the Seattle Times op/ed page! Apparently, non-belief is the only belief system that’s a permissible target of religious hate speech in our state’s paper of record.

I mean, fuck! The same op/ed page that blasts Gilbert and Sullivan as racism beyond the pale of a polite and inclusive society, gives voice to a religious bigot smearing nonbelievers with secular blood libel? It makes me so angry I could shoot somebody!

But I won’t. Because it would be wrong. And not because the Bible forbids it, or because I fear divine retribution in this life or the next, but because I was raised to be in touch with my own empathy and altruism, two traits that are as intrinsic to human nature as violence and revenge. As Rabbi Hillel famously said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.” But one does not need to actually believe in the supernatural window-dressing of the Golden Rule to embrace it as the indispensable glue of a just and functional society.

Nevertheless, if like this author (and apparently, the editorial page editor of the Seattle Times), you are a self-satisfied narrow-minded religious bigot who insists that there can be no morality without God, have no fear: I won’t shoot you. Because I have no gun. And thus I have no means of acting upon the homicidal culture of revenge with which you impugn those of us who merely reject the notion of the supernatural. Something to think about if you’re truly interested in protecting your fellow man from senseless violence.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “most US mass murderers are Christian”

    The fallacy of this argument is most Christians aren’t Christian, they only pretend to be, and then only 1 hour a week on Sundays. I mean, look, people who believe in Christian values and put Christian principles into practice don’t go around shooting strangers, know what I mean? Christianity would be a decent religion if so many Christians didn’t give it such a bad name.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Why do we actually care what the Seattle Times prints on its editorial page? Nobody is paying attention. They clearly don’t influence elections. (See, e.g., the Democrat in the governor’s mansion, and the socialist on the city council.) This community long ago pushed the “ignore” button. Most people buy newspapers to get grocery coupons and wrap garbage in. Fish bones don’t care what Frank Blethen or Kate Riley think.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I’m not an atheist! The Great Mother Rabbit Spirit sent me here to educate you stupid humans that rabbits are a superior species possessed of superior wisdom. The problem is, many of you are uneducable. See, e.g., Puddy, and Republicans in general. I don’t know what to do about that. All I can think of is, wait for you to blow each other away, then take over your niche. That works for me.

  4. 4

    ArtFart spews:

    Er…..what about that incident 13 years ago? You know, the one with airplanes being hijacked and flown into buildings? That was done by some really pious men, each of whom fervently believed in an afterlife, populated by himself and 37 virgins.

  5. 5

    Mirror spews:

    @1 So, Rabbit, tell us, whose current interpretation of the scriptures is the One True Faith and all others a betrayal of Christ?

  6. 6

    Theophrastus spews:

    @1 …hellsbells, if they commit some heinous crime then they a-priori, (ok, at least a-posteriori), aren’t a Christian, correct? no (proper) Christian commits a foul crime! (cf here) Given this tautology about 2% of Christian priests aren’t Christian.

  7. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 You can read the King’s English, can’t you? The King James Version is close enough. Other versions work fine, too. Read a Swahili translation, for all I care! They all say the same things.

  8. 8

    headless lucy spews:

    Timothy McVeigh claimed to be a Christian. Need I say more?

    I think that there would be space for this in the ST.

  9. 9

    Jack spews:

    I recommend Wicca as a spiritual path. Beats the hell out all that Christian guilt and atrocities.

    And the pompous “we’re the true religion” crap.

  10. 12

    tensor spews:

    If only the Crusaders and Conquistadors had “believe[d] in an afterlife and divine judgment,” all those wars and slaughters, and centuries of resultant misery, could have been avoided! (Of course, as we’ve seen up thread, No True Scotsman would call them Christians, so there.)

  11. 13

    sally spews:

    By the author’s logic, the Catholic perpetrators of the Inquisition — mass murderers all — must have been secret atheists.

  12. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @13 I would argue there’s a pretty good chance they were. In those days, religious wars and inquisitions and sectarian repressions were all about power, and the people wielding power obviously weren’t very concerned about being judged in a next life, so it’s logical they didn’t believe there is one.

  13. 15

    sally spews:

    @14, it is more likely they weren’t secret atheists, and you must know I was being sarcastic.

    The Inquisition was run by religious fundamentalists. They were not driven by the thirst for power. The people they murdered had no power and thus could not convey it to their killers.

  14. 16

    tensor spews:

    “By the author’s logic, the Catholic perpetrators of the Inquisition — mass murderers all — must have been secret atheists.”

    No one expected that! 8-)

    “@5 You can read the King’s English, can’t you? The King James Version is close enough. Other versions work fine, too. Read a Swahili translation, for all I care! They all say the same things.”

    If King James’ English and Swahili were good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for you!

  15. 17


    I don’t understand why the Seattle P-I didn’t continue publishing their fine editorial page. That would have continued a valuable venue for intelligent, sane commentary.

  16. 19

    Puddybud - The One The Only spews:

    Maybe some claimed to be Christian but this latest batch are atheists. That’s very scary to the large troop of atheists who lead this blog and the slobbering following that write their idiotic Christian-hating comments in each thread!

    Butt it is sad guns don’t kill people… crazy idiots full of hatred and envy do! There is a Newtown massacre each weekend in Chicago! Nuthin much said about that on HA DUMMOCRETINS each week!

    Elliot Rodger well he was liberalism personified. He was owed something from society. When the national DUMMOCRETINS especially on PMSNBC expounds (throws up) up their class warfare horse manure; blaming straight people, blaming white people for the inner city ills (well white DUMMOCRETINS for sure), blaming white people for all their ills, blaming rich Wall Street people, blaming neocons, blaming drugs (wait a minute… hmmm…?) blaming men, blaming “five white guys” on SCOTUS for the Holly Lobby decision they are doing the exact same thing as Elliot Rodger did. Exactly what we see here on HA DUMMOCRETINS, especially from OWS Racist Fraggy, clueless crazed cretin, headless lucy and other freakazoids! In Elliot’s case he was owed sex. He was upset he didn’t get laid.
    Jared Loughber was a satanist… His atheist shrine was pictured all over the place.
    Seung-Hui Cho railed against his parents Christianity in his suicide note.
    James Holmes – online dating profile claimed to be agnostic. The theater was a “gun free zone”, so no legal CCW permit holders were able to intervene.Wait a minute… James Holmes didn’t read the signs? Sad isn’t it?
    Adam Lanza said “I am atheist and **** God!!” on his Facebook page. But violent video games had nothing to do with Adam Lanza right HA DUMMOCRETINS?

    So maybe the writer was referring to the latest batch of freakazoids. Didn’t Hitler only use Catholicism to get to power and then claim to be an atheist later?
    Puddy does think this is very telling about those who don’t believe in God…

    This illustration of religious belief in action, of faith expressed in extremis, an example at once so heart-rending and so affirming, has left behind one prickly question: Where were the humanists? At a time when the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation is growing rapidly, why did the “nones,” as they are colloquially known, seem so absent?

    To raise these queries is not to play gotcha, or to be judgmental in a dire time. In fact, some leaders within the humanist movement — an umbrella term for those who call themselves atheists, agnostics, secularists and freethinkers, among other terms — are ruefully and self-critically saying the same thing themselves.

    “It is a failure of community, and that’s where the answer for the future has to lie,” said Greg M. Epstein, 35, the humanist chaplain at Harvard and author of the book “Good Without God.” “What religion has to offer to people at moments like this — more than theology, more than divine presence — is community. And we need to provide an alternative form of community if we’re going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers.”

    Puddy been saying this for years… HA DUMMOCRETINS have no sympathy or compassion for any loss of human life. Witness the lack of sympathy or compassion comments on MH17! Witness the lack of sympathy or compassion comments on PMSNBC. Did you find any commentary on the Friday Night Comix?

    Nuff Said Suckas!

  17. 21

    Puddybud - The One The Only spews:

    Every time rujaxoffallthetime appears, rujaxoffallthetime proves Puddy has won the argument. Has rujaxoffallthetime demonstrated any compassion to the dead passengers of MH17? NOPE cuz he’s a DOPE!

    FACTS really scares rujaxoffallthetime!

  18. 23

    Puddybud - The One The Only spews:

    Now the direct ad hominem attack from rujaxoffallthetime! As Puddy wrote above Puddy wins the argument every time rujaxoffallthetime appears!

    And still no demonstration of compassion!

  19. 25

    Lack Thereof spews:

    Statistically, as a percentage of prisoners compared to percentage of the population as a whole, athiests are extremely underrepresented in the US prison system.

    Either we are less likely to commit violent crimes than religious folk, or we’re less likely to get caught.

    I think less likely to commit, because we have to take responsibility for our own decisions and actions, rather than being able to leave responsibility for our decisions to an imaginary friend.

  20. 26

    sally spews:

    @25, that underrepresentation is likely due to the fact that prisoners learn that “finding God” is effective in getting them attention from outside visitors and less difficulty with prison personnel.

  21. 27

    tensor spews:

    “Thus, homicide is attractive for revenge and the expression of emotional pain, and suicide is attractive for escape.”

    Quite an ignorance of the topic this author shows! Early Christian leaders made suicide a mortal sin *because* followers were killing themselves. The logic for suicide was unassailable: Christianity, as organized by Jesus, was a religion of the poor and dispossessed, of slaves. Roman-dominated society held little hope for these people to improve their lot in life, so they jumped at the chance for the promised paradise in the next life.

    It’s a person who does *not* believe in an after-life who will work to improve his or her lot in this life. Obviously, suicide (or a conviction for murder) won’t help in that effort.

    Not only was this column bigoted, it was ignorant and illogical. How it furthers our civic dialog about our problem of massacres is unclear.