Did the Oregon Shooter Actually Target Christians? It Doesn’t Appear So

[Excerpts from my article published at the Friendly Atheist. ]

It’s a rallying moment for American Christians angered by the growing voices of the nation’s non-religious, however small a minority we remain.

Christian communities online are feverishly crying, “Now do you believe we’re persecuted?” Political, cultural, and religious leaders are calling on Christians to rise up against their non-religious persecutors, accusing us of fostering violence, and demanding we take responsibility.

That fever is rising with each news report about the massacre of nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

(Images via YouTube)

All of those stories seem to report a variation on the line “Christians were targeted.” A Washington Post headline read “Oregon shooter said to have singled out Christians for killing in ‘horrific act of cowardice.’” NBC reported: “The gunman who opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College targeted Christians specifically, according to the father of a wounded student.”

Though some outlets like the New York Times noted that that “Law enforcement officials would not confirm or deny” that Christians were targeted, that “fact” has already become conventional wisdom.

Support for that idea, however, is limited, as Lauren showed in an earlier post on this site. Most people making that claim point to the shooter’s membership in a Facebook group called “Against Organized Religion,” his self-characterization as “spiritual but not religious,” and two secondhand accounts from relatives of survivors.

Hemant posted another survivor’s report that contradicts those earlier accounts, providing a more detailed and very different interpretation of the shooter’s questions:

McGowan told family members that the gunman didn’t specifically target Christians but asked them about faith. The shooter, apparently planning to die during the massacre, told students: “I’ll see you soon” or “I’ll meet you soon.”

“The shooter would call a person: ‘You, stand up,’” Salas said, recalling what her son told her. “And then he would ask them if they were a Christian, knew God, or had religion. And it wasn’t like it was stated on TV. It wasn’t about that he was just trying to pinpoint Christians, no.”

The shooter would tell them it wouldn’t hurt.

“And then he would shoot them,” she said.

Of course, there is a way we could check if this claim that the shooter was targeting Christians has any merit: Let’s examine the victims’ beliefs as best we can and find out if they fit that description.

It’s not just for the sake of curiosity. One could argue that painting them all as Christian martyrs would be disrespectful if they weren’t actually Christian. For most of them, we don’t know their religious beliefs for certain. All we can look at is their social media presence and comments from loved ones.

Similarly, should we assume that those who were spared or only injured were either non-Christian or insufficiently courageous to admit their Christianity?

People are making a lot of assumptions without looking at the evidence.

So let’s try to do that.

First, let me say this is the hardest post I’ve ever written. Studying the words and photos of these lovely people made the magnitude of our loss simply unfathomable.

The bottom line? Only two of the nine victims are confirmed to be Christians. While some of the other seven may be Christians, there’s currently no publicly available evidence for it. And several others seem to hold beliefs other than Christianity.

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The Fringe Conspiracy Theory We’re Asked to Respect (A Parable)

You’ve probably heard of the small conspiracy theory group that’s dedicated to spreading the news of an unimaginably elaborate hoax — supposedly the largest conspiracy ever perpetuated on humanity. The group, known as Electricists, claims that electricity is an invention of the government that doesn’t occur in nature and isn’t what “they” tell us.

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A Most Unsettling Trend: Christians Rejoicing in ISIS

by Bo Gardiner

[To read my entire post, go to The Friendly Atheist.]

Charisma News is praising a video in which families of murdered Egyptian Christian Copts thank ISIS for making martyrs of their loved ones. In it, a smiling man named Beshir who just lost two brothers to ISIS chats with an audience and callers:

Beshir: ISIS gave us more than we asked… ISIS strengthened our faith… I thank ISIS because they didn’t cut the audio when they screamed declaring their faith. Believe me when I tell you that the people here are happy and congratulating one another. They are not in a state of grief but congratulating one another for having so many from our village die as martyrs.

Caller: Today I was having a chat with my mother asking her what she would do if she an ISIS member on the street… She said she would invite him home because he helped us enter the kingdom of heaven.

Beshir: How beautiful!

Caller: I asked her what will you do if you see those ISIS members passing on the street and I told you ‘That’s the man who slayed your son.’ She said “I will ask for God to open his eyes and ask him into our house because he helped us enter the kingdom of God!

Meanwhile in the U.S., Franklin Graham, son of iconic evangelist Billy Graham, is finding a massive response among American Christians with the announcement that ISIS has triggered biblical Armageddon and the triumph of Christianity. One of his Facebook posts on the matter has already received nearly 150,000 likes and over 40,000 shares:

The evil of ISIS really shouldn’t shock us — it is fully in keeping with their ultimate agenda of hastening a final apocalypse. God’s Word tells us that there will be a final battle one day, but it will result in the defeat of Satan and all those allied with him. One thing is for sure — one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Franklin’s statement reverberated throughout Christian media. Thousands of ecstatic replies on Graham’s Facebook page reveal that many Christians are thrilled by the drama brought by ISIS…

[To read the rest, go to The Friendly Atheist, A Most Unsettling Trend: Christians Rejoicing in ISIS.]

Atheist Group Wins Dispute with Sign Company, Gets Alabama Billboards Resurrected, Confirms Removal Was to Appease Christians

 Mobile-billboard.pngTwo weeks ago we learned that the Gulf Coast United Coalition of Reason (CoR) had its Mobile billboards taken down by Lamar Advertising:

The CoR was told Lamar had received a large amount of complaints about the billboard and that he questioned the motivation to take the billboard down… “They just want to start a fight,” [Lamar VP Troy Tatum] said.

Today the good news is that the group won that fight, and successfully persuaded Lamar to put the signs back up.  The news story at AL.com rather downplays the disagreement, noticeably omitting any mention of complaints about the billboard’s message:

“Don’t believe in a God? You’re not alone,” and “Good without God? So are we” read the billboards re-erected in Mobile, Pensacola and Pascagoula after a contract dispute.  The original billboards went up in early Jan. but Mobile’s was yanked down two weeks later.

But the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR), who provided the funding for the signs, explains what really happened: Continue reading

Hundreds of Christians flood Ken Ham’s Facebook page to respond to the most innocuous atheist billboard ever

A few days ago California news interviewed residents wanting this “controversial” United Coalition of Reason billboard taken down. Next, in Mobile, Alabama, Christians did succeed in getting the identical billboard removed.  Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has posted it on his Facebook page for comment, and he certainly got them.

For your scannng pleasure, I’ve handily selected and categorized some, including the Weepers, the Stone-Throwers, the Persecuted, and the Gloaters… Continue reading

Only Looks Like Parody: Conservatives Warn of Atheist Evolutionists’ “Intercourse with Demons”

renew americaI know just what your day needs: an amusing Christian apocalyptic rant against atheists, science, environmentalists, evolution, and “perverse sex.”  Am I right?   I shall deliver just this unto you, courtesy of RenewAmerica, the patriotic website of Alan Keyes, chronic presidential and GOP senate candidate and former Reagan U.S. appointee.

Linda Kimball

Today’s charming piece, “Evolution: anti-creation religion of secular atheism & the Green Dragon, is guaranteed to scare the bejeebus out of any righteous soul.   The bellringer of doom is Linda Kimball, member of the wittily named groups “Grassfire, New Media Alliance, and MoveOff.”  This piece would be a perfect test of Poe’s Law; compare it with posts from the delicious satire site HardDawn.com, like “Are Militant Atheists Using Chemtrails to Poison Angels?” or “Lesbian Wing of the Illuminati Seizes Control of the NFL,” which take aim at just this sort of grandiose, paranoid, Christian ultra-right fearmongering.

Kimball’s been writing for Keyes’ website for years – an easy job, since it’s just one creepy, wild-eyed article posted over and over again:

  • Margaret Sangers’ evil “evolutionary gospel” of redemption and salvation
  • Rise of the Global Church of Lucifer
  • Nihilism and Satanic inversion: godless America’s ‘new’ reality of non-self and madness
  • Why Mormonism will surrender to homosexuality
  • In a world without God, fixed meaning, higher purpose and accountability, why not lie, cheat, wed ‘gay’ couples, plunder and kill?
  • Falling stars, damnable heresy and the spirit of evolution
  • Rev. 18:3: evolution…primordial heresy as the science of becoming God
  • Progressive liberalism’s obscene obsession with sex: its sinister purposes
  • Darwinism: devilish Gnostic myth dressed up as science

As if we haven’t gotten the point already, her latest dire rant opens with this warning by a 19th century English theologian: Continue reading

Christians Rush to Exploit Robin Williams’ Death

While media are reporting extremist Muslim tweets that say Robin Williams is in hell, (Buzzfeed: Jihadis Are Tweeting That They Hate Robin Williams), the Internet is rapidly filling with Christian columnists, bloggers and forums either condemning Robin or exploiting his death to advance religion:

Allen West, former U.S. Rep.:  The lesson we must learn from the passing of Robin Williams

… all the awards … mean nothing if God’s peace does not fill one’s life… “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” … that is what God touched me to understand in the death of Robin Williams — and He wanted me to share with you. After all, we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us. I pray that Robin came to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in those final moments… Continue reading