The Views And Potential Motivations Of Craig Hicks


Yet another school shooting has taken place earlier this week in The USA. How often can you keep labelling these events as ‘shocking’ before ‘routine’ seems more appropriate?

Reports suggest the killer quizzed his victims on their religious convictions before gunning down those identifying as Christians. The usual liberal regressive apologists have been out in force, finger-waving at ‘New Atheism’. And worse, sanctimonious atheists have been penning obnoxious ‘atheists, we need to talk’ type blogs. The fact is: We know very little about this shooting. We also know very little about this killer. All that these over-opinionated individuals are doing is blowing a trumpet in a concerto of uninformed noise.

There may well be many things to discuss with atheists, and non-atheists alike over this horrific mass murder – however, I think the gravity of the event deserves a more responsible approach. It is for this reason I shall wait until there has been an investigation before joining the orchestra.

Anyhow, inevitably, this story has renewed conversation and bluster over Craig Hicks, the gunman from Chapel Hill who murdered three innocent Muslims in cold blood back in February. This case is still being discussed as though there is no doubt as to the causal influence of his anti-religious, atheistic and specifically – anti-Muslim convictions.

Given the information we actually  have on The Chapel Hill murders I submit this position is completely unreasonable, and irresponsible. Due to the reignited discussion on Hicks, it seemed appropriate to adapt an older piece I blogged and re-post sections of it it here. Feel free to share this, and forward the link to your favourite apologists who continue to hold Hicks up as the poster boy for ‘Militant Atheism’. The research below is owed in no small part to the hard work of Michael Nugent from Atheist Ireland.

Craig Stephen Hicks And Chapel Hill

Craig Stephen Hicks was a self-professed atheist who gunned down three innocent Muslims in Chapel Hill in February 2015. This was widely reported as escalating from a parking dispute. Immediately following these horrific murders, many commentators were quick to appropriate blame to ‘New Atheism’, specifically to prominent public figures such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Of course, there is nothing in the works of these individuals that encourages or suggests that their readers should harm people. Unlike, say The Qur’an or Bible.

Now, is it beyond the realm of possibility that someone with rabid anti-religious convictions may also wish to harm people of faith? Of course not. In fact, I would accept that explanation in Hicks’s case, were the facts suggestive of it. But the simple truth is this: they are not. As I understand that not every crime committed by a Muslim must be due to their Islamic faith, others seem unable to grasp that not every crime committed by a nonbeliever is due to their atheism (new, old, middle-aged, whatever). Many have been quick to point to Craig Hicks’s online activity, specifically his atheistic viewpoints, as some sort of smoking gun.

Chairperson of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent has carried out some extensive research on Hicks’s online activity. Here and here Nugent combs the online postings of Hicks with almost detective–like diligence. Nugent’s findings include the following:

  • Hicks promoted religious freedom – saying the first amendment takes precedence over any ‘feelings’ Americans might have. He said: “Not that I care for religion, as I most definitely do not, but banning it would be taking away a persons rights and I oppose that.”
  • Hicks supported the rights of Muslims to build the controversial ground zero Mosque
  • Hicks claimed to know several dozen Muslims, stating ‘they are not what most people think’ and that he actually ‘prefers them to Christians’.
  • Hicks was of the opinion that extremists in the Islamic faith were not common.
  • Hicks said: “I don’t see how anyone who calls themselves American can claim that a Mosque shouldn’t be TWO BLOCKS AWAY from what is known as ground zero”
  • Nugent Notes: ‘He [Hicks] repeatedly expresses his belief that all human beings are equal regardless of race, sexuality, religion or other criteria, and he actively opposes racism’.
  • Hicks shared quotes from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Ulysses Grant, Epicurus, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Isaac Asimov, Susan B Antony, Albert Einstein, Voltaire, Barbara Walker, Rousseau, Daniel Radcliffe and Aldous Huxley – individuals which escaped the finger pointing, of course.
  • Hicks said “I don’t believe in Christianity at all, but I would never vandalize anything of theirs. Course neither would a Muslim, makes a person wonder which is more of a peaceful religion I believe!” Nugent notes: ‘The next day he posted a link to a news story about a suspicious fire that damaged construction equipment at the site of a future mosque in Tennessee. (2010)’

Although Hicks did post tame anti-religious memes and sentiments, at no point does he target Muslims with his rhetoric. In fact, he is notably favourable towards them.

However, Nugent does find significant reasons to bolster the official ‘parking dispute’ combined with gun love narrative when he notes:

‘He also posted on several online forums about his opposition to people breaking traffic laws, linked to a video of a trooper dealing with a motorist with an anger management problem, and liked eight different Facebook pages on the subject of being angry at people who drive in passing lanes.’

‘On Facebook he liked different eight pages on the subject of driving in passing lanes.

  • It’s called a PASSING LANE for a reason, get the F*ck out of my way!!!!
  • If people in the right lane are passing you, GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!
  • People who understand that the LEFT LANE IS FOR PASSING.
  • If you’re not passing traffic, GET THE #%@* OUT OF THE LEFT LANE!!!!
  • Get out of the left lane unless you are passing!!!
  • People who drive slow in the passing lane piss me off
  • I’m tailgating you because you are driving slow in the PASSING lane, dbag’.

‘Also on his Facebook page, he is strongly pro-American, frequently posting links to American flags and symbols, and his version of Americanism includes support for gun ownership and for strict separation of church and state. He has posted images of his wife shooting a gun on a firing range, and of his own gun in its holster, and has criticised people who blame murders on gun ownership’.

Also on his Facebook page, he has liked a link to the North Carolina Code, General Statutes § 20-174, prohibiting crossing at other than crosswalks and walking along highways. He has liked a Community Page called “If you’re not passing traffic, GET THE #%@* OUT OF THE LEFT LANE!!!!” In January he wrote that he had called the police when he saw a couple having sex in their vehicle in his parking lot‘.

Nugent notes his keen interest in guns:

    • He posted a picture of his wife shooting a gun at a firing range. And he shared a link to a news story about two convenience store clerks who were not to face criminal charges after being involved in the fatal shooting of a would-be robber. Hicks quoted from the article: “In Union County we have a no return policy on armed robbery,” and he added: “I like this guy!!” (2010)
    • He wrote: “I guess after the horrible tragedy early this week in Arizona, all Glock pistols will officially be labeled ‘assault weapons.’ While I never cared for Glocks personally, it stinks that anyone would blame a firearm rather than the operator of such firearm for such a terrible act. I think I’ll start blaming McDonalds for my weight problem, Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan, and Islam for terrorism.” (2011)
    • He shared a story about an Arizona politician who was being criticised because she had taken out a gun and aimed it at a reporter’s chest during an interview. He commented: “While I’m very much pro-gun, I’m equally for firearm safety. People will now put blame on firearms in general rather than ignorant people like this.” (2011)
    • In January 2015 he posted a photo of his gun, writing: “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader.” This was his first gun-related post since 2011.

Hicks’s ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley has said his favourite movie was ‘Falling Down’ starring Michael Douglas, whose character goes on a gun rampage. “He watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at allshe said.

Nugent summarises:

‘What is remarkable about his Facebook posts is that, alongside his atheism, religion and science posts, he consistently promotes social justice issues. He does not express dislike, never mind hatred, for people on the basis of their religious beliefs. He does differ from many (but not all) people who also promote social justice issues in his support for gun ownership.

He consistently promotes religious freedom including explicitly the rights of Muslims, marriage equality for LGBT people, women’s rights including reproductive rights, human rights and equality, animal welfare, and progressive politics generally, as well as his posts about his pride in America, support for gun ownership and personal posts’.

As reported here:

A woman who lives near the scene described Hicks as short-tempered.

Anytime that I saw him or saw interaction with him or friends or anyone in the parking lot or myself, he was angry,” Samantha Maness said of Hicks. “He was very angry, anytime I saw him.”

Samantha Maness was also reported as saying:

“I have seen and heard him be very unfriendly to a lot of people in this community,” Samantha Maness, another resident of the Finley Forest development, told the Times. She said that Hicks displayed an “equal opportunity anger” and that he made “everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

This backs the official reports of Hicks’s unhealthy fixation with perceived car related offences and guns. Hicks appears to be a classic example of the all too common inability to regulate one’s temper combined with easy access to – and a love for – lethal weaponry. There are many, many more examples contained within Nugent’s findings which highlight his fixation with guns. Could Hicks have gunned down those poor Muslims because they were Muslim? Absolutely. Is anything he posted online pertaining to his atheism (new, old geriatric, whatever) suggestive of that scenario? Absolutely not. Next time someone takes this position, feel free to ask what information they are basing their demagoguery on.

The truth is: as the number of those identifying as atheists continues to increase, this godless net will inevitably snare murderers, rapists and the full range of human undesirables – just like any large group of primates. We should still endeavour to investigate motivations intelligently, rather than assuming them however.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.


  • In fairness, I’m only one sanctimonious blogger. I also don’t disagree with anything you’ve written here, except for your characterization of my blog, which was making many of the same points you make. We do not know much about this shooter. Craig Hicks was not an anti-theist but a liberal normal seeming atheist who got mad about a parking dispute. Atheists need to realize that as we grow we are going to have more kinds of people, including bad ones, in our community. Atheists are humans with all that entails. We should be wary of tribalism preventing us from acknowledging bad things atheists have done and will do and wary of tribalism leading us to think the religious aren’t as good as we are.

    • Thanks to gspellchecker for linking to the Ashley Miller article. I have just read her article.

      Her article and its conclusions are based on a patently unsupportable false premise. There is no evidence the shooter is atheist.

      The article is also based on false logic. Even if the shooter were atheist (which there is no firm evidence to prove at this stage) , there is no evidence to connect him or compare him by analogy with religiously-motivated shooters.

      The labels used by the author of that article – “atheist” or “religious” – are entirely irrelevant per se. And this resort to lazy labels indicates a lack of seriousness and intellectual robustness in the writer.

      What matters is the *motivation* and *rationale* for a person’s actions. Many religious can be motivated by their religious texts, teachings and associated political beliefs – not all will be.

      But the writer needs to offer evidence that atheist shooters are motivated by their atheistic leanings. It seems that the only kind of atheist that would be motivated to do what these shooters do would be an “anti-secular” atheist who wants to eradicate religious freedom entirely. Now, of course, this not “atheism” – this is anti-secularism. They are not the same thing. Anti-secularism is not a feature, belief or ideology of atheism at all.

      Please stop using “atheism” as a lazy, un-reasoned, anti-intellectual shorthand.

    • Sorry this is late. Missed this post but it just popped up on my radar.

      The problem with your ‘our community’ is that you really are abusing the term ‘atheist’. Atheism really is dictionary atheism. All the people that can be atheists: Fascists, Communists, Democrats, Republicans, Budhists, … well, pretty much anyone that’s not a theists. Atehism already DOES contain lots of bad people. Your piece, and the one by Myers that referred to yours, continue to get this wrong.

      New Atheists are mostly secular humanists. Their political persuasion covers various elements of liberalism and libertarianism. They acquire the label as a consequence of the accessibility of their material with the rise of the internet. They are not significantly different from many Old Atheists, Classical Atheists.

      There are no atheist doctrines that demand bad behaviour. That comes from elsewhere.

      More on your piece:

      And for the record, Myers:

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