I wish to relate a story to illustrate some of my concern with an atheist committing violence.
When I was young, I was active in the Libertarian Party. I ended up spending months travelling across the state of Montana visiting with a fair number of people who called themselves Libertarians.
Because of the writings of Ayn Rand, many Libertarians were also atheists.
And some of them were frightening. They would, in fact, talk freely about acts of violence against their perceived enemies - against the state and, for some of them, against religion.
One person I remember showed me a shotgun he had made in his garage. We met him in a small town in western Montana where he showed up carrying a pair of revolvers that he carried around, like some cowboy out of a western movie. He bragged about his guns and showed us that they were real and that they were loaded.
The shotgun came out when he spoke about gun control. His rant included a comment about how he would use that home-made weapon if the government ever took away his pistols.
He held that the church was as evil as the state, and accepted all sorts of conspiracy theories about how church and state collude to control the people. He reported that he would have as little trouble walking into a church and killing the priest as he would walking into a courtroom and killing a judge.
I think about him, from time to time, as I write this blog.
As atheists convince more and more people to adopt atheism, their words are going to reach more and more people who are like this person that I met in Montana. People like this are not made evil by religion, or by the writings of Ayn Rand. They are mentally unbalanced to start with, and they then twist whatever philosophy that appeals to them into one that suits their interests.
Sooner or later, somebody like this, who has cultivated a sufficiently strong hatred of religion, will kill a priest just because he is a priest, or perhaps shoot up or blow up a whole congregation.
There is nothing about atheism that provides an automatic immunity against this type of behavior.
I can practically write the news reports and blog postings that will follow such an event. There will be a lot of theists with a lot of money and a huge audience who will write that "militant atheism" is responsible for this murder - that the "militant atheists" cultivated a culture of anti-theist hatreds that was certain to eventually lead to an act of violence such as this.
The bulk of the American public will believe this line of reasoning because they have been trained to believe it - because this line of reasoning has never been systematically challenged. Besides, the people who say it have a lot of money and a huge audience. Fox News will likely repeat the accusation for weeks.
I can practically write the postings of the atheists who will protest that this killing had nothing to do with 'militant' atheism - that atheists have not ever argued for the murder of priests and preachers or those who attend church. All we did was say that the world would be far better off without them, that they cost lives by interfering with scientific progress and blocking life-saving medical treatments, that they promote violence through their religion, and that it would be a good thing to rid the world of all religion.
I think about that man that I met in the mountains of Montana, and I make sure to include in virtually every post in which I am critical of religion the claim that the only legitimate response in an open society to words are words and private actions (non-violent actions that require no special justification such as deciding where to shop and who to vote for). Furthermore, in an open society, the only legitimate response to a political campaign is a counter-campaign.
I do this to hope to deter and delay, as much as possible, the violence that somebody such as that man in Montana might otherwise come to see as justified.
Furthermore, when writing about such things as the murder of a physician who provides abortions or the hijacking of airplanes and flying them into sky scrapers, I try to engage in some of this "doing unto others" business – or, in desire utilitarian terms – acting as of motivated by those desires that people generally have reason to promote as universal desires.
That man in Montana is probably now too old or too sick or too dead to do the types of things he said he would do. However, there is another man out there just like him that I have not personally met yet. The more popular atheism becomes, the more people like this there will be in the population of atheists.
It's worthwhile to keep these facts in mind, and to write accordingly.