There’s been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere of late as to weather or not “mean” atheists like Richard Dawkins are helping the cause of atheism and the spread of free thought or hurting it. Some people say that of course, they are, we need our agitators. Others say we should just keep our mouthes shut. Because being polite is just how slavery was ended and women got the vote. Some even think Atheists aren’t really persecuted and shouldn’t include ourselves among those fighting for our liberties. Afer all, it’s not as if atheists are being physically attacked for their beliefs:
In what appears to be the first violent hate crime against an atheist, Justin Trottier, Director of the Center for Inquiry Ontario and President of the Freethought Association of Canada (a national body composed of secularist student groups including the UofT Secular Alliance and the Freethinkerâ€™s Association of Ryerson) was attacked around midnight on March 27 on the campus of Ryerson University. Ryerson security is treating this as a hate crime.
Mr. Trottier and his colleague Peter Aruja were placing posters for upcoming events at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, featuring physicist Victor Stenger, author of the New York Timeâ€™s Best Seller â€œGod: The Failed Hypothesisâ€, set to take place on April 5. While postering, two assailants took offense to the religious implications of the posters advertising for Stengerâ€™s book. About fifteen minutes later when Trottier and Aruja were in a more secluded area of the university the two reappeared and initiated a verbal argument.
According to Mr. Trottier â€œThe first individual smacked me in the face twice and said â€œwatch your smart mouth.â€ I said â€œdonâ€™t touch meâ€ at which point he head butted me hard in the face, causing my nose to bleed profusely.â€
The attack targeting an individual for his beliefs clearly represents a hate crime and is being treated as such by Ryerson security. This also represents a disturbing trend of targeting individuals who visibly question the legitimacy of religious dogma. Just last week Toronto Police were involved in the highly publicized threats against Mr. Fatah and Mrs. Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Here the anonymous individual swore to â€œslaughterâ€ the two MCC members, in the name of god, for belonging to an â€œapostateâ€ organization.
The Humanist Association of Canada spokesperson, Pat Oâ€™Brien, responded to this shameful incident: â€œAtheists have never been accorded the same respect as those with religious beliefs even though our position originates in logic and reason, not myth and superstition. This escalation of a systemic, although till now hidden, discrimination is very troubling.â€