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March 31, 2007

Atheist attacked publicizing talk about "God: The Failed Hypothesis"

As I've mentioned before, in June our local skeptics and freethinkers groups will be hosting Victor J. Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis, on this leg of his book tour. As a result, I've been keeping an eye on any news related to the book. Generally, this means reviews, but this week I found something different:

An atheist group leader says he is the victim of a religious hate crime.

Freethought Association of Canada president Justin Trottier said he was assaulted at Ryerson University earlier this week while he and a colleague were hanging posters for a coming lecture.


Mr. Trottier, 24, and his colleague were hanging posters Tuesday night announcing a lecture by Victor Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis, when they were approached by two men.


One of the men hit him in the face twice, and butted him on his face, causing his nose to bleed, Mr. Trottier said.

So, was it a hate crime? The university and the police aren't treating it as such.

Were the attackers religious? (One might immediately object that they weren't acting religious, but that's a separate question. There's plenty of precedent to argue that attacking a non-believer is a very religious action, but we can debate that some other time.)

Assuming that the attackers were motivated by the fact that Mr. Trottier was publicizing an atheist event, would that make it a hate crime? Seems to me like it would. If Mr. Trottier was attacked because he was publicizing a Jewish event or a Muslim event, I don't think anyone would hesitate to call it a hate crime, so the fact that it was an atheist event shouldn't make any difference.

Of course, it's certainly possible that the attackers were motivated by nothing more than alcohol and boredom, in which case it was just a random event. However, unless there's something I'm missing here, it would seem prudent for the police to at least accept that this might have been a hate crime and investigate it as such to determine the truth.

(For those who wonder what the big deal is about hate crimes: If someone is going around killing everyone named "Sarah Connor" and your name is Sarah Connor, that is an implicit threat against you. It isn't just the immediate crime; it's the implicit threat against others that makes a hate crime worse.)


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March 31, 2007 in Religions, Cults, and Miracles | Permalink


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Sounds like community values being vigorously defended. And some hoodlums being hoodlums. Some would suggest it was kids being kids.

Why wouldn't the police worry about this incident? Maybe they are a little more worried about kids dealing ice and crack instead of some rabble rouser stirring up shit. Guess what...he found it!

Dont make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Posted by: Bill | Apr 12, 2007 1:41:48 PM

I wonder if some kids punched you in the head?, what assult is no longer a serious crime? secondly to call a uni professor a Rabble Rouser is a bit lame. What "oh that right" they are if they disagree with you, but what? Freedom fighter if they do. Freedom also mean the right to speak. Even more so when scientific endeavor & truth is at stake

in the mind of a great thinker "Education, Education, Education"- Australian Prime Minister Goff Whitlam circa 1975

And another thing-Who's community values are being defended "Certainly not mine"

My advise is to go to the local libary, take out a book maybe more and Read

life is too short to live the life of a Zenofobic Bigot

Posted by: Frank Sheehan | Feb 20, 2008 6:46:52 PM

What part of my comments did you specifically object to that result in you calling me a Zenofobic Bigot.
Or was that Zenophobic Bigot? What Zenos was I afraid of? I didn't know you knew me that well.

You asked a question you self rightous pundit, I answered it. Though without interviewing the cops themselves, we will never know why they didn't bother to go ahead with pressing charges.
You have done that have you? Got the full story instead of just one side of it? Cause I didnt, and I don't think you did either. You just reacted to a story which could be slanted a hundred different ways.
I have learned to not take anything I read in the newspaper at face value...
For some reason I thought you felt the same way.

Oh, and sorry about that Pundit crack...calling me a Bigot hurts....its not like I was suggesting they were MY community values!


Posted by: Bill | Feb 26, 2008 10:31:41 PM

Well, violence is violence, is it not, you did state "sounds like kids defending community values". A crime was commited against someone who happened to be simply putting up posters. The implication of the story did give the impression of a "hate based crime' secondly your log did by "implcite retoric, tone or metaphor" seem to support such action if that was not your intent i humberly apologise. I do not know what your community values are. I do not take Newspaper articles at face value, but I do note an ever increasing trend in "Christian fundermentlist activity" of a criminal nature. Statisitical data is being logged as we speak. Although in most cases direct links will be hard to establish as crimes commited by Cristian religious Zelots are seldom recorded as such.

have a nice day

Posted by: Frank Sheehan | Feb 27, 2008 4:14:05 AM

Trouble is, we only have one side of the story, there may be many reasons why there would be violence involved in a public area...shakedowns for cash, beat up a random individual in "fight club" style, heck, that fella might have been covering somebody else's posters. I have seen street kids "get into it" because each has been paid to poster the street, and they have their own self defined "territory" which anybody else violates at their own risk. Nothing to do with the content of the posters, but you have to admit, turf wars are pretty common.
I doubt that the average "bully" or "hoodlum" is going to go around assaulting people for no reason, but on the other hand, that IS part of what defines their identity. I don't have to like it, but I DO have to watch my step in some parts of town and at some times of the night just because of such people.
And as far as people defending community values, generally speaking, I promote that, and so do you. One does like to live in a community which has your values...me...I like clean streets with no needles on the ground for kids and dogs to step on, fewer male cats please... and a lack of graffitti tags and posters. Depending on how pissed off I would be at the time, (and depending on a lot of other factors such as ownership of the building) I would be painting over the tags, possibly tearing down the posters, and maybe even yelling at the perpetrators. It was a common first half hour job of the day at my store to take off the tags and posters from my front windows every morning....bad words were said often during this uneviable task. But I would probably draw the line at unprovoked assault.
So as I have shown, here are several reasons why the incident MIGHT be dismissed by the police as NOT being a hate crime. Not to mention the fact that police in general are really stretched thin, and have to make a decision on whether to pursue a situation which might or might not result in a conviction.

Statistical data may well be hard to find, however a chat with my local police last evening revealed a "hate crimes" section. The officer in charge of that section told me that "hate crimes" of the burning cross intensity were uncommon in Toronto and Ottawa, and were easily distinguished from "normal" gangland style violence, and they take it all very seriously. And yes, they DO consider an attack for religious reasons to be worthy of persuing.

My statement was, and is simply this....this incident has all the hallmarks of a "random event", and though it should be logged as smoke, it doesn't prove fire.
And I DO have to agree with you that somewhere along the line, when you are smelling a lot of smoke, you really should be prepared to put out the fire. On this, we can easily agree.


Posted by: Bill | Feb 28, 2008 10:33:05 AM

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