Clay Duke Was No Humanist December 16, 2010

Clay Duke Was No Humanist

***Update***: To the commenters, I’m aware of the No True Scotsman fallacy, which I tried to avoid in this post. I stand by what I wrote, saying that Duke was no Humanist. Those principles very clearly oppose his actions. Duke may, however, be an atheist. I don’t deny that. It hasn’t been confirmed but it’s possible.

In case you hadn’t seen this story, a gunman opened fire at a school board meeting in Floridaon Tuesday afternoon. The video is probably NSFW and a bit graphic:

When it came time for citizens to bring up issues, the 56-year-old resident calmly approached the front.

He spray painted a red “V” with a circle around it on the wall, brandished a small-caliber handgun and ordered the room cleared at a Panama City schools building.

“Six men stay. Everyone else leave,” the burly gunman said.

How frightening it must have been for those school board members… thankfully, none of them were hurt and the gunman eventually killed himself.

The reason I bring it up here is because of one line in a CNN article about him:

Under “political views,” Duke labels himself a “Freedom Fighter.” Under religious views, he wrote, “Humanism.”

How long before that becomes the focal point of all of this?

Clay Duke was obviously not a Humanist — Humanists are not violent people.

The Humanist Manifesto III states:

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Even if that’s the term Duke used to describe himself, he obviously had no idea what it meant. Maybe he used it for the same reason some others do: it sounds much nicer than “atheist.”

That said, it may be true that he didn’t believe in a god.

I don’t think for a second his possible atheism had anything to do with his actions here. His wife had been fired by the district; he was upset with sales taxes; he said nothing about god or religion in the video clips. There’s no reason to suggest that his godlessness had anything to do with his horrific actions — though I suspect it won’t be long before certain media personalities jump on that.

This was one man trying to “solve” a problem in the worst possible way. He wasn’t thinking clearly.

He may have been an atheist — he certainly was no Humanist — but not a single non-theistic group in the country would defend what he did.

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  • Angie

    Don’t know if it’s relevant or not but on my local news station (Nashville), the board members said that god saved them from the gunman. Maybe the media (in some areas) are already using that.

  • Mr Z

    Who really cares what his religious beliefs were? Well, everybody. You are right. The media will probably hype on this to counter the billboards bruhaha. The thing to remember is that he didn’t do this because he doesn’t believe. His agenda clearly was not religiously oriented. He was, like many of us, angry at the world situation we find ourselves in. He dealt with it incorrectly and that has little if anything to do with his beliefs about a creator god.

    In the end, who cares? He did not say I’m going to shoot you because I don’t believe in a god. The people that flew planes into the twin towers did. Lack of belief does not make you a terrorist. Religion does. Lack of belief does not make you a criminal. Dealing with life incorrectly does. There is no reason to worry about people trying to say that his lack of belief is the reason he chose violence. Clearly, millions of other Americans who do not believe have not chosen the same path, so he is on his own with that. It would be much different if he had yelled ‘there is no god’ before he started shooting.

    The man also wore pants and was married – perhaps these things lead to violence? Or should we go further? Humanists only use small caliber weapons while anti-theists can be guaranteed to attack school boards with Desert Eagle hand cannons, and of course be sharp shooters. This is ridiculous. He clearly said his problem was with things other than god or the lack of one. Anyone who wants to insist that it was because of religion is clearly talking out their ass. It doesn’t even matter what his beliefs or lack thereof are, they were not the reason for his violence. When humans resort to violence it is not a result of grand ethical thinking, but more basic ‘fight or flight’ thinking.

    Perhaps it is not his thinking that should be analyzed, but that of society in general as we continue to endure a down economy and rough times for our neighbors and friends.

    This guy didn’t survive it, what are we doing to help others to survive?

  • HP

    I do not want to see Atheists/Humanists/whatever going down the “no true Scotsman” route.

    Part of being fully human is being irrational and violent. It’s part of our inheritance from our simian cousins.

    As someone who’s struggled with (and continues to struggle with) self-destructive behaviors, I can say this is an aspect of humanity that humanism needs to embrace and not shy away from, and work toward finding healthy solutions to.

    Disowning this behavior does the movement no favors in the long run.

  • 3 thoughts:

    1) The woman who attacked him showed a good deal of bravery and tried to save the lives of others at the risk of her own-that is Humanism.

    2) Whatever his belief or philosophy was before he entered that room, he had clearly eschewed any use of reason once he went in. The board members proposed several reasonable options to improve the situation and tried to help him (to the best of their ability-I doubt if any of them were crisis counselors) but he had clearly let his emotions overtake his reason. So to blame his actions on a belief or philosophy is totally inappropriate.

    3)Hopelessness and despair seems to be on the increase in society today. Perhaps we as nontheists need to suggest some ways that people can cope other than the religious platitudes of “trust god and hold on”; “you’re being tested by god” or “you need more faith”. If we could help people live more positive and productive lives it would certainly go a long way toward squelching the foolish idea that atheists don’t contribute to a better society.

    It’s good to know that most of the people in the room survived.

  • adam

    wow that one woman at the :50 mark had guts

    anyway i don’t really see how this matters, as HP said you’re starting into the no true Scotsman fallacy.

    His life ended with committing violence against others, this does not change the fact that Humanists/atheists are human, humans are fallible and can harm others however this does not invalidate what Humanists/atheists are and the ideals they stand for.

    yes someone may try to make this out to be a sign that Non-believers are evil but so what, that has happen before and we’ll just deal with it again as always.

  • RTH

    The article said that CNN could not verify that the Facebook profile was actually Duke’s.

    I looked up the profile that was shown during the HLN (CNN’s sister channel) story. This is it:

    It seems very unlikely that this was Duke’s actual Facebook profile since one of his “likes” is something that must have been created after Duke was already dead.

  • @RTH
    Yeah, good catch. How could he possible have marked the news story of his own death as a favorite?

  • Andrew

    Just wanted to say that I agree with those who are pointing out that your argument is along the lines of the no true Scotsman fallacy.

    Whatever Clay Duke was doesn’t seem all that relevant to me, we should be condemning his actions and trying to find ways to alleviate the problems that lead up to this unfortunate event.

  • How long before that becomes the focal point of all of this?

    But with this post, you yourself are making it a focal point. I feel like preemptively bemoaning an overreaction is a bit like throwing gas on a fire you say you don’t want to spread.

    I’ve seen news stories mention facebook religious status before in all kinds of cases, including christianity, so I don’t feel like the mention of his self proclaimed humanism is out of the ordinary. It very well may become a focal point, but we pull no punches when pointing out when a religious person commits a crime so I see it as a fair conversation to have. Yes, it’s tedious to have to address but we can address it. Because logically, it makes sense – all kinds of people do bad things.

  • I tried a Google news search for “humanism”, which brings up pieces like the one in American Thinker:

    Hardly anyone, however — and especially not a 56-year-old Southern boy — is born into “humanism.” When you thus identify yourself, it indicates that you’ve pondered what your beliefs really are.

    And what are humanist beliefs? In our time, humanism has become almost synonymous with atheism; it rejects religion and, consequently, any moral standard above man. Thus, moral relativism — the idea that what we call right and wrong are a function of man’s opinion — is one of its corollaries.

    And so on. It’s sad, really.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    If Duke said he was a humanist, then we have to treat him as one. Otherwise as pointed out already, we are guilty of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    Better to admit that humanists are humans and occasionally fuck up. Sometimes those fuck ups are really bad and end with gunfire as in this case.

    Remember as humanists we shouldn’t assert our moral superiority over others, leave that to the religious to try and fail.

    If Duke was a humanist, then so be it. We’ll have to deal with that, i don’t think we can say “Aaaah, but a humanist would never do that, therefore he wasn;t a humanist”.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    Ehh, I’m torn on this. On the one hand, “no true scotsman”. On the other, this IS different from the violence of religious people. Humanism takes a much stronger stance on violence than say, Christianity or Islam.

    I’ve made the argument before, Stalin and Mao killed people because they desperately wanted communism. They believed they were doing a good thing, and that some killing was justified in achieving their dream.

    The bible teaches this wholeheartedly in the old testament, and somewhat in the new testament. How many people did the Israelites supposedly kill in the old testament, in search of the promise land? Plenty of people are killed after God gives the “thou shalt not kill” stuff.

    No moral subscription(that I know of) other than pacifism says that killing is always wrong, no exceptions. If it did, would people even care? I’m a humanist, and regardless of what any manifesto says, if a burglar breaks into my house, I’m grabbing my goddamn shotgun, fuck all.

    I think this guy was a humanist, and I think we’re fairly safe. What part of humanism is objectionable? Have you ever met a humanist spokesperson that wasn’t just the cutest, lovable motherfucker you’ve ever seen? Seriously, only the super bigots can dislike the description of secular humanism. “We’re atheists, but we believe in X and Y(good things), not A or B(stereotypical atheist things such as the consumption of infants)”.

    I think this will be good publicity, resulting in less prejudice against humanists, even on fox. They’ll get somebody on and, eventually, in some form, ask “what do humanists believe?” the interviewer may or may not be a shitass, but regardless, what we believe will get out there in the mainstream. Glenn Beck will undeniably run with this, but who gives a fuck?

    I’m not justifying what he did at all, but I think it could end up helping us. Maybe, we’ll see.

  • Clay

    With the economic state of our country, I think we are to start seeing much more violence. And also much more mental health issues.

  • Quote: “The woman who attacked him showed a good deal of bravery and tried to save the lives of others at the risk of her own-that is Humanism.”

    And watch the others just sit there and not lend a hand. It was the perfect time for action but they were passive. Now, under that kind of duress, it’s quite possible I might react the same way, but I would hope not.

  • My previous comment was based on viewing a different clip which showed the reactions (or lack of reaction) of the other people when the woman attacked. Here is that other clip:CLIP
    Scroll down for clip

  • trixr4kids

    I agree with the “no true Scotsman” analysis here. I think HP nailed it, and expressed the point perfectly.

    And I agree that the woman who tried to knock the gun out of his hand acted very bravely. So did the board member who asked the gunman to let the others go and offered to stay, because he was the one whose signature was on the wife’s pink slip.

  • Valhar2000

    It is in no way a fallacy to point out that Duke’s actions are inconsistent with Humanism, since they are. It would fallacious to try to use this to claim that he was not an atheist, but Hemant did not do that.

    Not that it matters much: if he was on the verge of committing suicide he must have been pretty far gone. I doubt he was mulling over nuanced moral, ethical or political arguments at the time.

  • Bob

    And y’all totally missed that one of the board members credited God for deflecting the bullet?

  • Is that a V For Vendetta symbol he spray painted?

  • If he was a humanist, he obvious wasn’t familiar with The Humanist Manifestos, or even any Humanist publications.

    So if God deflected the bullet, why didn’t he do something to help the shooter, and prevent the shooting instead? I think the guy was just a bad shot.

  • If God deflected the bullet, then what’s the explanation for all the innocent people who have been shot and killed, where God didn’t deflect the bullet? Were they all secretly evil at heart or was God busy with something else?

  • HumanistDad

    He could very well have been a Humanist – but does it have any bearing on his actions?

    Nowhere during the ordeal does he relate his actions to Humanism. If one reads the tenets of Humanism (start at wikipedia) there is no justification for the actions.

    It wouldn’t matter if he were Christian, Muslim or a Jain, there is no connection to his religious views.

    However, the ‘V’ reminds me of the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ so I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was neck-deep in conspiracy theories and highly delusional.

    This action reminds us that religious beliefs are not the only source of delusions that lead to violence but religion and conspiracy groups tend to foster extreme thinking whereas meetings of Humanists tend to result in arguments and disagreements – keeping our views in check. There will always be that statistical outlier, though.

  • littlejohn

    Couple of corrections: It is now being reported that there is no record his wife was fired. Second, a 9mm is not a small caliber handgun. It is the standard sidearm of American and NATO troops.
    As for the woman who hit him with the purse, there is a thin line between bravery and stupidity. The man was burly – about 250 I’d guess. She couldn’t possibly have harmed or disarmed him with a purse. She’s lucky she’s alive.
    Did anyone else notice that he fired from almost point-blank range and missed every shot? Nobody’s that bad. He was missing on purpose.
    Yeah, I’m ex-law enforcement and a gun buff.

  • cortex

    He wasn’t a freedom fighter, either.

    But we do need to avoid getting into this trap that the religious do. Ok, so maybe he didn’t read/wasn’t following the Humanist Manifesto. How many Christians read or follow the Bible? How many skeptics are without sacred cows?

    We don’t get to have a say in how he identified. We can only say that he was not acting in accordance with Humanist principles.

  • Denis Robert

    He probably believed he was John Galt.

  • Secular Stu

    This defense is a mirror image of a Christian’s “no true Scotsman” argument. You say “differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence”, they say “thou shalt not kill” and “turn the other cheek”.

    We need to remember the reason we keep bringing up the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Most often it comes up when it is falsely claimed that Hitler was an atheist. It’s one thing to defend against the charge that every genocidal dictator was an atheist, it’s another to try and deny that no atheists commit such evil.

  • No True Scotsman anyone?

  • RTH, his wife could have done that. Profile pic aside, did you read his bio? Rather sounds like it was and he was already going south. In fact look at the page and the wall. Looks like the page itself was just added. All that’s on his wall is adding the shit you do (including changing the profile pic first thing) when you set up an FB page. Obviously, his bio is what’s intended to say it all. He probably set it up just before doing off the deep end.

    For anyone who doesn’t have FB, this is all his page contains other than the V for Vendetta profile pic:

    Bio My Testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V)… no… I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95% of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats… same-same… rich… they take turns fleecing us… our few dollars… pyramiding the wealth for themselves. The 95%… the us, in US of A, are the neo slaves of the Global South. Our Masters, the Wealthy, do, as they like to us…

    “There’s class warfare, all right, but its my class, the rich class that’s making war and we’re winning”
    – Warren Buffet

    Rise like lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number.
    Shake your chains to earth like dew.
    Which in sleep has fallen on you.
    Ye are many – they are few.

    Want the TRUTH? => Can you handle the TRUTH?


    Favorite Quotations “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

    I will not watch this video. I don’t need to see that.

    Also, if you’re going to say this, next time some theist person has a meltdown, do likewise. Religions start wars but if you’re going to let individual Atheists off the hook when they go beserk, you’re being a steaming hypocrite if you don’t do likewise for believers.

    But with this post, you yourself are making it a focal point. I feel like preemptively bemoaning an overreaction is a bit like throwing gas on a fire you say you don’t want to spread.

    Excellent point. Just posting this before it actually happens is kind of like making a self-fulfilling prophecy. Aren’t we always condemning religionists for doing this?

    What part of humanism is objectionable? Have you ever met a humanist spokesperson that wasn’t just the cutest, lovable motherfucker you’ve ever seen? Seriously, only the super bigots can dislike the description of secular humanism.

    Making assumptions here, aren’t we? Talk about bigoted. I detest humanism because it is nothing but an Atheist religion and I find Paul Kurtz anything but cute and lovable. Secular humanism can do the same thing with its manifesto that the Abramic religions can do with their commandments.

    I’m not justifying what he did at all, but I think it could end up helping us. Maybe, we’ll see.

    How can you even be thinking about this? Frankly, I’m finding it rather disturbing to come here this morning and read about this tragic story only in the context of how does it affect us? No wonder there’s people in our society fucked in the head enough to do this. And if his wife has added to his FB page, perhaps someone better spare a thought about her and show her some sympathy.

    Nobody’s that bad. He was missing on purpose.

    littlejohn, I was thinking along the same lines too. One of my FB friends had posted about this last night and the news story (I’ll be damned if I’ll watch this video if I can avoid it) said he fired several shots into the floor. It doesn’t sound to me like he was trying to hit anyone. He wanted to scare more than hurt.

  • RJ

    His rage is clearly the result of too much time spent playing violent video games. Ya, that’s it. Or maybe he was listening to Ozzy right before he did it. Wait, I know, he was obviously a member of the NRA and a Republican since he owned a gun. Maybe it was because he was a pro-lifer? Wait, he was a fundamental environmentalist that was angry at the school board because they have not made the switch to computers in the class room. He was upset about all of the trees being killed to provide paper for their books. Or maybe……Nah, it’s got to be the atheist/humanist thing. Ya, that’s got to be it. That baby eating heathen was bound to act on his immoral ways sooner or later because he didn’t have an imaginary friend to turn to in his time of need. /sigh

    The one thing we do know for sure is that this guy was mentally unstable and a threat to everyone including himself. Beyond that, we’ll never really know the reason he did what he did.

  • i am an atheist and i condemn all violence of this type. that’s really all i feel compelled to say.

  • John

    I have to agree. To say “He was no humanist” is the exact same reaction other religions have when one of their circle commits a heinous act. “He wasn’t a true christian,” “That’s a perverted form of Islam,” and the like come to mind.

    In all cases people have a point. Their group doesn’t condone such acts. However, the individual actor does affiliate themselves with the group, whether or not they completely understand or accept its tenets.

  • I just had something disappear due to too many links because I also tried to send all the links he had on his page. My bad.

    But I did want to add I’m very disturbed not just by this tragedy itself but the fact that the reactions to it are seeming pretty cold. It seems we are getting used to these kind of tragedies occurring when they should be rousing us to action. That’s chilling. (Myself included.)

    I think a large part of it is we just don’t know what to do but as someone said above if these ills in our society aren’t fixed, we’re going to see more and more of these sorts of breakdowns. Indeed they are already making regular appearances in the news.

    What’s it going to take before we stand up to the wealthiest 2% of this country and say we are not your slaves. Stop outsourcing jobs and pay your fair share of taxes. Damn it!

  • It looks to me like he went there to gain publicity for his Facebook message by scaring the hell out of some people and then committing suicide. Killing anyone else was apparently not part of his plan.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I’m really struck, watching that video, of how calm people were when he pulled out the gun, and how calm they remained for the duration of the situation. No one screamed when he pulled the gun out (like they would have in any movie), and they moved out pretty calmly. And the school board members and the superintendent who remained behind were very calm too, didn’t look like they panicked at all, and the superintendent even took responsibility for what made the gunman mad and asked him to let everyone else go but himself. All in all, they were brave and calm and frankly, I find the video to be a testament to human strength. Sometimes people are at their best in the face of adversity.

    It does seem that he missed on purpose, or maybe he was quite poor with handling a gun. He wanted to make a point and to die; I’m grateful that he didn’t end up making his point by hurting anyone else.

  • BlueRidgeLady

    I used to live in that same county. This is really sad, but I am glad no one else was killed. Clearly he was mentally ill 🙁

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    Making assumptions here, aren’t we? Talk about bigoted. I detest humanism because it is nothing but an Atheist religion and I find Paul Kurtz anything but cute and lovable. Secular humanism can do the same thing with its manifesto that the Abramic religions can do with their commandments.

    Ehh, I was mainly just trying to encourage people with something that was a little funny. I don’t consider myself a humanist, but I am sympathetic to some of their beliefs(at least what I’ve perceived). Nothing is really clear.

    Some things I don’t like, mainly because it does seem like another religion. I don’t want to self-impose pressure to behave a certain way. I remember some humanist beliefs being “wanting to experience as much pleasure as possible in life without harming anyone”

    Sometimes I’d rather just sit and dick around on the computer. I don’t want a religious obligation to travel to france, itally, spain, etc. I know that some things will, ultimately result in more pleasure, but sometimes I’m not feeling up to it.

    Another I remember was “Humanists shouldn’t believe in things which don’t have significant evidence” and/or “humanists only believe in the natural world”

    I’m well adjusted to atheism now, and only believe in the natural world. No ghosts, afterlife, magic. Before, when I first became an atheist, It was no so. I believed in an afterlife, magic, ghosts, etc. I understand not TRUSTING in unfounded beliefs(I didn’t kill myself because I believed in an afterlife)but I did want to believe some things for comfort. Religion is the biggest authority you can place on your life, and humanism, while not as demanding as other religions, is still goddamn demanding.

    I hadn’t heard of Paul Kurtz until now; I guess that’s somewhat ignorant. Most of the people I’ve had experiences with(which, admitedly, is not many, around eight or so) I found cute; people I just wanted to throw a bag over, stuff in my truck, and keep as pets. Perhaps the people were, as Hehmant said, “just wanting to say they’re humanist because it sounds better”. Such people don’t want to be associated with atheism, and the type of people who wouldn’t want to be associated with it are the type of people who I find cute.

  • Bob

    @Larry Meredith:

    Regarding the ‘God deflected the bullet’ – well, if He doesn’t, you offer sympathy and mumble something about God’s Plan.

    That’s the convenient part of ascribing events to an invisible sky-friend.

  • Matt

    It seems to me that the guy was deranged, and happened to think of himself as a humanist. It is a fallacy to think that being a humanist makes you immune to having mental health issues. It is a news story because it is unusual.

    People from all walks of life can have mental issues. What is the big deal that he said he was a humanist? Suppose he said he was a zucchini? Would there be blog posts about how he wasn’t a real squash?


  • Alex

    The question I would also like to ask is about the comments made by the school superintendent about knowing where he would be going if he got shot. That may have given him some comfort and I don’t think he was expecting seventy virgins, but it’s still a delusion and cheapens the life you have.

  • Well, he could still be a humanist and in a period of mental unwellness do something that goes very much against humanist ideals. You’ve never done anything that goes against your principles?

    In any case, the point is well taken, that this action is completely incongruous with humanism.

  • SecularLez

    This is no different than when Christians try to separate themselves from the Christians who go on shooting rampages.
    People of many stripes can be killers.

    At least we can say that Humanism did not DRIVE him to do this unlike religion which can drive people to do crazy, inhumane, etc. things.

  • Alex

    He was a massage therapist too, so maybe we need to keep an eye on those neck rubbers too.

  • Robert W.


    As a Christian i can tell you that knowing that you will go to Heaven when you die does not cheapen your life here on Earth. It actually makes your life here in Earth more meaningful.

    Being a Christian is simply not just going to heaven. With that salvation comes moral obligations and responsibilities here on Earth for us to become more like Christ. We are to walk with our Christian principles to the Glory of God in how we behave and how we treat others, so this makes this life all the more important.

  • Steve Schlicht

    I’m an atheist because there is no evidence for the existence of any of the purported deities.

    I classify myself (when necessary) as a non-religious secular humanist because I agree the basic morality and tenets of humanism which does not promote dehumanizing others, taking folks hostage, shooting at them or committing suicide.

    I am not looking for, nor do I think it can be proven that there is, an afterlife of eternal rewards or punishments.

    My view is quite empirical when I recognize that life is so rare and brief that it should be spent caring for and protecting others as best one human being can.

    That said, the “big three” religions possess specific directives and sacred stories that promote xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, infanticide, genocide and torture of the innocent…as heroic behavior in certain circumstances.

    In my view, that delineates the differences when these tragedies occur.

  • Udo

    Hey Ginger Littleton, If you are out there, next time forget the purse, may I suggest the default option in many first person shooters, the crowbar, or maybe a baseball bat.

  • Cortex

    Re: metanoia

    Oh please not another movie that relies on dramatic music and archival Nazi footage to make a point. It’s like they’ve tapped exactly the kind of medium that’ll make a delusion-prone person absolutely lose their shit.

  • littlejohn: perhaps bravery and stupidity are the same thing?

    She was probably hoping to give the men a chance to take him down (or was perhaps hoping to knock him unconscious) so that he wouldn’t kill them.

    Also, I agree with others who’ve said we can’t play the ‘no true Scotsman’ card when a humanist (or atheist) does something we don’t like.

  • Revyloution

    littlejohn, I agree with your assessment of his lack of gun skill. Watch the video right after his first shot. The gun recoils, he over compensates the gun points at the ground and he has an accidental discharge into the floor.

    From his dramatic drop of the gun from the shoulder, to his panicked over reaching return fire to the security guard, he shows a clear lack of firearms training. I don’t think he was intentionally missing, I think his gun understanding is as inept as his humanist understanding.

  • pansies4me

    I was watching the news this morning and there was a press conference with the guard who engaged him in gun battle and saved the day. He was crying and the first thing he said was that he sent his condolences to the family of Clay Duke because he had a mother, and a wife, and family that loved him. He said he had spent the night talking to his pastor because he wanted to “get right with God” about this because he had taken a man’s life. I thought that Duke turned the gun on himself, which actually killed him, but no matter. He thanked God for putting him there to be able to save his friends, as well. I cried my eyes out at the humility and compassion he showed for the gunman and his family. Most people think good riddance to another scumbag and forget that the family must be heartbroken. I didn’t give a rat’s ass that he was giving God all the credit, he is truly a remarkable man. I wanted to hug him and say no, YOU deserve the credit, you’re a hero.

  • Spurs Fan

    Hemant, I’m not sure your “update” convinces me that this isn’t a form of “No true Scotsman”. I get what you are saying, but it’s still based on interpretation. Perhaps the difference is in “Manifesto” and “Sacred Texts”. I’m a Democrat, but I don’t fully support 100% of the national platform. Still, if I acted in a way that was contradictory to one of the few platform items I disagree with, someone could say, “See, he’s no Democrat”. They would be very wrong based on my voting history and current activism.

    Some Humanists could make the point, for example, that despite having mental problems and being suicidal, the fact that Duke seemed to specifically avoid killing anyone when he had nothing to lose in doing so (judging by the subsequent suicide), proves that he was, in a way, adhering to the Humanist Manifesto.

  • I think we do need to talk about this because it’s bound to happen again. People can be driven to violence by mental illness or by egregious circumstance. No one is immune to that and times are tough. With the economy in such bad shape, certain people being scapegoated for all of America’s ills, and social services (such as mental health care) being cut, it’s just a matter of time.

    I note with sadness and disgust that the only way to get a politician to sincerely listen to your grievance, tell the truth, and offer to help you get a job is to put a gun in his face. I do not want anyone else to resort to those measures but the way politicians are playing games with our lives, I can’t help but think that others will follow.

  • JSug

    Sorry, but whether you intended it or not, you’re making a no true Scotsman argument. Whatever his behavior, the man identified himself as a Humanist. You don’t get to decide that he wasn’t one, just as Christians don’t get to exclude a pastor who gets caught with a male prostitute.

    The important point is that we should be condemning his behavior, rather than worrying about how it reflects on us.

  • Neither atheism nor Humanism compelled him to do what he did. The fixation on a movie, the “going postal” in public—these are more signs of severe mental illness, not being a Humanist.

    Religious apologists will seize upon the fact (if it is a fact) that this man was a Humanist. But they will need to demonstrate the causal relationship—they’ll need to show how Humanism, and not mental illness etc., caused him to do what he did.

    On the “No true Scotsman” thing:

    Saying “Humanists are not violent people” is, like most all generalizations, not fair. If I had to bet my own money, I’d bet that we Humanists are violent people. Not as a rule, of course, but I’m sure there are card-carrying Humanists on this planet who have started fistfights, beaten their wives, kicked a dog, or done even more extreme violent acts. What we can say is that Humanists, who are adhering properly to Humanistic principles, will likely see the folly of violence and be disposed to avoid it. But the blanket statement “Humanists are not violent people” stops being valid the minute we find a Humanist who has started a bar fight, or beaten his wife, or is an MMA fighter. (I realize this may be semantic—what it means to be “a violent person” versus being someone who has, at one time or another, committed an isolated act of violence that was later regretted.)

    Clay Duke may have been a Humanist. And that’s OK—it’s not a blemish on the face of Humanism. He could have just as easily been an Ayn Rand follower, or a Buddhist—because a.) There’s NOTHING in Humanism that tells you to do violence, and b.) Mental illness doesn’t care what your worldview is.

  • Oh, okay, then, Danny. I’m sorry I misunderstood you. I’m relieved that someone who loves kittens (me too) wasn’t such a prig. Peace? 😀

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    hahaha, no problem=)

  • So what if he WAS a humanist?

    The only reason so many Christians “have to answer for” other Christians who do stupid shit is precisely because of the No True Christian fallacy — if no true Christian is capable of committing evil, then anyone who commits evil is no true Christian, which means that no Christian is a true Christian (i.e. all Christians are hypocrites).

    However, I tend to not hold it against individual Christians who do not adhere to the NTC fallacy when a radical Christian does something stupid; likewise, there’s not much sense in holding this act against “humanism” at large; if people try and say “no humanist would do such a thing,” then that’s just going to attract attention to all of the little things that any humanists anywhere do — applying NTS here would just make people realize that every humanist, like every human, has done something stupid or bad or wrong at some point, and it’s going to make them feel the same way about humanism that atheists feel about Christianity — “if no true humanist would ever do something wrong, but everybody has done something wrong, then that means there are no true humanists.” Same as no true Christian.

    I mean, it’s not like humanism makes any claims that “once you identify with humanism, all your other problems magically disappear!” There’s no contradiction as far as that. It’s more about how you deal with problems than it is about making them disappear — a completely humanistic society would still have social problems, murders, and other terrible things, just like any other society (Hell, Britain’s an officially Protestant nation and they have plenty of murders).

    We don’t have to “condone” these actions in order to accept that they happened, even if the guy turns out to have genuinely identified with humanism, any more than I have to answer for it whenever someone with a basic science education does something stupid or immoral. People who agree with us do stupid things sometimes.

  • Steve Schlicht

    Again, I have to disagree that this is a case of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    Atheism is merely the disbelief in any God(s)ess(es). There is nothing more by way of doctrine or ideology that supports violence.

    Neither, by the way, is there a doctrine or ideology the supports violence for “theists”.

    Furthermore, Humanism is an ideology that has no directive to hate others or murder them.

    The “big four” religions (ideologies) of Abraham (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism) provide specific directives to do so within sacred scripture depicting the actions of their deity and/or associated heroes.

    While it is laudable that some religious adherents of these traditions can manage to interpret and cultivate decent moral traditions and standards out of the Biblical “manifesto” in spite of these directives…Humanism has nothing but directives to care for each other, be civil to one another and resolve issues without such extreme actions.

    That is the difference between a religious adherent killing an abortion doctor and a humanist shooting at six men on a city council for firing his wife.

  • Steve Schlicht

    I agree that we are all human beings subject to the same joys, despairs, successes, failures and utter ambiguity that this rare and brief life holds.

  • AxeGrrl

    Hemant wrote:

    I’m aware of the No True Scotsman fallacy, which I tried to avoid in this post. I stand by what I wrote, saying that Duke was no Humanist

    JSug replied:

    Sorry, but whether you intended it or not, you’re making a no true Scotsman argument. Whatever his behavior, the man identified himself as a Humanist. You don’t get to decide that he wasn’t one, just as Christians don’t get to exclude a pastor who gets caught with a male prostitute.

    and cortex said:

    We don’t get to have a say in how he identified. We can only say that he was not acting in accordance with Humanist principles.

    I’m sorry Hemant, but I completely agree with JSug and cortex ~ the only comment we can make is that his actions weren’t in accordance with Humanism.

    Which is, as several posters have already expressed, the same thing that Christians can say when a fellow Christian does something that isn’t in keeping with Christian doctrine/values.

    Of course, when someone’s actions ARE fueled/informed/condoned by their belief system (and it can be demonstrated), that’s an entirely different issue.

    But I think it’s extremely important to be consistent/not hypocritical when it comes to the no-true-Scotsman issue.

  • Latz

    The hypocrisy of the religious when it comes to morality is astounding – accusing Humanism of moral relativism when religion is exactly the same – saying that your morals come from something bigger and that they are objective with absolutely NOTHING to back it up doesn’t make it so — the only difference is that the rest just don’t try to fool others with their mandate of fictitious authority …

    really idiotic…

  • littlejohn

    When a person who fancies himself a Christian commits a crime, Christians invariably chime in “He was no real Christian.”
    I think we may be doing the same thing here. We’d like to think a Humanist wouldn’t take hostages at gunpoint. He’s a really bad Humanist, but I’ll take him at his word that he was a Humanist. Being a Humanist is no guarantee you won’t become violently crazy. It could happen to any of us.

  • Steve Schlicht

    If it can be shown that there is a mandate that says people should be stoned to death because of their sexual preferences or their different culture in a humanistic manifesto or ideology somewhere…then there would be some element of hypocrisy.

    Again, the difference between a religious adherent killing others and a humanist is that there are scriptures mandating the slaying of others, of non-believers, of homosexuals, etc.

    There is no such mandate in humanism.

    Granted atheists and theists can commit horrible acts for all sorts of reasons not related to their position on the existence or non-existence of deities (or Scottish heritage).

    Leviticus among other religious mandates, however, spells out that such acts can be righteous, moral and justified.

    No such mandate can be found in humanism.

    My friend Jennifer Hancock has an interesting perspective on this issue as well:

    To be clear, if Clay Duke was a Christian who did this because his wife was fired and he was bi-polar, I would not ever claim it was a result of his Christianity.

  • Philbert

    Sorry, but whether you intended it or not, you’re making a no true Scotsman argument. Whatever his behavior, the man identified himself as a Humanist. You don’t get to decide that he wasn’t one, just as Christians don’t get to exclude a pastor who gets caught with a male prostitute.

    There’s a difference. A pastor is a professional Christian. Duke was not a professional humanist. Is there any evidence he had anything to do with humanism at all, beyond filling in a box on Facebook?

    Hemant made a mistake in trying to declare Duke not a true Scotsman by pointing out incompatibilities between his actions and humanism. A more productive post would be to ask to what extent did Duke’s humanist beliefs motivate his actions, and to what extent does humanism objectively encourage such actions, intentionally or unintentionally.

  • Robert W.

    The guard who shot him is known as the Salvage Santa in his hometown for his charity work for kids at Christmas. He repairs and donates bikes for needy children. He is also a Christian and on the board of directors of the Salvation Army. As a result of the publicity surrounding what happened, Schwinn has donated 500 bikes for him to pass out this year.

    So out of tragedy good people come forward. He does it in the name of Christ, but I am not saying that you would have to be a Christian to do what he does, anymore then I would blame the gunman’s actions on his humanist beliefs.

    I think that the fear that there could be a backlash because the gunman was a humanist has not materialized, however there has been quite a deal of praise for God.

  • Steve Schlicht

    “I think that the fear that there could be a backlash because the gunman was a humanist has not materialized, however there has been quite a deal of praise for God.”

    Which is always interesting, given that the guard is the one who prevented further loss of life.

    As an aside, atheists Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and, now, Mark Zuckerberg are donating billions of “bikes” (metaphorically speaking) in philanthropic efforts.

    I praise them one and all.


  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    As someone who’s struggled with (and continues to struggle with) self-destructive behaviors, I can say this is an aspect of humanity that humanism needs to embrace and not shy away from, and work toward finding healthy solutions to.

    Disowning this behavior does the movement no favors in the long run.

    @HP: Humanism is just a PR word for ‘nice atheism’. The manifestos and statements of principles and mission statements are all just superficial fluff with no real substance to them. They are just put there to rebuke theist stereotypes. They’re reactionary. They don’t reflect any positive vision of what Humanists actually believe in – they’re just there to say ‘we don’t believe in gods and we’re decent people’. Compare that to a world view with some real substance to it, like existentialism.

    Acknowledging greed, selfishness, deceit, and so on as real aspects of human behavior, among both the religious and the secular, undermines Humanist public relations/marketing. So of course Humanism is going to shy away from acknowledging the reality of destructive behaviors, however human they might be. Those behaviors are like the crazy aunt in the closet everyone knows is there but no one ever talks about. If we ignore it maybe it will go away.

    Looking at other people through rose-colored glasses is all that Humanism has that makes it distinctive. Take that away and you’re left with simple atheism. Atheists can acknowledge that secular people are just as likely to do bad things as religious people, but since it contradicts Humanist dogma Humanists cannot acknowledge that.

  • Steve Schlicht

    Non-Litigious Atheist,

    It’s almost as if you didn’t read any of the posts or links in this thread in favor of your completely straw man argument.

    Here is one quick perspective (out of many posted here) that you may find of interest:

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