Godless Grad Student

news and reflections from an active atheist and disabled graduate student

Archive for September 2010


with one comment

For those of you that have not heard, a man who identified himself as an atheist held three hostages at the gunpoint.  The hostages are safe; the gunman was shot and killed.  It seems to be titled “Discovery Hostage Situation” through the media.  I first heard about it though a phone call yesterday afternoon.  I didn’t have Internet access all day, so I’m catching up with the media reports now.  Due to extremely heavy traffic on 95 S, I finally made it home at 2 AM and I’ve spent the last hour reading media reports and sharing some thoughts.

The gunman was James Lee, although I knew him as  just “Lee.”  Lee was active in the local atheist community.  In addition to the thoughts on overpopulation he “shared” yesterday, Lee believed the 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy.  He was also adamantly anti-immigration.

In one of my first conversations with Lee, he informed me that he moved to the DC area to be involved in political activism… that this was where everything was supposed to be happening and he was disappointed that more was not going on.  He certainly did not hide the fact that he thought he could save the world but he never made any statements about breaking the law or using violence to obtain his objectives.

In short, he said he was staying here until he ran out of money – probably this year.  (He was not employed.)  I was suspicious that he was planning to commit suicide when that time came.

Lee never hesitated to share his thoughts at local events.  This quote (from CNN) sums up his behavior well.

During the negotiations, Lee exhibited a “range of emotions,” Manger said. At times he was agitated and at times he was calm, but he never strayed far from his grievance against Discovery, he said.

Lee would frequently have an outburst for several seconds and then resume a calm demeanor.  Members were frequently taken aback during these moments.  He was interested in public speaking and specifically honing his ability to convey his arguments more effectively.

I was concerned about some of his fringe thoughts and I warned other local leaders about Lee.  I also discouraged Lee from attending events with a group I lead.  Although he continued to be active in several other groups, he did not attend the group I lead since May of this year.  As I read the media reports now, many of the pieces are coming together and I’m now realizing that today’s events were Lee’s plan for quite some time.  I also went back and searched my e-mail and I noticed he used the name “Mister Guerilla” on his account… I hadn’t paid any attention to this earlier.

This entire situation brings up something else that I have been working on a blog post to discuss.  Atheism is only a statement about one thing – a lack of belief in god.  It says nothing about what else you may or may not believe or how you came to lack belief.  Some people do not come to atheism through critical thinking and other times those who do, fail to apply critical thinking to aspects of their life outside of religion.

Violence (or threats of violence) is never the answer.  I plan to share more thoughts on the situation tomorrow but it’s been a long day and I need to get some rest.  I specifically want to touch on what we, as local leaders, can do to create safe spaces for inquiry and reflection.

One last thought before I go to bed: I don’t think he did this *because* he was an atheist… more tomorrow.


Written by godlessgradstudent

September 2, 2010 at 2:45 am