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Sensationalized news exploits prejudices [Letter]

ABC television sensationalized a news story, reporting "Atheist executed 3 Muslims," using the American Atheist logo as a backdrop for the broadcast and generating worldwide coverage on Feb 11. Recently, columnists Tom Zirpoli and Dean Minnich lamented how biased media reports rush to judgment. Would "Methodist shoots neighbors" grab headlines?

Shame on the media for implying that atheist thinking provokes the killing of religious people. American Atheist and other secular groups all condemn violence and work worldwide to educate people that violence is counterproductive to an ethical system of interdependent people, living in free societies. I encourage people to see the American Atheist philosophy at Atheists.org and read the Aims and Purposes of Atheism for themselves.

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The story was about Craig Stephen Hicks' anger, an allegedly mentally unbalanced man accused of shooting three Chapel Hill college students over disputed parking spaces. Hicks' ex-wife and neighbors said Hicks was enraged over parking spaces, noise and other issues, but the shooting was not about religion. Hicks was obsessed about Second Amendment rights and owned 12 guns. Why didn't reporters peruse easy access to guns and NRA for supporting open carry laws? This shooting should have remained a North Carolina story, but just adding the words atheist and Muslim exploits for emotional prejudices.

This story in Elkton remained a local story: A pistol packing TV viewer shoots three fellow viewers who asked him to lower his voice. The man acted just as irrationally and impulsively as Hicks. Thankfully no one died. Sadly, these events are too common and I see a relationship to road rage and spousal abuse incidents.

Hicks and other rage-filled people are a major societal problem, and the culprit is their irrational thinking. Rage prone people think things must go their way and are dangerous when coupled with an inability to manage anger. Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy, known as Cognitive Therapy, and I used it as foster mother. I cared for emotionally disturbed foster children 9 to 16 years old who were prone to act out, and I frequently drew on Ellis' words for sanity. Ellis' suggested coping statement: "It's not what I like, it's not what I want but I can damn well stand it."

I would add verbally exploding or shooting rarely resolves any problem. It usually it multiplies problems.

Nan Nelson

Westminster

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