Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Worldnutdaily Blames Dawkins for Suicide

In perhaps one of the most ridiculous and sleaziest things the Worldnutdaily has ever published – and imagine how stiff that competition is – they are now blaming Richard Dawkins for a 22 year old who committed suicide after reading The God Delusion – and even blaming a college professor who suggested the book to him.

“Three people told us he had taken a biology class and was doing well in it, but other students and the professor were really challenging my son, his faith. They didn’t like him as a Republican, as a Christian, and as a conservative who believed in intelligent design,” the grief-stricken father, Keith Kilgore, told WND about his son, Jesse.

“This professor either assigned him to read or challenged him to read a book, ‘The God Delusion,’ by Richard Dawkins,” he said.

Jesse Kilgore committed suicide in October by walking into the woods near his New York home and shooting himself. Keith Kilgore said he was shocked because he believed his son was grounded in Christianity, had blogged against abortion and for family values, and boasted he’d been debating for years.

You can bet that this will immediately become part of that artifice of silly myths that make up the fundamentalist “worldview” (a term I despise), a cautionary tale against reading dangerous ideas because they’ll make you go crazy and kill yourself. Because obviously, having been raised for 22 years in a Christian household had no effect at all on him psychologically, but reading a single book pushed him over the edge.

The first inkling of a reason for the suicide came, Keith Kilgore told WND, when one of Jesse’s friends came to visit after word of his son’s death circulated.

“She was in tears [and said] he was very upset by this book,” Keith Kilgore said. “‘It just destroyed him,’ were her words.

“Then another friend at the funeral told me the same thing,” Keith Kilgore said. “This guy was his best friend, and about the only other Christian on campus.

“The third one was the last person that my son talked to an hour before [he died,]” Keith Kilgore told WND, referring to a member of his extended family whose name is not being revealed here.

That relative, who had struggled with his own faith and had returned to Christianity, wrote in a later e-mail that Jesse “started to tell me about his loss of faith in everything.”

“He was pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong,” the relative wrote. “I remember him telling me that he thought that murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences.

“He mentioned the book he had been reading ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins and how it along with the science classes he had take[n] had eroded his faith. Jesse was always great about defending his beliefs, but somehow, the professors and the book had presented him information that he found to be irrefutable. He had not talked … about it because he was afraid of how you might react. … and that he knew most of your defenses of Christianity because he himself used them often. Maybe he had used them against his professors and had the ideas shot down.”

You see how dangerous education is? That, of course, is precisely the lesson they’re trying to offer. It’s an inoculation against thinking, a vaccine to prevent those bad ideas from getting through. Worse yet, he’s trying to get something done to the professor who suggested the book:

Keith Kilgore believes it was a biology class that raised questions for his son, and a biology professor at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y., where his son was attending, who suggested the book.

A school spokeswoman told WND that the “God Delusion” was not a part of the biology curriculum, and several of the professors she contacted said they had not even read the book. However, the spokeswoman was unable to contact all of the professors in the department and could not state that none of them had suggested the book to Jesse.

Local police also did not respond to WND inquiries about the investigation into the death.

“One of his friends, and his uncle (they did not know each other) both told me that Jesse called them hours before he took his life and that he had lost all hope because he was convinced that God did not exist, and this book was the cause,” Keith Kilgore told WND.

Keith Kilgore, a retired military chaplain who has dealt with the various stages of grief and readily admits he’s still in the “anger” stage over his son’s death, said his son apparently had checked the “Delusion” out of the college library.

“I’m all for academic freedom,” Keith Kilgore said. “What I do have a problem with is if there’s going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance.

“They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son],” he said. “They ought to be held accountable.”

He suggested the moral is for Christians simply to abandon public schools wholly.

“Here’s another thing,” he continued. “If my son was a professing homosexual, and a professor challenged him to read [a book called] ‘Preventing Homosexuality’… If my son was gay and [the book] made him feel bad, hopeless, and he killed himself, and that came out in the press, there would be an outcry.

“He would have been a victim of a hate crime and the professor would have been forced to undergo sensitivity training, and there may have even been a wrongful death lawsuit.

“But because he’s a Christian, I don’t even get a return telephone call,” the father told WND.

All of this is nonsense, of course. Hate crime laws have absolutely nothing to do with making people feel bad, especially when it involves merely suggesting a book whose ideas conflicted with theirs, as opposed to actually harassing or intimidating someone.

All of this is coming from the father of the guy who killed himself. And I understand his grief. I’ve had a good friend commit suicide and I know from personal experience that the first thing you do is try to figure out why he did it. I can sympathize with his need to figure out why his son would do such a terrible thing. But this kind of simplistic scapegoating may make him feel better psychologically, but it doesn’t do anyone else any good. And it certainly shouldn’t be taken seriously by others.

But expect Keith Kilgore to become a rising star on the religious right now. He will be the second coming of Darrell Scott, the father of one of the Columbine shooting victims who has spent the last several years railing against evolution and blaming Darwin for his daughter’s death. They will spend the rest of their lives turning tragedy into demagoguery.