Three young college students are dead today, gunned down in a horrific act of terroristic violence. Their killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, turned himself into police shortly after he claims he committed the murders. His victims all shared one trait in common: They were Muslim.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, of Chapel Hill, Yusor Mohammad, 21, of Chapel Hill, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh, were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

All three victims were shot in the head, sources said.

Barakat, a second-year dental student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, married Yusor Mohammad in late December, according to school officials.

Surely, it would never occur to the president to suggest that these three people were targeted “randomly,” because there is ample evidence to suggest that they weren’t. Hicks described himself as an “anti-theist,” is aggressively opposed to religiosity of all kinds and may have taken his hatred out on these three slain students.

As tributes poured in for the young family, a Facebook page in Hicks’ name showed that he read paralegal studies at Durham Technical Community College and described himself as a supporter of “Atheists for Equality”.

A regular social media user, his last three posts were a cute dog video about the Pavlov effect, a viral advert for Air New Zealand involving mountain bikes, and a picture from United Atheists of America asking “why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each others’ influence when they agree about so many ideological issues”.

TV programmes liked by Hicks include The Atheist Experience, Criminal Minds and Friends, while he describes himself as a fan of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.

What are the distinctions between this act of religiously-inspired violence (yes, the brand of atheism that leads its adherents to proselytize their faith is as much a theological doctrine as are any of the world’s great religions) and Islamist terrorism? To my mind, not much. And like those “self-radicalized lone wolves” who executed bloody attacks on targets selected entirely at random like a kosher deli, members of the NYPD, and Canadian parliament, Hicks is clearly mentally unbalanced.

In the name of consistency, those who spend a better part of their time in the wake of horrible acts of terrorism like these drawing exculpatory parallels to the Spanish Inquisition will surely insist that Hicks is unrepresentative of atheists and atheism. It goes without saying that no one on the left will seek to indict the Southern Poverty Law Center, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or The Rachel Maddow Show for inspiring a “climate of hate” merely because Hicks is a self-described fan of these institutions.

In fact, the left would likely regard the suggestion that Hicks’ associations and irreligious fervor led him to violence as nonsense. But let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s imagine for a minute that Hicks committed these horrible acts, and his Facebook page indicated that he was not a fan of secular center-leftist institutions but Christian conservative establishments. What if Hicks’ Facebook “likes” consisted of Heritage Action, Duck Dynasty, and Joel Osteen? Judgments would remain reserved, right? The American media complex would bend over backward to insist that Hicks is a lone actor, and his abhorrent acts of violence do not reflect on either his faith or his political beliefs, right? Unlikely. The same media that rushed to judgment and presumed that Andrew Joseph Stack, Jared Lee Loughner, and James Eagan Holmes were tea party members (only to be proven that the opposite was true every time) would eagerly indict both the murderer and his political philosophy.

Hicks is a monster. His crimes are unspeakable, and he will be punished. Few, however, will draw any broader conclusions about what his actions say about his ideological persuasion, as they should not. There is evidence to suggest, though, that the nation’s media and political class is only selectively consistent on matters like these.

UPDATE: Police believe that it is possible that what has been described as a “simmering dispute about parking near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus” motivated the triple homicide. If true, this would render all pontifications about the influence the perpetrator and victim’s religious and political affiliations played in this crime, including those above, entirely moot.

I’ll just leave this here: