Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hate Crimes

The legal definition:

Hate Crime - threats, harassment, or physical harm motivated by prejudice against one’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability

I’m not a biblical scholar, but I have read the Bible several times, and I’m on my second complete reading of the Quran. While I’m not an expert, I know what I’ve read, and I know this: if these books had been written today, they would be considered hate crimes.

Of course, if they had been written today, they would not be as popular as they are now, because these are by-and-large shoddily written, self-contradictory diatribes of blatant ignorance. On second thought, they would find a decent audience among Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck viewers.

Ignoring all traditions and practices that have sprung up around these “holy” books , the books themselves are guilty of promoting some of the most vile and petty ideas to ever stain the human mind. Mass genocide, the treatment of women as property, the explicit calls to kill people for being homosexual or worshipping different gods… these are the hallmarks of the Abrahamic religious texts.

This is no accident; it is by design. Most religions function not by channeling emotions like love, but by standardizing emotions like hate, and religions usually define themselves not by the good deeds they perform, but by the things they oppose.

“But Ginx, doesn’t that mean you’re a religious Atheist, since you hate religion.”

I would certainly be a religious Atheist if I hated religion, but I don’t; I hate religious people. Not all of them, mind you, nor most of them. Rather, I hate those special individuals who treat their religion not as a club they have joined, but as a club to beat others over the head. Moreover, I don’t harass or threaten religious people (let alone physically harm them or destroy their property).

There’s just something fundamentally ignorant about hating people you don’t even know. That’s why I believe in order to really hate someone, you have to get to know them first. How can you hate (or treat differently) someone based on something so inconsequential as skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or religion?

Now, I’ve heard (and even made) the argument that something like religion is a choice, and it is. But frankly, it’s not like joining most religions means that someone condones all manner of bigotry advocated by their holy book or perpetrated by unsavory elements in the flock. Moreover, there is a compelling case for homosexuality being a choice.

I don’t want to get into whether homosexuality is choice, but I would point out that I consider it a “choice” in the same way that eating sushi is a choice; anyone can do it, only some people will like it (either naturally or through acquiring a taste for it), and it disgusts some people who haven’t even tried it. However, I can honestly say that it is supreme ignorance to hate someone for being gay, as ridiculous as hating someone for liking sushi.

But I digress. I originally titled this post, “Religion is a Hate Crime,” and indeed some are. However, such a statement is itself prejudiced. Not all religions are particularly hateful, and even if they were, I can imagine one that wasn’t. In fact, I need look no further than a Christian phrase to define the concept behind it: love the sinner, hate the sin.

Oh wait, that isn’t actually Christian… Mahatma Gandhi said it. Nothing like that is written anywhere in the Bible, but that hasn’t stopped Christians from appropriating it to soften their brutish creed. I suppose Christians need to give the archaic Bible an update… but I’m sure God doesn’t mind. God loves people who take the initiative, after all: God helps those who helps themselves.

Hold on… it was actually, “The gods help those who help themselves,” until Benjamin Franklin appropriated it from Aesop and made it singular. Again, there is nothing like this in the Christian holy book. The Bible version?

Thus says the LORD,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
- Jeremiah 17:5
It’s no wonder Christians are so ignorant of what’s in the Bible… you can’t read this stuff and remain impressed. There is a reason is why most of the modern religions have dropped the vast majority of their bigotry: most aren’t even aware it’s there. It’s as though the Bible is a License Agreement on a piece of software, and Christians just scroll to the bottom and click “Accept” without reading it. The next thing they know, Google Chrome is installed in their brain…

But I digress, yet again. There is a certain presence of anti-hate crime sentiment. “Every crime is a hate crime,” some say, and why should we treat crimes differently if they are committed against a loved one or against a targeted stranger? This is a valid concern, and I don’t necessarily believe in special punishments. Rather, it is a distinction, a way of defining the nature of a crime. It would be tantamount to saying, “Well, should we call anything ‘rape,’ because isn’t every crime doing something against someone’s will?”

What’s more, hate crimes can actually be worse than a normal crime. Say you hurt someone because they slept with your wife. This “crime of passion” isn’t something you could spontaneously repeat, though it is a crime. Now, suppose you hurt someone because they are... a red head. You are a greater danger to society than the person who hurt someone who did something directly to them. In fact, you are potentially a danger to every person with red hair. Society has an interest in this distinction.

Photo courtesy of failblog.org, at the suggestion of the first commenter.

Furthermore, the most heinous crimes against humanity tend to be large-scale hate crimes. Genocide and other forms of systematic persecution are very real problems. They occur in the form of institutional prejudice, and there is always some component of bigotry against entire groups. And therein lies the problem: when anyone can look upon a group of people as a singular whole, they will fail to see the individuals, and it will be easier to mentally dehumanize them in order to justify abuse.

And that is the mechanism behind hate crimes which is so insidious: it makes it possible to hurt large amounts of people.


  1. http://failblog.org/2010/11/29/epic-fail-photos-ginger-sign-fail/

  2. "...by-and-large shoddily written, self-contradictory diatribes of blatant ignorance." I think you've found the perfect summary for Glenn Beck's next book.

    And I agree that most people aren't bigots just because they belong to a certain religion. But I do think people should take care when making claims about the bible if they're not fully aware of what it says.

  3. There are two types of religious people.

    Those that know exactly what their religious texts say and follow them as is, those are fundamentalists and fanatics since they know about all the nasty bits and aren't ashamed by them but rather claim they are good, ugh.

    And those that either don't know what their texts say or they do but they intentionally reinterpret them or say that "that was then, not now" in order to make them look better or to simply rationalize their beliefs with a cruel written theology. You can have many fundamentalists in this area as well who aren't quite as extreme.

    But the facts are that some of these texts (the Hebrew Bible in particular) are never meant to be theological texts, but rather anthologies of collected myths, legends, poems, ancient laws and practices, etc. and in that light i do rather enjoy reading them. I would never base my morality on their precepts though, that is what makes these interesting fables turn into disgusting racist and violent documents.

  4. "It’s as though the Bible is a License Agreement on a piece of software, and Christians just scroll to the bottom and click “Accept” without reading it. The next thing they know, Google Chrome is installed in their brain…"

    I got a kick out of that one!

    A very cool post . . .


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