I felt prompted to post a statement regarding hatred and religion, in part because of a reaction to this well-written post, by Cara Freyasdaughter, and in part because I have been reading more and more of late about incidents of hatred rising up among Pagans in general – or more appropriately, incidents in which hate-filled people attempt to justify their hatred by using religion and the gods to lend them some sense of qualification. While I think it would be difficult for anyone to read through my writings (some of which I will link to in this post), and come away with the notion that I either condone hatred, or see religion as a proper platform from which to spread hatred, I do think that a general statement to clarify my thoughts on this is not a bad idea; and I would encourage like-minded people of any religion to consider the subject with regards to their own beliefs, and consider posting their own statements on the Internet.
I have written about this subject at various times, throughout the years. Hatred is, in my opinion, a reaction either born from or nourished by (or likely both) fear and insecurity, as I wrote in this post, “The wolf that wins.” While fear and insecurity give hate a fertile place to grow, I believe ignorance to be the seed that carries it farthest along on the winds. Ignorance can be achieved either through a direct lack of awareness, or through a not-so thought-out awareness of half-truths. For this reason, misdirection is historically a favorite tool of those who would spread hatred, using it to play upon the fears and insecurities of others. Up to this point, there has been no mention of the gods. This is deliberate, as I think those who would abuse religion and the gods to justify their fears and insecurities are acting not at all religiously, and 100% politically. As I outline in my essay, “On Relative Being,” I tend to think religion is better off not being used as a political tool.
As hatred is based on fear and insecurity, it is a logical conclusion that those who feel like their gods or their beliefs in their gods justify hatred and the spread of hatred are also sensing fear and insecurity coming from their gods. Not only do I find the notion preposterous, I find it insulting to the gods, and those who believe without fear. This attempt at justifying hatred at the divine level also assumes that the gods are as concerned with our various politics as we are; thus is there not just an attempt to deify hatred, but politics, as well. Again, preposterous. As I wrote in my post, “Cursing,” using the names of our gods in this way is within itself a tell-tale signal of personal defeat. Those who feel the need to hide behind a god’s name while spouting hatred are at the very least supporting the premise that hatred is based in fear – they are simply not secure enough with their own hatred to let it stand on its own and in the open, they need a god (or two) to ‘back them up.’
Within the mainstream of many religions, there seems to be a somewhat common thought that the hate mongers claiming similar religious beliefs and justifying their hatred by those same beliefs are ‘merely’ radicals, or extremists, or even crazed whack-jobs. The tendency is often to ignore such people, or to not dignify their hatred with a response. I remember often, throughout the outbreak of terrorist actions in the Middle East and elsewhere over the years, that many in the Western world have complained that the moderate, mainstream Muslims should do more to clarify that hatred has no place in Islam, the religion of peace as it is often called. I think this is something the mainstream within any religion should consider. Hitler identified himself as Christian. Charles I (‘the Great’) slaughtered up to 4,500 Heathens in the town of Verden, Germany, in a single day in the name of his god … this abuse of religion to justify hatred and violence is not a new invention, and no religion has proven itself immune. Speaking out against this form of religious abuse, while clarifying the beliefs held at individual or group levels, in a respectful and direct manner, makes it harder to grow or spread hatred: it dispels ignorance, and it reduces fears and misunderstandings while correcting misdirection. This is my primary motivation for making this statement regarding my own beliefs.
Fearfulness, insecurity, ignorance, misdirection, defeat and a sense of cowardice so profound that it would risk insulting the gods is not a proper way to connect with or nurture a good relationship with the gods or other people. We can accept that those who feel otherwise have the right to their opinions, while making our own beliefs firmly, and openly known. We can accept these people as being scared, and we can endeavor to help alleviate the fears that drive their hatred; but we do not have to accept their hatred, nor do we have to accept any crimes or attacks against others that they commit based on their hatred.