Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is a Hate Group?

There is a blog I follow written by this guy I only know as @vjack. His blog Atheist Revolution is one that I have been following for a couple of months now. Generally he has some pretty good stuff that has to do with the revolution of the mind, looking beyond spiritualism and mysticism and taking a no nonsense approach to faith, religion and politics. Every once in a while he gets a bit emotional on some subjects and overall I have really enjoyed his blog and follow it, well...cough...religiously. I know I crack myself up sometimes...

Anyway, yesterday he posted his Idiot of the Week blog, which is one of the things I really like about his blog. @vjack chooses from a wide selection of idiots and chooses one that goes above and beyond the normal idiocy of our times and distinguishes his or herself with extraordinary stupidity. This week's Idiot of the Week was Bishop Council Nedd II. A deserved award to an amazing idiot. Bishop Nedd has the distinction of being the Chairman of the Conservative Christian group “In God we Trust”.

This last week members of the current administration met with Coalition of America. CoA is an umbrella group that covers many interest groups. Among these groups is American Atheists and the Coalition of Secular Humanists. It was a meeting intended to express concerns of groups that are considered to be out of the mainstream in our hyper religious culture.

Well apparently Bishop Nedd found this meeting objectionable going so far as to accuse the Obama Administration of meeting with...hate groups. I won't lie to you. I find that assertion disturbing. First allow me to say that, speaking for myself at least, and I would dare say for TRUE atheists, we do NOT hate your god. Why? Hate would be an acknowledgment of his existence. You cannot hate what does not exist, simply put it is illogical and irrational. True atheism is an embracing of logic and reason, hence I argue that a TRUE atheist does not actually “hate” god. Furthermore, I would argue that a true atheist doesn't hate people that believe in god. Pity them? Maybe. Laugh at them? Possibly. Hate them? Not likely.

Now before I get into the real reason for my blog allow me to state that Bishop Nedd's ignorant dribble is offensive beyond the fact that I am an atheist and I take his accusation personal. The truth is that his accusation and the implication of that accusation is wrong, simply on principle. I am an American. I am an active member of this society. I pay my taxes. I vote. I make every day decisions that Americans of every race, creed, political affiliation and sexual orientation make. I am not a criminal, simply because I do not embrace your god. I am not a part of some clandestine group meeting in basements attempting to overthrow the government or disseminate a message of hate or violence. I do not in any way shape or form fit the legal or psychological definition of a hate group, and I resent the implications.

Having said that I want to approach my subject for today. What makes a hate group a hate group? The accusation of “hate group” is a rather non definitive statement. It leaves the accusation too easy to throw around. If there are no definitive perimeters then it can be tossed around loosely at a whim. If it can be tossed around loosely at a whim with little definition then it has very little meaning. Ultimately, the term “hate group” could really mean (as it is in the case of Bishop Nedd) someone that just disagrees with your point of view, which is completely invalid and unfair. So let us attempt to establish some perimeters on what a “hate group” is.

"Hate groups" is a very difficult term to google as mostly it will bring up people with their own definitions and perimeters for what categorizes a hate group. Mostly it is people with agendas flinging around their definitions of what a hate group really is, mostly naming some hate group they particularly dislike. I could not find it in any dictionary mostly because it is TWO words...dictionaries define words not terms. So I started with the subject “hate crimes” in an Encyclopedia. Here is the definition:

hate crime
In law, a crime directed at a person or persons on the basis of characteristics such as race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The concept emerged in the U.S. in the late 1970s, and since then laws have been passed in many U.S. states mandating additional penalties for violent crimes motivated by bias or bigotry against particular groups. Several other Western countries, including Australia, Britain, and Canada, have adopted laws designed to curb violent crime against racial and religious minorities. For example, German law forbids public incitement and instigation of racial hatred, including the distribution of Nazi propaganda.

So by this definition of "hate crimes" I come to a reasonable conclusion about exactly what is a hate group. A hate group can be identified as a group that partakes in the act of ostracizing, dividing and promoting negative opinions and actions based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. A group that promotes this behavior and rhetoric can safely be identified as a hate group. That seems to be a reasonable definition but still is kind of broad.

The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) identifies hate groups as groups that “have beliefs, or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” For those that may not understand that, it simply states that these groups attack an entire group of people due to reasons that are beyond their control, hence the immutable (unchangeable) characteristics. It is important to understand that not all hate groups are criminal in their activity. That is in the legal sense of the word. Some groups promote or condone criminal activity, merely through rhetoric, which is completely allowable by our Constitution and the freedom of speech. Talking about revolutions is not a revolution. Talking about killing people is not actual murder. That does not mean it is right morally or ethically just that it is not illegal. Nor does it absolve these hate groups of their influence, it just means they are typically not held legally responsible, until a direct crime has been committed. Furthermore, I would argue that this definition does not go far enough. “Immutable characteristics” allows only for those things that are unchangeable. Religion does not fall under this definition because it is possible to change your religion. Nobody should be persecuted or suffer at the hands of hate and harassment simply because of their religious belief or lack thereof.

So...having taken as much of a middle of the road approach to the subject as possible I would like to add some personal thoughts on the matter. What identifiers should be used to characterize a hate group? This is a big deal because an encyclopedia definition is too broad and still leaves “hate group” as an easy accusation to throw around at a whim. So I will put forth the following possible indicators, and please feel free to argue them in comments:

(1)A sense of superiority that justifies violent action. Now there is a very important point to be made here. We all at some point feel superior and condescending. Lets face it. I am an atheist. I believe in logic and reason. If we are to be honest all atheists at some point has to battle a feeling of pity for some poor soul that is incapable of seeing the nose on the front of their face. At the same time all religious people at some point pity me and shake their head in sadness that I am going to hell. The point is we all have a sense of superiority at one time or another. It is not just a mere sense of superiority that makes a hate group a hate group. It is when that sense of superiority goes beyond that to the step of justifying, promoting, condoning or even acting out in violence. And I am not necessarily arguing that a religious belief (such as hell) is an act of violence. I would argue that an atheist that uses the doctrine of hell as proof of an act of violence in order to group all religions in a hate group is contradicting themselves. If there is no god then god cannot send people to hell. You cannot have it both ways. Hell is the control feature of religion and is what it is. It is when you get into the sense of spirituality that leads to a narcissitic complex that can justify violent acts. Those that approve of the shooting of the abortion doctor, Dr. George Tiller are a perfect example of a sense of superiority that leads to justifying and condoning violence. Those that approve of, and condone violent crimes against the gay and lesbian community because of their sexual preference is also a perfect example of a hate group.

(2)A sense of superiority that promotes ostracizing a group of people based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I am not in anyway saying that people should be forced to approve or accept people that they do not approve of. Lets face it, this is no utopia and there are people we don't like irregardless of their beliefs and behavior. I do not ask you to accept me or approve of me. Frankly, I do not need your approval in order to live with myself. I am not talking about individuals being pushed away by individuals. I am talking about pointedly going out of your way to get society to reject a group of people. For example...a person that disapproves of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. I am not arguing that you should be forced to accept or approve. That is your personal choice and is your right as a human being and free will agent. But when you go out of your way to ostracize and actively preach their removal from society like some ancient leper, at that point you have crossed over the line of personal belief to hate.

(3)A sense of superiority that you feel grants you a measure of control over the life and happiness of another group of individuals. Now this one is iffy, and I admit that. However, I would argue that if you have such a sense of superiority that you feel you have the right to dictate to those you see beneath you how they should live and what they can or cannot do to be happy, then I would argue that you are promoting hate. It is a sense that you are in control, and that it is only your opinion that counts, and that you can take away basic rights away from those beneath you, simply because you feel it is so. Any group that promotes that kind of agenda could arguable be placed in the category of a hate group. If the violation of the basic civil rights of a group are violated and it is justified, condoned and actively promoted by a group of individuals that consider themselves superior based on their race or religious views then that is a hate group in action.

(4)A sense of superiority that devalues the worth of human life. I know this almost seems to repeat my first point, but it is more than just violence. It is more of a state of mind. I know I have mentioned the gay and lesbian community a lot, but it is just very applicable. I have heard the “stop burning flags and start burning fags”. That is hate. Simple as that. Any movement that devalues life based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation is a hate group,

Based on these arguments Bishop Nedd, I would argue that every morning when you wake up and look at the mirror you are looking at the chairman of a hate group. I would argue that many of these groups, that want to push and force their code of values on other people because they are "right" and because they are righteous are promoters of hate. I would argue that your very act of trying to deny Americans their constitutional right to speak to their elected leaders, and attempted to make these honest Americans out to be criminals in order to silence their voice makes you a hate monger. Never forget...we too are Americans. And just because we don't believe in your god does not mean we are criminals, hate groups or any less American with any less rights.


Mandy said...

I would say that is a very thorough and well thought out definition of a hate group.

What I find sad is that Obama is considered to have met with a "hate group" simply because he meets with a group of people that are not of the "popular opinion".

What a sad state of affairs.

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