From faith to hatred

On Monday night New Zealand TV1 screened a documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church.

Members of this church continually picket the funerals of American marines killed in Iraq – claiming the war is God’s punishment for the evils of US society. They picket funerals of gays and anyone they designate as “fag enablers” (for example they picketed the Heath Ledger memorial) . They picket churches who have suffered fire damage – claiming that these were “acts of God” in retaliation for the sins of the Church. They preach that God Hates America and that the “Rapture” is imminent. They will be saved whereas everyone else are sinners who will go to hell.

No thinking person could support such activities. But that is the point – these people aren’t thinking. They base their beliefs on faith. Biblical authority can be used to justify any position – from the most benign to the most hateful.

Faith can also be used to create an immunity to evidence and reason. This was clear in the documentary – there was no way church members could even consider the arguments presented to them by Louis Theroux, the documentary reporter. They new he was going to hell for his beliefs and lifestyle.

Unfortunately such faith-based extremism is not uncommon. Isn’t this the approach of religious opponents when they deny the evidence for evolutionary theory and modern scientific concepts of the universe and human consciousness? And this faith-based approach is not limited to religions. The style of argument used by the Westboro Baptist church members reminded me strongly of that used by New Zealand’s Maoists during the 1960s and 1970’s. The behavior of the Red Guards during the so-called “Cultural Revolution” in China was similar.

Mind you, I did see a positive sign during the documentary. There was a spark of sexual tension between one of the female church members and Louis Theroux. Perhaps sex is a way of breaking through this faith-based hatred. Maybe that’s why such groups do their best to protect their members from the possibilities of such sexual interaction.

Related Articles:
Moral authority
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Common values, common action?
Is religion the source of morality?
Christian problems with morality

8 responses to “From faith to hatred

  1. One might almost say, ahem, “Make Love not Religion”. Ahem.


  2. Michael Moore must’ve had the same idea, “Make Love Not Religion”, when he used a Sodomobile to follow Phelps & Co around…


  3. I caught most of this programme as well.

    Obviously, I’m repulsed by their actions. I found it particularly interesting (and revealing) that the ‘pastor’ would not even attempt to listen to (let alone meaningfully interact with) Louis’ questions.


  4. Interesting how ignorance begot ignorance. Maybe the saying should be “the ignorant shall rule”,
    Hitler was successful for some time. Believe of go to hell is a great slogan for non thinking, faith can be so full filling for those without reason. Not much difference between this kind of non reason than the Moslem one used by thugs to foster a personal agenda. We will not even go to the Pope.


  5. Yes, Dale, Phelps was was immunised in his hatred. I wonder how people get like that. I was discussing the programme with my partner who has a professional interest (lectures in sociology and counselling). She says people like this have almost inevitably been sexually abused as children.

    The psychology of people who appear to get satisfaction in belonging to an unpopular group and continually thrusting their message in front of a non-receptive public is interesting too. We see this with some of the religious door-knockers but I think it also happens with some radical political groups. I think that personal psychology is very often the driving factor in people’s political activity.


  6. I’m continually fascinated by how things like experiences can ‘change’ us. Things like a waterfall, or an abusive father, or a beautiful plant, a dog, a website – in other words, things that we touch, hear, smell, taste, see or otherwise ‘feel’… these things not only change us mentally and/or emotionally, but they can apparently change us physically! They can cause our brain to operate differently, forming different neural pathways and networks and associations, etc. (and with that, I’m showing just how poor a swimmer I am in such waters!)…

    This (again showing my ignorance) ‘internal phyical correlation’ to ‘external forces’ is fascinating to me. And it would stand to reason that our own thinking, meditating, and other things that we each do of our own accord can and do shape us in the same way (neural networking etc.)… Fascinating…

    Actions have consequences, indeed! Far more detailed than we may have imagined before, and observable in different ways that we may have thought!



  7. To be fair, abusive mothers have a huge effect too.


  8. I cannot adequately express how frustrated and disappointed I am by people like Phelps or Falwell or any Christian that drives people away from Jesus with their hatred and intolerance.

    It does, literally, go against what Jesus taught and did. Jesus went to the sinners, showed compassion to everyone that wanted to know God (the Pharisees are an exception, they were interested in their status and power).

    I honestly have to wonder if someone like Fred Phelps is an actual Christian, or if he is just using the Bible to feed his own innate hatred. It’s not my place to judge who is a true Christian or not, but when I see people like this, they must know what impact their intolerance has. They must know they are creating this idea that Jesus was a bigot, and that countless people will turn away from Christianity because of it. How can any true Christian want that?


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