Oh good. He just became enraged by the sight of two men kissing. It had “nothing to do with religion.”
I feel so much better now.
Someone who becomes enraged at the sight of two men kissing already has a well established belief system about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. Homophobia does not arise ex nihilo in the hearts of chosen people destined to be “homophobes.” Acknowledging individual homophobes while ignoring their culturo-political contexts is like ignoring the air and observing that many organisms breathe oxygen.
I’m sorry, but this did not have “nothing to do with religion.” It had everything to do with religion – just nothing to do with Islam in particular.
The world over, people are invested in systems of thought that address life’s big questions while providing a moral an social framework for a good life. Great. Beautiful. Stunning. Important.
The problem is that these systems are crafted by frail, fallible humans, and they weave their own frailties and biases into these systems.
We can pretend all we want that religion is just about internal moral guidance and sage advice from our forebears – but we are indeed just pretending until we uncouple the good from the bad.
Because you can’t seriously tell me that having your central moral compass approve of murder and slavery and rape and abuse doesn’t have an effect on people and cultures. And again, I address all the world’s religions, which between them manage to ban foods, most forms of human sexuality, blended fabrics and menstruation, and yet also devote great detail to the exact rules of how to murder and plunder and rape and enslave. Billions of people all around the world believe the fate of their soul is tied to their adherence to the sociopolitical mores of long-deceased people. And on the whole, our species had some pretty fucking troubling beliefs back when we were scraping our religious texts together.
There are no lone gunmen. There are no lone rapists! Attributing these crimes to lone individuals – whether we cite ‘insanity’ or ‘evil’ or ‘zealotry’ or what have you -, allows the real, pervasive causes to persist and grow. It is troubling not that certain individuals are violent – it is troubling that we live in a culture of violence with multiple marginalized foci.
The lone gunman fallacy lets destructive culture off the hook every time. Why do the hard work when we can pretend there’s nothing we can do? Why study peace when war will give you meaning? Why challenge flawed beliefs when holding them gets you by?
Religion must be challenged. The whole thing. Not your book vs. my book, not your social program vs. my social program, not your most prominent queer adherent vs. my most prominent queer adherent, the whole fucking thing. All religions have deeply troubling beliefs based on ancient bullshit – and yes, even religions invented in the last century. Religions are so big, purporting to account for life in all its variety – and because of this, any religion can support or deny just about anything.
So? So what? Well, given all the time we’ve been here and all the proof we have of religion as a destructive force, it falls to us as a common human responsibility to stop pinning everything on our metaphysical friends and acquaint ourselves with the other beings on this place – our physical friends.
There is no special “right” hatred. You are not excused. If you adhere to a belief system that asks you to hate other people, then you are implicated. That also means you are responsible. Responsible not just to cleanse your own heart, but to find a way to counteract the hate you’ve been taught in order to better the world.
People have done the worst – and on occasion the best things in the name of religion. And now, knowing everything we do about ourselves and our history, religious people can no longer say religion doesn’t contribute to evil. We are accountable to make it true.
Big Mama Schlomo