Hate crimes do not occur in a vacuum

Nick Little has a blistering post on hell and the slaughter in Orlando. Like me, he takes the idea of hell seriously as an evil harmful concept.

…like many people, what moved me away from religion (including a brief sojourn in Universalism) was the concept of hell as understood by the general believer, not by the academic or apologist. Hell was, I was taught, an unspeakably bad place. A place of torture, torment, and pain that would last for all eternity. And so I became unable to hold the existence of such a place, where people were actually sent, as consistent with the idea of a loving God.

Exactly. It’s not.

But it’s a mainstream belief – which is another compelling reason for taking it seriously. The belief has consequences.

The preachers who shouted from the pulpit that these 49 people, whose sole crime was going out to a club to have a good time, were deviants, were sodomites, were perverts, and would be tortured for all eternity by a loving God for no reason other than who they chose as sexual partners, cannot now cry crocodile tears and pretend to mourn their violent deaths. While the ministers and imams who rail weekly against homosexuality did not pull the trigger on the AR-15 – that was done willingly by Omar Mateen, whose individual responsibility shall not be understated – they loaded the magazines he used.

Preaching a deserved eternity of torture against a group of people dehumanizes that group. If God, or Allah, the perfect, unflawed, ever-loving Father, himself is willing to torture a group for all time, how worthless must that group be? How valueless is their life, their happiness? When firebrand religious ministers and radicalized Imams spout attacks on abortion providers as baby murders, accuse homosexuals of targeting children for abuse, or blame Jews for killing Jesus or murdering Islamic children, they lay the foundations for the next murder like that of Dr. Tiller, the next Pulse Nightclub Massacre, or the next Kristallnacht.

When you dehumanize a group by damning them to never ending pain and torture, you legitimize attacks on them.

And that includes attacks on their rights and civil liberties.

It isn’t enough to condemn the murders in Orlando (though some religious groups are, sickeningly enough, refusing to do even that and are celebrating it). As long as homosexuality is seen as a sin worthy of eternal torture, the LGBT community will be seen as less than human by religious extremists across the spectrum. It is the job of faith (and non-faith) leaders to consider the true impact of their rhetoric, to stop dehumanizing others. Hate crimes such as this do not occur in a vacuum. So forgive me for doubting the sincerity of your prayers and condolences when next Friday, or next Sunday, you will go back to decrying the sodomites and seeking to deny LGBT people basic civil rights.

Saudi Arabia had the gall to claim it condemns the Orlando slaughter:

Saudi Ambassador to the United StatesAbdullah Al-Saud issued the following statement on Sunday:

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia condemns in the strongest terms the attack on innocent people in Orlando, Florida, and sends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to the people of the United States. We stand with the American people at this tragic time. We pray for the recovery and the healing of all those injured in the attack, and we will continue our work withthe United States and our partners in the international community for an end to these senseless acts of violence and terror.”

That is a tasteless joke.

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