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The Duty to Hate

The first and second paragraphs have been redacted. It appears that I have offended people, and I didn’t mean to. In its place:

I saw a quote about the level of hate and tolerance in our country the other day. The author of the quote had suggested that there was a great level of hate leveled at Muslims in America, and that we shouldn’t tolerate this hate. There are two problems with this quote.

The first is the suggestion that our country tolerates “so much hate.” If her complaint is limited to Muslim terrorists, then one is left to wonder why she said “so much,” instead of just hate? Is there some limit of acceptable hatred towards Muslims or terrorists? If so, how are we to know?

The second is her assertion that the “country” tolerates that hate. The country can either be the people or the government. If she meant the people, one wonders how she would encourage the people to stop “tolerating” hate? If she meant the government, it leaves the same question. We, as people, have the right to think as we wish. Neither the government nor the people have any right to pry into my mind. And, thanks to the first amendment, they can pry into what I say only in very limited circumstances.

The third, and perhaps most important, is her underlying assumption that hate is bad. It is an assumption that is all too familiar today, that hate and discrimination are somehow both undesirable, and it is our job to not fall prey to their insidious charms. I think that assumption is wrong, and more than wrong, dangerous.

Hate, like love, really only applies to people. One can’t rationally hate a rock, or a cow, or a hurricane. One can only hate other rational beings. We use the word “hate,” of course, but that’s just a figure of speech. Nobody really hates things, at least not sane people. Having said that, there are two types of hate.

The first species of hate is that which hates the person as a person, and wishes him or her evil. I believe, as I hope most people do, that this kind of hatred is wrong. No human being should hate another, or wish him to suffer. Our job is to reduce the suffering in the world, and to respect that inalienable dignity that inheres in each of us.

The second species of hatred is that in which the intense dislike is concentrated primarily on the qualities or attributes of a person, and only derivatively, upon the person himself. It is encapsulated, somewhat pithily, in the saying, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” This kind of hatred implies the reprobation of what is actually evil. For example, racism is an evil, therefore, I am justified in hating it. I am not, however, justified in hating a racist. It is a virtuous temper of the soul to hate evil. In other words, not only may I, but I even ought to, hate what is contrary to the moral law. Nobody in their right mind would assert that it was wrong to hate nazi-ism or fascism, or murder, or rape. But we also should be open to the possibility of redemption, either temporal or spiritual, of any particular malefactor.

Having said that, it is acceptable to wish for what normally would be bad, if by wishing for the bad, a greater good would occur. For example, it would be acceptable to wish for Hitler’s death if it would prevent 6 million deaths. Of course, this apparent zeal must not be an excuse for catering to personal spite or party rancor. I can’t seek vengeance or punishment against someone on the basis of some perceived good, if my real motive is personal hatred.

The problem is not that our country tolerates any, or too much, hate. The real problem is that we have forgotten how to hate correctly, and therefore have forgotten what we should hate. Once we figure out how and what to hate, this country will be in a much better position to fix our problems. The worst thing we can do is to believe the problem is hate itself. Remember what Chesterton taught us, “toleration is the virtue of a man with no convictions.”

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