Nothing Holy About Hatred? Not quite…
The online campaign Nothing Holy About Hatred takes a faith-based approach to combat homophobia. But, Brian Pellot argues, hatred is enshrined in many religious texts.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church hold anti-gay signs at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia (Photo by Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).
Nothing Holy About Hatred is an online campaign that brings together people of all faiths (and none) to stand against homophobia. The campaign pledge, which has been signed by faith leaders across Britain and the world, states: “I believe there’s Nothing Holy About Hatred. I am against homophobia, and the bullying, violence and damage it causes have no place in my community.”
I too am against homophobia, violence and hatred directed at any group, but I can’t sign this pledge. Hatred and homophobia have no place within our communities, but they assume a prominent place in many religious texts. Ignoring this fact by claiming there’s nothing holy about hatred is a lie.
Chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew Bible integral to both Christianity and Judaism, state: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination” and: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Verse 16 of Surat An-Nisa in the Quran states: “And the two [men] who commit [unlawful sexual intercourse] among you, dishonor them both. But if they repent and correct themselves, leave them alone. Indeed, Allah is ever Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” The Quran does not call for death in this case, but it’s hardly accepting of homosexuality.
Nothing Holy About Hatred is a noble campaign to combat homophobia, but as the above quotes make clear, it is built on an entirely false premise. The founding texts of these three Abrahamic faiths preach love and compassion, but they also preach violence, hatred and discrimination. To say there is nothing holy about hatred is to deny the fundamental texts on which these religions are based and still practised today.
I suspect this campaign roots itself in religion because it wants to challenge popular perceptions and attitudes within faith communities that claim to oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. Such attitudes are more likely a result of social and political circumstances than specific religious dogmas. Appealing to basic human rights, or indeed free expression, rather than people’s faiths might therefore be more productive in combating homophobia.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh. In its own words, Nothing Holy About Hatred wants to “encourage faith leaders to talk about these issues within their own communities, and aim[s] to give people of faith a voice in this conversation.” Its aims and objectives include promoting “an alternative ‘middle ground’ narrative to the wider community regarding the issue of faith and sexual orientation”. Giving people a voice and a platform for discussion is what Free Speech Debate is all about. It’s the campaign’s decision to ignore homophobic and hate-filled religious texts I find troubling. Striking a middle ground by ignoring historical and fundamental realities might be convenient, but it’s also disingenuous.
If texts need to be ignored or reinterpreted to fit modern society, as Nothing Holy About Hatred seems to imply, why rely on them at all? I loved the Hunger Games but I don’t use the violent fictional trilogy as my guiding moral compass. Echoing our seventh draft principle, I “respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief”. I respect Nothing Holy About Hatred’s mission but do not respect the campaign’s decision to gloss over homophobic religious verses and thereby imply there truly is nothing holy about hatred. On a side note, I believe homophobic speech should be protected as long as it does not directly incite violence. I apply the same logic to speech that criticises people’s religious and political beliefs.
Religious texts are open for debate, subject to different translations and often interpreted to fit one’s beliefs or to advance social or political agendas. Feel free to add faith-based references, interpretations and arguments about homosexuality in the comments section below.