Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On Love And Hate

In response to my post on Mohammed Atta (may his evil name be erased) I encountered some comments in opposition to my idea that hate may have some positive value. In particular, Freethoughtmom states: "The hate of someone like Atta cannot be stopped by more hate." The idea that love is always good, and hate is always bad is a christian one. In fact you will not find this idea anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. I have noticed that skeptics who are former christians, have been so steeped in christian culture that their ideas continue to be affected by christian thought and they are not even aware of it (sorry FTM). So when is love good and when is hate bad? Perhaps we need to take a closer look at these emotions to answer this question.

Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that the opposite of love is not hate - it is indifference. So how did hate get such a bad rap as the "anti-love"? Shouldn't indifference be the subject of our denigration as being the furthest from love? It seems clear that love and hate are two different expressions of a common idea. When one is passionate about something, they either love it or they hate it.

Cognitive psychologists tell us that emotion follows cognition. In other words, first we have a thought, then we have a feeling. So therefore, hate (or any feeling for that matter) can't be good or bad - it just is. This is all common sense. We don't go about our daily lives choosing how we feel. If that were so, then sadness and pain would be absent from the world. So if I hate Mohammed Atta (which I do), am I a bad person? Can I help how I feel? Can I change my hate for him anymore than I can change my love for my family? You see, it's not emotions that determine what kind of people we are, it's the thoughts behind those emotions that determine what kind of people we are. We love what deem most important to us, and we hate that which threatens those things. Anyone who claims not to hate is either indifferent to everything, or loves nothing (or is lying to themselves).

What about women who fall in love with cruel murderers who are in prison for life? Is that love good? Would you recommend it to your daughters? Would anyone who truly values human life love someone who brutally disregards it? Certainly that love can only come from someone who cares nothing for the lives of others . It is a love that is borne of a selfish narccicistic value system that states: "My emotional and physical gratification is more important than the lives of innocent people". Only a person who has that thought, that value system, could form an emotional attatchment to a cruel killer.

Do you hate suffering, or injustice, or oppression, or poverty? Would you ever say that hatred of suffering is bad? Would you ever say that the hatred of suffering can not stop suffering? Obviously no one would say that because nothing would ever be done to alleviate suffering if we remained indifferent to it. The very first step in alleviating suffering is the hatred of suffering. And as for those who would say: "I only hate suffering, not the people who cause it" I would say that this argument only makes sense if you believe that people are not the cause of their own actions (another christian idea - evil is the devil's doing). But certainly we are the cause of our own actions; you can not separate the suffering from the one who caused it. And for anyone who disagrees with that I would recommend that you tell it to the judge in traffic court, and you will soon find out that he (or she) believes otherwise.

So to answer the original objection "The hate of someone like Atta can not be stopped by more hate" makes no sense to me. People like Atta will never be stopped unless we are passionate enough about the value of human life to feel hatred for the one who wishes to destroy it.


Jewish Atheist said...

I think Nietzhe's quote might be relevant here: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."

The concern is that hatred is dangerous. Obviously, we aren't in total control of our emotions. It's perfectly reasonable to hate Atta. I hate him myself. But do we try to use that hatred to guide or actions or do we try to set aside our hatred and make rational decisions?

Hatred unchecked by rationality leads to things like racism (which we saw a lot of post-9/11), condoning torture, not caring about how many civilians we kill because they're Muslims, etc.

It was Ghandi who said, "Hate the sin, love the sinner." Had Ghandi simply run with his instinctive hatred of the oppressor than he probably would have wasted his talents fighting uselessly against the much stronger colonialists. Instead, he set his hatred aside and convinced millions of Indians to set their hatred aside to do the only thing which would have won their freedom.

We're better off acting as rationally as possible than trying to wield hatred productively.

Stacey said...

What a thought-provoking post, JF.

If indifference is the opposite of love, what is the opposite of hate? Since they are both borne of passion, would it be indifference also?

You bring up a good point about feelings. It always irks me when someone says, "Don't be upset. Don't be angry. Don't be sad." As if we can choose. As if we have a switch we can flip to change them. Feelings are what they are. They are borne from our thoughts.

I am a realist; I am not an idealist. I believe hate will always exist in this world. But, like you, I agree that it needn't necessarily be a bad thing. Good can be borne from it.

The Jewish Freak said...

JA: I don't think that we disagree here. I am certainly a proponent of rational behavior. I am commenting on what I believe to be a childish notion that all love is "good", and all hate is "bad".

The Jewish Freak said...

Stacey:I certainly believe that the opposite of hate is also indifference. As for hate not neccessarily being a bad thing, you are absolutely correct, when your hate results from proper values.

freethoughtmom said...

As usual, I am late to the party. You say: "I have noticed that skeptics..." -> no offense taken. I'd prefer to know blind spots, so thanks! :)

I completely agree with your analysis of passion, love, hate & indifference. You end with: " People like Atta will never be stopped unless we are passionate enough about the value of human life to feel hatred for the one who wishes to destroy it." I TOTALLY agree, without passion there would be no drive!

May I clarify my statement? The hate of someone like Atta (who slammed a plane into a building) can not be stopped by more hateful acts (like shooting him in the head). I apologize for not being clearer.

I feel that even if we had killed Atta, the problem would still exist AND now there would have been a martyr to rally around. JA has a better way of saying it above.

stacey: have you read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk? Faber & Mazlish start with this example in their book! (try the excerpt on amazon)

If my child hits me, I feel angry (there is a long story here, about how growing up in my household anger was never an OK emotion to express, so I had a hard time even recognizing it as such. Can you imagine? Ha ha on me.) Once I identify my feeling, I can then choose my response. Those tuned into their feelings can't be manipulated by what is lurking in the subconscious.

It is childish to say all love is good / hate is bad, as it is to think that Atta felt that he wasn't on the "good" side, therefore needed to destroy things. He thought he was right, right?

Stacey said...

The hate of someone like Atta (who slammed a plane into a building) can not be stopped by more hateful acts (like shooting him in the head).

I respectfully disagree with this statement. Perhaps the "hate" cannot be stopped, but the murder of innocents would be stopped. And saving those innocent lives is what's important to me. (Atta would be considered a martyr to his people either way).

In Judaism we believe that to save one life is to save humanity.

The Jewish Freak said...

Stacey: Thanks for your support.

Freethoughtmom: Hate does not demand a bullet in Atta's head, justice does.

freethoughtmom said...

I would save a life or even 3000 by having Atta arrested. I agree that saving a life is one of the most important things we could ever do in this world!

Stacey, would Atta's son 'save humanity' if he were able to stop your bullet?

JF you said to JA: "I don't think that we disagree here. I am certainly a proponent of rational behavior." but you think shooting someone is rational? I'm confused.

Eye for an eye isn't justice, that's revenge. Might make you feel better to shoot him, but since you haven't addressed the root, the problem that caused Atta to act as he did, still exists. There will be more.

JA quoted Gandi above, so I'll end with another: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

The Jewish Freak said...

FTM: I believe we may be at a cultural impasse here. I was not raised with "Love your enemy" or "Turn the other cheek" as my morality. These sentiments are antithetical to the Jewish religion. As to your criticism of "saving a human life is equivilant to saving humanity" you must understand that we do not consider someone who uses his intellect in the service of evil impulses to be part of the community of humans.
As to your question "Is shooting someone rational?" I'm sure that even you are not fully convinced of the morality of this question. If we took the time to discuss this, we could name many scenarios in which shooting someone would be very rational.
Insofar as your obsession with "finding the root" is concerned, what you fail to understand is that the distorted values of someone like Atta IS THE ROOT! My proof is that I know you would not act like he did no matter what your circumstances are, because you value human life.
And lastly, I feel I should make you aware that the traditional Jewish interpretation of "An eye for an eye" is monetary compensation - not the actual removal of an eye.

freethoughtmom said...

you say: '...traditional Jewish interpretation of "An eye for an eye"...' I'm glad when you point out stuff like this, because I know next to nothing about Judaism. Thanks.

Let me try once more, then I'll go back to lurking :)

I don't love the enemy Atta, or turn my cheek to Atta. I don't want him to hurt me!

Atta doesn't value human life: to you, period. To me, followed by ", because..."

Aren't 99% of child molesters shown to have been molested themselves?

There is a reason he existed. I don't believe in fate, it's his temperment combined w his circumstances.

How can we stop the next round of babby Atta's?

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