Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Problem of Evil and its Solution

The KKK is a Christian group. ISIS is a Muslim group. Pol Pot was an atheist and Hitler was confirmed into the Catholic faith. Being a Christian does not make someone holy. It also does not make them a hater. Similarly, being an atheist or a Muslim does not make one humanitarian or terrorist. There are many great Christians, many great Muslims, and many great atheists that would never consider hurting another human being. Some from each group would even remain nonviolent at the expense of their own lives.

I die a little inside each time I see a Facebook meme from Christian pages taking joy in the suffering or abuse of a Muslim. I die a little inside when I hear of a beheading from ISIS. I die yet more when atheists go on a rant of hatred toward religions and demean a person for their faith. With all the dying going on within me, I am nearly a walking corpse. The pain continues to sting as I wish to find novel ways of making a difference. It is why I write and why I converse with people no matter how brutish they become. I hope to set an example for the world on how to discourse without anger and malice and yet I cannot help but wonder if I simply encourage all the more malice toward myself. My efforts often leave me condemned by all groups as I walk a rather lonely path. Such a path makes it hard to keep straight whether or not I am truly doing any good or if I merely fan the flames of the very hate I wish to eradicate.

It should be clear that hate is the problem and not so much the religion, race, or sex that a person identifies with. Blacks are not evil. Whites are not evil. Women are not evil and men are not evil. Even humans as a whole are not evil. There are simply individuals who perform evil and even they themselves are not evil as we might understand it. There are evil deeds--that is all. And we are all capable of them. Some people are more prone than others be it due to their genes, their culture, an accident, or learning. We all do evil and under the same circumstances we could be just as evil as anyone else. The trick, then, is to determine what causes us to act in evil ways rather than labeling broad groups of people as the problem.

There is spontaneous evil and there is premeditated evil. Both, I would argue, stem from what a person meditates on. Hate is a meditation. If a person hates long enough, it takes very little pressure and the slightest opportunity to produce an act of evil. On the contrary, a person who is constantly focused on positive things and gives no rise to hate, they are much less likely to commit an evil act even under extreme pressures and with multiple opportunities. Recognizing our own thoughts as the precursor to hate and evil, we can then find ways to reduce such meditations and thus reduce evil.

A quick disclaimer before I continue: I am not advocating that violence on TV or video games constitutes meditations of hate. Just throwing that out there. It could be that some programs and some games are indeed detrimental in the ways I will explain, but simply seeing a violent act does not match the criteria of meditation on hate. Seeing someone else hate from a screen does not have much effect in the way of transmitting hate. This changes, however, if the person doing the hating is a part of a group in which the individual watching identifies with.

When we identify with a group, we subconsciously become more like that group. It is how we learn. We pick up on the small things and begin to think and behave similarly. This is not a guarantee, of course, but rather an overall construct of humanity as a whole. Some people will remove themselves from a group rather than fit in with the crowd if they do not uplift their values, while other people will do whatever it takes to be appreciated. The majority of people, however, will slowly succumb like the frog in the pot who could not recognize the temperature rising to a boil and willingly allowed itself to be cooked. We are all susceptible to this. It is a common adage that bad company corrupts good character and it is entirely true. The company we keep are often those with whom we identify and those with whom we identify we often become more like.

As a blessing and a curse, I have never truly identified with any particular group. I believe this is because my mind enjoys a certain freedom from cognitive dissonance. When things do not make sense, I do not recall having ever shrugged it off whilst giving it no more thought. I would seek the answer and determine what I could to remove the conflicting ideas. This, of course, put me at odds with any group I wished to be a part of since they enjoyed a particular peace with their cognitive dissonance and had very little patience for anyone bringing it up. While this often left me lonely and feeling under-valued as a human, it has enabled me to pave my own path and to appreciate many walks of life and viewpoints. It puts me at odds with everyone I know but it simultaneously enables me to be an ally with everyone as well. I might disagree with everyone in one thing, but I can also agree with anyone another. I would say this is beneficial in being a mediator, but alas the response to cognitive dissonance is often a violent one and I might only find I have united two enemies together for the common goal of lambasting myself.

In full disclosure, I know that I am not perfect and I certainly have not figured everything out. I have been wrong far too many times to count, but the benefit is that I tend to be open to being proven wrong even in beliefs that many others would hold too dear to consider. I do not hold beliefs themselves as dear, but truth alone. By holding truth more dear than any belief I hold, I almost long to be proven wrong so that I may have a solid proof for the contrary stance of which I then take hold. Again, it is lonely and devoid of much praise, but it makes me an unlikely candidate to be consumed by the identity of those around me.

Identity, I believe, is where the problem and the solution reside. We love to categorize people and speak of categories as a broad concept while painting them all with the same brush. It is easy enough to do and it is even easier to believe. Atheists feel hated by Christians and vice versa. Christians feel hated by Muslims and vice versa. Blacks feel hate by whites, and lo and behold the opposite holds true as well. Of course, these statements are just as false as they are true. It is as remarkable as saying feminists eat food and misogynists poop and just as ridiculous as stating that humans do not eat meat while pointing at a vegetarian human as proof.

Labels are making things worse. Feminism cannot exist unless there is a battle between men and women. And at what point do the feminists proclaim they are no longer feminists? They never will. To proclaim one is no longer feminist is to say that one no longer cares about the fair treatment of women. To say one is feminist is to say women are being mistreated by men and a social club is necessary to combat it. Identifying with such a group is going to make a person more aware of the injustices. Or so it seems. It not only makes the person more aware of real injustices, but it also makes them more biased in their confirmation of injustices. Identifying with a group that believes women are mistreated (whether it is true or not) will yield more evidence than there really is. Again, I am not saying women are not mistreated by men. Some women are by some men, and some women are not by some men. Men, themselves, are not the problem. Perceiving they are, however, will make enemies of potential allies and add to the bias of confirmation even against well-meaning individuals. The problem escalates when categories are made.

Nobody likes being unfairly categorized. Recently, many Christians were outraged at President Obama's speech at a prayer breakfast when he reminded them that they, too, have a past of hatred and terrorism. They did not appreciate being equated with the hate groups of the past. Well, neither do the Muslims of today appreciate being categorized within the hate group ISIS which was exactly the point. Nobody wants to be lumped together with evil people within their category. This is especially true for a category that is innate and unchangeable like race and sex. I do not want to hear how hateful and misogynistic the white man is. I am not personally hateful and misogynistic and it is not the being white nor the being man that makes a person so. Labeling me as the enemy is the exact opposite of what a feminist needs to do. They need to recognize me as an ally since I am not like the others. But I cannot call myself a feminist because I am not anti-man. Nor am I pro-woman which gives the impression of a dichotomy between men and women. I am pro-equality. I am a humanist. I will not join women in the fight against man, but I will join humans in the fight against inequality. I will not fight beside those who believe me an enemy in order to unfairly dismantle the groups to which I belong.

Not only do these groups make enemies out of allies, but I believe they are also causing even more hatred. If black people believe and are continually reinforced in their belief that the white man is holding them down, will they not become angry, resentful, and hateful against the white man? Will it not come back and encourage violence against the white man? And what will such violence help? Will the white man as an entire group stand up together and apologize and change their ways? Of course not. Some white men are already good people who do not discriminate against blacks. And those who do are not those who are going to be won over by violent demonstrations and demonizing of their race. The solution is not to shout, "I am black, respect me." The solution is to shout, "I am human, respect me." I can shout that right along side you without being labeled the enemy in a false dichotomy.

What I am explaining is easily seen within recent events. What happened with the Black Lives Matter campaign? Did the police say, "Oh, sorry about that, I suppose we will stop killing you?" Of course not. They felt the dichotomy. It is blacks or police, right? They created the Police Lives Matter retort. Instead of Michael Brown being the bad guy, instead of Darren Wilson being the bad guy, instead of Eric Garner or Daniel Pantaleo being the bad guy, it was white police versus the black masses. It was not officer versus gangster and thief. It was not man against out of control man. No, it turned to race. It made white police the bad guy and black people the good guys or vice versa depending upon your persuasion. And what do we gain by this? Nothing.

Well, not nothing. We gain more awareness of the groups to which we belong and identify with. I am a white guy and I am being attacked and called a racist by black people. I am a black person and I am being picked on and attacked by the white guy. Categories are drawn, accusations are made, now let the battle commence. We need to instead look at the facts for what they are and leave race out of it. Even if it is true that 20% of all women are sexually harassed by men, that does not mean we should start a battle of the sexes. It means we need to uplift human rights more and punish the men that do it while putting them in a category of evildoers. Even if black people are more likely to be arrested and receive higher penalties for crimes, this does not mean we want to wage a war between blacks and whites since it is not whites as a group that are committing the problem. Unless it is a secret brotherhood of people who are united in their hatred for blacks as their defining characteristic such as the KKK, it is unfair to label a group to which a racist individual belongs.

We want to crush the boundaries, not build them up all the more. Instead of labels of color, we need to uplift fairness instead. If we see a person receive an unfair punishment or accusation, we need to speak up. We do not need to speak up because he is black, but because he is a person. There is no need to add "that is racist" on top of "that is unjust." We do not need to add "that is a hate crime" on top of "that is murder." Murder is bad, guys, whether it is against a black man, white man, woman, child, or transvestite. It is good to continually lift up the fact that we do not value racism and discrimination against any ethnicity, any sex, and any religion. We do this with a blanket statement and then fight individual injustices where they lie without further indicating that one group of people is predominantly at fault for injustice against another. As I explained, this will merely cause more identification with hate by belonging to a hateful group and increase tensions. It will further increase the confirmation bias of the minority who will then be more hateful themselves. Both sides will hate until they are blue in the face and snap with a semi-automatic weapon.

We must stop the segregating groups. We do not need feminist clubs, we need humanist clubs. We do not need black clubs, we need humanist clubs. We do not need religious rights clubs, we need humanist clubs. If you are human, you get rights. If you are human and you are not getting your rights, then speak with your local humanist club who will fight for your rights. Let us stop the hate by stopping the clubs and language which set us apart. We must band together has humans to fight hate. Separating ourselves will only cause more "us versus them" mentality and fuel more hate. The only two categories necessary are humanists and inhumanists. People who care about others versus people who atrociously persecute, rape, maim, kill, and withhold freedoms. The battle is between two groups and when we very vocally make two specific groups, people can identify with one or the other and they will find themselves meditating on and becoming more like whichever one they chose. And then the battle will be more clear.

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