Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is it okay to hate another person?



This post is a follow-up from the last one in which I asked about the morality of video games. In that entry, I focused on a possibly-fake game about Christians killing Jews and atheists after the rapture. First, it turns out that there does appear to be a real game that the story is based on, although the article seems to be an exaggeration. (Thanks to our reader Kay, for the heads up.) Second, I suggested that while the game may be wrong to teach hate, hateful opinions aren’t illegal and therefore the game should be allowed to exist.

It is the second point that I have been thinking about since I posted the discussion. In particular, I’m curious about the claim that it is immoral to teach hate. Is it? Some religious traditions teach that one should love one’s enemies and certain brands of Christianity teach people to “hate the sin not the sinner,” but these seem to be odd prescriptions. Why shouldn’t you hate your enemy, they are your enemy after all? And, aren’t people who they are largely because of their acts? Sinners sin; that’s what makes them sinners.

Aristotle argues that people shouldn’t worry about being honored; they should try to be honorable. Adam Smith extends this to suggest that people should concern themselves with praise, but with being praiseworthy. This makes me think, not about hate per se but about being hateful. Isn’t the real issue not that it is immoral to hate people but rather that it’s immoral to hate the wrong people? Hating people because they are different is prejudice. Hating people because they don't share an opinion is closed-mindedness, but hating someone who deserved to be hated seems to be good moral judgment.

Now, someone might object by claiming that loving someone can help the loved person redeem him or herself, or that hate begets more hate – that hate leads to more violence. But these are utilitarian objections. In these examples, hate is bad and love is good because of their consequences, not because they are wrong or right in and of themselves. Instead, I’m curious about the very basic premise that hate itself is such an awful emotion that it is inherently bad and as a result, people shouldn’t allow themselves to feel it regardless of the results.

The question remains, of course, what someone must do to earn hate, but that’s a conversation for another time. Instead, the query I pose here is that if someone meets this criteria, if someone is worthy of being hate, is it okay to hate them?

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