A Danger of Religion
Edit: As more details of this story have come out, I have amended my title and removed the words “because of his religion” from the end of the title. It remains unclear if this attack was a hate crime. More information on this story can be read here: http://www.freep.com/article/20120829/NEWS06/120829044/Zachary-Tennen-Bruce-Tennen-MSU-assault-anti-Semitic-hate-crime?odyssey=nav|head (located by Reddit user Herxheim)
I came across the following story while surfing the web this morning: Jewish Student Says Attackers Stapled His Lips Shut (www.yahoo.com). That link does not tell us too much, but is worth calling attention towards as I will point out later. A more detailed story can be found here. The basic gist of the story is as follows, a Michigan State student, Zachary Tennen, was a block party this past weekend. A few guys came up to him and asked him if he was Jewish. He replied that he was. They then raised their arms into a Nazi salute, said “Heil Hitler” and proceeded to beat him up, knock him out, and staple his lips and gums together. Tennen is at home after having surgery to wire his broken jaw shut, eating through a straw. There is also a story out that the offenders claimed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, though that is unconfirmed at this time. Police are out looking for the offenders and apparently have some leads.
As of this time, the only story we have is that of Tennen’s. I suppose we will learn more as the police investigation continues and more witnesses are found. Here is what I find troubling, the little news blip from Yahoo above ends with the following statement:
“The East Lansing police department said in a statement to ABC News today that they do not believe the assault was a hate crime.”
Huh? How can they not be treating this as a hate crime? The only reason the above tragedy could not be considered a hate crime would be if Tennen is lying. We have no reason to believe he is lying at this point. I must admit this leaves me confused…what is required for something to be considered a hate crime if the above story does not meet the criteria? Don’t bother to answer; I am calling bullshit on that stance.
People often ask me “what is your problem with religion”. In a very simplified nutshell, it is stories like the one above. If we advanced as a society and removed the virus of religion from our midst, attacks like the one detailed above would not occur. How many similar stories are there of people being abused because of either their religious faith or because of the attacker’s faith? The list would be endless. Religions, by their nature, breed competition with other religions. After all, there can only be, at most one right answer to the “big questions” (I believe religion is lacking when it comes to those answers). Each religion claims to have THE answer for how we got here, what our purpose is, etc. Each religion is certain of the answers it provides. Certainty does not lead to compromise and mutual respect, it leads to digging in your heels at all costs. When I know I am right about something, and by that I mean 100% certain, I don’t back down. Do you? By its nature, religion claims to be 100% on most everything it discusses.
This competition between religious claims obviously does not always have to end in violence. I am an atheist, my neighbor to the right is a Lutheran, the one to the left is a member of a Christian church that I don’t really understand or know about, the people down the street are Jewish. We all get along fine, every day. However, religious competition can lead to violence. It can lead to feelings of righteousness and even hate (evidence of this can be seen in the types of stories similar to Tennen’s). This is one of my major problems with religion. It does not inspire a general feeling of community with all of our neighbors, but rather, with only the “right” neighbors.
Stories like the one above, at least in mind, wipe out all of the good things that religions do in our communities. Without a doubt, many of the local churches in my areas do some great things. They volunteer and donate to homeless shelters and soup kitchens, for example. My position is that we do not religions to do those things. Secular groups do the same type of work. In some cases, such as with orphanages and health care, secular groups do a better job. If we were to eradicate our society of religion, I do not think the poor and otherwise needy among us would be any worse off. The harm that is done in the name of religion, and this post only deals with one type of harm out of many, is not effectively counterbalanced by the good done in the name of religion. Religion erodes society like a cancer. It is time we cut it out.
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