I just read through a long list of shootings and terrorist attacks (from foreign and domestic sources) in the United States, starting with Abraham Lincoln in April, 1865. The reasons for the attacks varied but most involved political hate, anger about work/colleagues, religious hate, racial hate, family problems, mental illness. Almost all of the perpetrators were youngish men. Guns and bombs were most often the weapons of choice.
What causes someone to get so hateful that he gathers up multiple weapons, plans carefully and murders as many people as possible? The ones with major mental health issues, family problems and/or work/colleague difficulties are individual cases, but the ones with political, religious, and/or racial hate have developed ideologies that, in their minds, “permit” them to kill those whom they hate. They are encouraged, even brainwashed, by people and groups who want to spread the hate. They are made to feel important and strong and powerful, especially when bolstered by a gun or a bomb.
Virtually all of the victims are innocent of any wrongdoing. They are children at school, people watching a movie, folks at church praying with their soon-to-be-attacker, people partying at a gay bar, people at prayer in a mosque, people doing their jobs at the Twin Towers, four little girls at church, constituents lining up to talk to their representative, fans listening to an open-air concert, various people expressing their ideas freely.
I was thinking particularly about religious hate when I started to research the history of the attacks in the US. Why would someone hate Buddhists so much that he wants to kill them? He probably knows no Buddhists and doesn’t really know what Buddhists believe. Buddhists are different from him and he has heard that they are evil and want to kill people other than Buddhists, so he grows to hate them so much that he wants to kill them.
If we take the time to learn about Buddhists and interact with some Buddhists and get to know them, perhaps we will find that they are just like us except that they believe in different things or in different ways than we do. These differences are not harmful to us; they don’t prevent us from having our own ideas while allowing others to have theirs.
Hatred of Muslims caused the recent killing of 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. The people in the mosque were regular people carrying out their religious traditions. They had not harmed anyone else. Terrorist attacks by Muslims in the US have increased in recent years because some of them have been radicalized and brainwashed to hate us, and they demonstrate that hate. The vast majority of Muslims do not have that hate and they do not deserve to be hated by us. Similarly, some terrorist attacks have been made by Christians, but that doesn’t make all Christians evil.
On earth, as of 2015 or so, there were about 2.3 billion Christians, 1.8 billion Muslims (Islam), 1.2 billion non-religious people (secular/agnostic/atheist), 1.1 billion Hindus, 394 million traditional Chinese, 500 million Buddhists, 400 million primal/indigenous people, 10 million Jewish people and 100 million others. Who is right? Which religion or non-religion is True? Are those Hindus with their multiple Gods harming me by what they believe? Could I learn something from the Muslims who have five “pillars” to live by? If I’m so right, how can that vast number of others be so wrong? Maybe we’re all right. Each person has a right to his or her thoughts and beliefs and does not deserve to be hated just because of those thoughts and beliefs
Sheryl Eaton is the president of the White Mountain Democrats.