Most people, including many who call themselves Christians, Muslims, and so on, are actually atheists in practice. Think about it. If you really, truly, believed that God is real and exists, then you would weigh your decisions and choose your actions with some serious interest in aligning things with His will, either out of love and evotion, or from fear of punishment or retribution. That does not match up well with the way people really act, including a disappointingly large number of mullahs, priests, ministers and so on. Let’s be honest – we all spend a lot of our energy, time, and focus thinking about how to get what we want for ourselves, and to prevent bad things from happening to ourselves. Some of that is biology (self-preservation) and some of it is cultural, but from what I see, pretty much everybody spends at least 85% of their time and effort on themselves. The use of religion, therefore, as an excuse to get what you want while pretending you’re a great guy, must therefore be considered early on as a popular human hobby.
I suspect this false devotion bothers a certain number of people, but what else is interesting is that hatred of religious practice and beliefs is very broad and has a very long history. And not just by Nazis, Cossacks and West Coast lawyers, either. A great many ‘regular’ people have found it, hmm, kosher to insult and deride people for their religious beliefs and practices. For every person who finds they cannot live without a reference to God on our coins, there seem to be as many or more who cannot live with any reference to God, no matter how vague. A sizable demographic has always found it not only reasonable to reject religion, but fashionable to attack and harass anyone who practices their faith, especially if that faith requires standards of dress or behavior which do not match popular social behavior. As a result, while it is not only illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their race or gender, but is also strongly disapproved by the public in general, and there is strong emotional support for perceived victims of discrimination because of sexual orientation or certain niche demographics, there is a common sense that insulting and harassing people for overt expressions of faith is not only acceptable but expected. Hence the consistent derision in popular dramas of anyone who displays their faith in public, and the same in many business practices – pray all you like, as long as it’s not where anyone else can see it. Come to that, many businesses have policies regarding religious expression which are similar to their policy regarding sexual harassment; if you get caught showing faith, expect the hammer to come down hard, albeit in unofficial form. To put it plainly, there are quite a few people who, whether they believe in God or not, hate Him, anyone who believes in Him, and even mention of Him. These are the maltheists.
The best-known maltheist, of course, is Satan, a being who rebelled against God, then when he realized that course was futile, set about hurting God the most effective way he could, by attacking, polluting, and subverting God’s children on earth. There are a lot of people who have no trouble trying to eradicate people whose religion offends them; the Russian then Soviet progroms against Jews, for example, the ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Balkans, not only now but also back before World War I, and Muslim suppression of non-Islamic beliefs in any country they control. Maltheism in practice ranges from sneering condescension of anyone who practices a faith all to the way to genocide.
Let’s look at that for a moment. ‘Genocide’ is a word often used in exaggerated in discussing alleged abuse of various groups. But when a writer speaks against a perceived reluctance to spend more tax money on AIDS research, calling it ‘genocide of gays’ is not only inaccurate and a false indictment of the intentions of the relevant parties, it cheapens and insults the memory of real victims of genocide, like Buchenwald or Rwanda, Darfur or Bosnia. It ignores the history of the Genocide Convention, which at its inception in 1948 recognized that many people have been killed, in history and in contemporary days, simply for their religious identity and beliefs. Maltheists therefore, not only exist and in both significant numbers and power, but also practice hatred of faith to a degree that includes deliberate, premeditated murder. Most malthesists, of course, are not violent but merely advocate a lower-level hatred against people of faith, and imagine as a result that their hatred is not only excusable but a reasonable practice of free speech. A State Department briefing paper published in 1996, however, notes that this sort of speech can be a step on the road to advocation of violence, in “The 8 Stages of Genocide” :
Stage 1: Division into ‘us’ and ‘them’
Stage 2: Symbolism used to demean and insult target groups
Stage 3: Dehumanization
Stage 4: Organization of programs to oppress target group
Stage 5: Polarization, especially using the media
Stage 6: Preparation, target groups singled out by religious/ethnic identity
Stage 7: Mass Killing
Stage 8: Denial
The active conditions in many countries where differing stages exist should be obvious to the reader. And going back to the idea that most people look out for themselves most of all, it should be easy to understand why people who practice religious beliefs would be seen as irritating minorities and obvious targets for exclusion and reprisals. Religious people may seem to be trying to show off a superior personal morality, even when they only hold themselves to a personal code of ethics based on their religion. That a few high-profile religious figureheads try to hijack faith for their personal benefit only adds gasoline to the fire, as maltheists use the offenses of the few to condemn the many.
I am not saying that most maltheists would like to commit violence against people of faith, nor even that they would approve of violence against religion. The problem is that the opinion and character of maltheists is consistent, from insults against God and the people who believe in Him, all the way through to those who try to kill in the name of that hate.