Cardinal Sins IV: Hatred
Continuing the little series on Christianity's cardinal sins, I'm going to talk about hatred today. As usual, there seem to be two very different views on the subject in Christian thought: Augustine's and Aquinas'. They're both wrong on different levels.
In a letter to a group of nuns regarding how to punish "naughty" members of the Church, Augustine says that punishment should be based, simultaneously, on hate for the sin, and love for the person - later turned, by Gandhi, into the famous "hate the sin, love the sinner". This idea is absolutely absurd, and only makes sense in the context of Christian supernaturalism.
Unless you look at Man through the delusional Christian perspective of an "innocent" soul subject to the flawed nature of a sinful body, a sin only exists insofar as someone sins. Man is a being that chooses his actions, and someone's worth as a person is based solely on their choices, made concrete in their actions. There is no sin without the sinner, and there isn't a sinner who did not choose to sin. To say that one should hate one without the other is to say that one should hate the hunger, but not the lack of food.
Thomas Aquinas had a much more interesting approach to hatred. In the spirit of Aristotle, he establishes reality as the standard, and states that hatred can either be vain or justified. Although he adopts an irrational moral code with which to judge actions, Aquinas argues that hate rooted on a false image of oneself is a sin, but hate that arises out of a perceived injustice is justified, "for without anger, teaching will be useless, judgments unstable, crimes unchecked". This view, however, is still rather imprecise.
Emotions are subconscious responses to one's value judgments. They are automatic, and completely outside an individual's volitional control. Ethics deals with human choice, therefore things one cannot choose, like a particular emotion, are not subject to moral judgement. One needs to look beyond the "thought-crime" idea of sinful emotions, that only make sense in the context of a "big brother" god to arrive at what is essential: the values held by the person.
Emotional responses are automatic, but the values that give rise to those responses are ultimately chosen. The "sin" is not the hatred, but the adoption of evil values, which in turn lead to arbitrary anger or, in the worst cases, hatred of the good, for being good. Evil values are not those that displease a supernatural entity, but those that contradict Man's rational nature, and lead to his suffering and death.
Hatred is not something that should be shunned, but properly nurtured and channelled. In Aristotle's words:
"Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
- February 27th, 2020