There is a meme which compares religion to an iceberg: the small, visible portion of the berg is the love religion supposedly is all about, while all that is hidden beneath the surface is the hate and bigotry religion is actually about. I retweeted this meme and got the reply that "the tip of the iceberg appears to be melting!" This got me thinking about the nature of religious love.
Let me first say that religious people are people like anyone else, and so they can love and hate like anyone else. However, it seems they often try to pass off their hate as love. Homophobic theists say they do not hate homosexuals; they love them and have to "save them" from "sin", or in other words, they have to help God save homosexuals from what God will do to them if they do not let God "help" them.
Theists' supposed love for "sinners" may in many cases be genuine, but because the reason they need to "save sinners" is hateful, their love, genuine or not, loses its value. Religions like Christianity have rules which are at best questionable. Why is homosexuality a sin? Why is promiscuity a sin? Why is anything other than the narrowly defined lifestyle of a "good Christian" bad? And what gives God the right to do as he wishes with sinners who lead their lives as they want without hurting anyone?
Christians rarely seem to ponder these questions. They rarely seem to consider if God really is so nice when he refuses to save people from his eternal punishment if they do not live in a way he deems appropriate, which of course includes worshipping him without question. If God were held to the same standard as people, he would be considered the worst being to have ever existed; he is a dictator who commits genocide, oppresses people based on harmless criteria, and punishes anyone who will not blindly follow him... because he loves them so much. Christians are not worried about the fact that their god is a genocidal maniac. Instead, they worry if people are good enough for him, good enough to avoid eternal torture; they blame the victims of God's wrath rather than God himself.
Christians are subconsciously taught to hate, even though what they say may seem like love. Theists who say things like "I hope he accepted Jesus and made it into heaven" or even smugly tell non-believers that they "will believe when they burn in hell" always astound me, even though I should be used to it. They seriously believe that people who do not submit to a metaphysical (and inexistent) dictator deserve to burn in hell for all eternity. They say they do not want them to burn in hell, so therefore they hope that non-believers accept their god, but they do support their god's right to do evil things.
Theists have set aside special rules for the inexistent deity, just because said deity is said deity. Just because God is God, he should be allowed to do whatever he wishes and still be good. This is not logically sound, as good and evil do not exist as some sort of metaphysical forces; rather, what is good and evil is based on actions and how we view those actions. A good act is good, even if Hitler did it. A bad act is bad, even if God did it. And yet, God is good whatever he does, even though he rigged the game so that the ninety-nine percent of people who do not live their lives in "the one true way" are tortured for all eternity and the rest must worship him. Godwin's Law be damned, but it seems God's kingdom is basically Nazi Germany, and hell is the largest concentration camp in the history of ever.
No crime warrants eternal punishment, especially not dogmatic rules passed off as objectively bad even though there is nothing bad about them. And refusing to accept totalitarianism is no crime, but rather what is required for a free and equal society. Disbelieving in one of many gods, even if this specific god happens to actually exist, cannot be considered bad either; I do not even understand the logic of it. Christians say God cannot make himself known because people would be forced to accept him then, and he only wants people to accept him because they want to and love him. However, accepting God has nothing to do with wanting to do so or loving him; rather, it has to do with subconsciously being convinced of his existence, even though all the evidence is contradicting his existence. Add to this the fact that the choice God is giving people is to love him or burn in hell, and there really is no choice. One cannot choose to believe in God, like one cannot choose to believe two plus two is five, and if one does believe, one knows one must worship him or be punished, harshly. Exactly how is this logically or morally sound?
There are some messages of love in religions like the Abrahamic ones, but ultimately, their very premise, the central idea that defines them, is hateful. They require blind faith and unquestioning loyalty to a supreme overlord who harshly punishes those whom he considers unworthy, those who do harmless things he considers immoral for no objective reason, and those who were not fortunate enough to be indoctrinated as children into believing one must accept him to be a good person.
These problems do not merely include the conservative and fundamentalist theists who try to destroy every good ideal in the world; they also include the most liberal of theists, whose confidence in themselves is shattered by their petrifying fear of not being good enough to be granted entry into heaven. I have had conversations about the Bible with a progressive theist, who is a pro-gay, pro-choice feminist. During a conversation, she became distant, worried really. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was worried that she had questioned too much. Seriously, she was worried that she had gone too far in her questioning of a book full of genocide, patriarchy, and slavery. Even the most progressive of theists still believe their god has the right to be humanity's dictator who gets to torture people for all eternity, if he wishes. Even theists who believe in a lenient penal system and oppose torture in all its forms will accept God's right to punish sinners with eternal torture. Of course, they do not see it as a "punishment", per se, but have blindly accepted that the almighty God can only save those who let him save them.
This is why even the most loving of theists in one way or another supports hate. This is why many theists disguise their hatred with love; they even hide the hate from their own minds, telling themselves they and God hate the sin, not the sinner, even though the sin very often is not something a progressive person should think is something for which one deserves eternal torture. Christianity teaches that humans are evil sinners who must be saved from their own nature and their most harmless of actions, like questioning an ancient book, so that God will save them from what he would otherwise do to them; the core teachings of the Abrahamic religions are ultimately the hatred of not only anyone who lives their life in the "wrong" way, but hatred of oneself. Whether theists realize it or not, they have been taught to hate themselves and every person who has ever lived; even the people they love, they hate, in a sense. They have been taught that the only salvation from their own supposed evil, which does not actually exist, is to submit to the totalitarian extremist they know as God.