Extremism And Hatred

Extremism And Hatred – Where does it come from, and what can be done about it?

Presenter: John Pope

Please read the following short article:


“The number of domestic hate and extremist groups in the United States grew to record levels in 2011, led by a surge in anti-government radicalism, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a prominent civil rights organization based in Montgomery, AL, USA.”

Definition from Wikipedia:
“Extremism is any ideology or political act far outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards.[citation needed] In democratic societies, individuals or groups that advocate the replacement of democracy with an authoritarian regime are usually considered to be extremists, in authoritarian societies the opposite typically applies.”

Extremism is usually contrasted with moderation, and extremists with moderates. (For example, in contemporary discussions in Western countries of Islam, or of Islamic political movements, it is common for there to be a heavy stress on the distinction between extremist and moderate Muslims. It is also not uncommon to necessarily define distinctions regarding extremist Christians as opposed to moderate Christians, as in countries such as the United States).

Political agendas perceived as extremist often include those from the far left or far right as well as fundamentalism or fanaticism.

The term extremism is almost invariably used pejoratively, however the term may also sometimes be associated with person(s) who have different view(s) which is not consistent with the existing norm(s). It need not necessarily imply that the person is a threat to the society or the government or any other agency.

Questions to ponder:

Where do hate groups draw their beliefs from? Is it the family, peer (group/tribal) pressure, or the media? Does the main-stream media help or hinder the growth of hate groups?

Does hate stem from fear? In a changing world and a changing more integrated society, personal ideologies are often in conflict. Can fear of having their ideological world questioned or disrupted turn some people to hate?

Hatred can result in extreme behavior including violence, murder and even war. How is hatred generated? Are some people more prone to develop hatred than others? Why or why not?

‘Apathy is the opposite of love, not hate. Hate is more than the absence of affection.’ Discussion?

As Humanists we respect the virtue of tolerance as a basis for accepting and respecting those people who do not agree with our points of view. Why do some people have less tolerance than others? How can tolerance be taught with the goal of preventing violent extremism and hatred? Should the pubic school system play a role (think of the recent push to identify and eradicate bullying)? Should Humanist organizations around the world play a role?

Should we be concerned about the increase in all extremist groups? Aren’t some extremist groups benign (pacifistic religious orders for example)? Shouldn’t non-violent extremism be welcomed as a form of alternative ideological choice? After all, questioning authority is admired by Humanists isn’t it?