As a teenager, I was a Born Again Christian of the hellfire and brimstone Baptist variety. While surrounded by my Christian captors, I would mouth the appropriate phrases and jump up yelling, “amen” or “halleluiah” at the right time. I sang the songs and waved my arms in the air. No one would know that I didn’t feel it with my entire being. For a time, I sincerely tried to have the faith that they talked about and tried desperately to be afraid of hell.

Truth is that I was more afraid of them than a mythological jail cell. Frankly, their version of heaven scared the piss out of me. I would never hear Freddy Mercury or see my friends (they weren’t “saved”). I would have to sit and praise God constantly with, what I imagined, was a glassy-eyed look on my face. Sounded like a cult to me. I wondered if heaven had Kool-Aid and if there was a lineup for it.

Since then I’ve become that odd mix of agnostic/pagan/Wiccan/quantumist (my own weird understanding of the universe). It’s through these eyes that I’ve viewed the events going on in the United States recently. I have a mixture of joy and sadness, relief and horror at seeing what’s happening. I wonder if the U.S. got into the tequila.

The first event was the Charleston Church Shooting. While I was reeling from the horror of this event, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. I don’t think my emotions could swing in a wider range than when I heard of these events. While I was saddened to hear about the deaths of a bible study club in Charleston, I was cheering the court ruling.

I watched with interest the various opinion blogs like mine try to create a religious link with these two events. The first being an attack on Christians and the second being another attack on Christians. I’m not sure I can make the leap of logic that these people have created this link and I’m not sure I want to. Nothing about these events had anything to do with religion at all.

They had to do with hate.

Let me explain. The first, the Charleston Church Shooting, involved a young man so twisted by hate that he ceased to be human anymore. Think about this; this young man was once a trusting, loving little boy that ran to his mommy with skinned knees and traded dire secrets with his friends. How did he get from there to this thing that would walk into a group of caring, trusting individuals and bring death? Hate.

Spoonful by spoonful this little boy was fed hate. Day by day he heard it, wore it, lived it, saw it, took it to school and hugged to his chest at night. This hate became the core of his being until he shed his humanity and became the thing with the cold eyes.

The second event was a triumph over hate.

For centuries, gays have had to endure the animosity, the jeers, the disfavor, the bullying of those around them. They’ve had to hide in shadows and play it straight. They’ve had to, little by little, gain small victories over their tormentors. Heroes like George Takei have taken great risk to create the understanding and connection to the world around them. Many of the heroes of the gay rights movement have had to work from behind the scenes to enact any change at all.

The Supreme Court ruling is that moment when hate was vanquished. A proud moment the world could applaud the United States for recognizing that ALL its citizens had to have access to the same rights and protections. It was a moment of pure joy and relief.

Two very different events connected by one thing; hate. One evokes great sadness and pain and the other brings great joy and pride. We can learn from both of them.

Hate is a manmade thing. We can fight it. We can eliminate it. It’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight but we can do it. The alternative is to lose our humanity and that’s something we cannot let happen.