Christians are up in arms about music video showing church burnings, but they don't understand its meaning

A music video posted on the homepage of the Rock Beyond Belief Festival, that's being held for atheist servicemen and women in March at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, has roused the ire of several Christian blogs and commentators.

Filmed for the song "Hysteria" by rock band Aiden, the video (posted below), begins with several shots of church and synagogue burnings. Indeed, the song itself uses what appears to be lyrics supporting these actions: "Love how they burn your synagogues/Love how they torch your holy books".

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes posted an article the other day drawing focus to the church burning imagery. One of the other blogs I regularly read, a prominent tea party-supporting site (as I'll explain elsewhere, I travel in conservo-libertarian circles) wrote a post saying that the video was proof of the intolerance of atheists, comparing us to socialists, and calling American atheists "not real Americans."

The church burning shots were apparently about as far as any of the Christian commentators got in thinking about this video. While it is true that "Hysteria" and other Aiden songs are not friendly to the religious, the imagery used in the video is hardly "celebrating" church and synagogue burning as Starnes puts it. In fact, if you take five minutes to interpret the lyrics, Aiden is actually criticizing the role the religion has taken in a number of atrocities and hateful and criminal acts (like church and synagogue burning) throughout history.

The first line of the second stanza makes it abundantly clear what the song is actually about:

Faith holding outright criminals safe

Religions have been quite notorious for protecting criminals. The best known case of this in recent years has been of the Catholic Church protecting pedophile priests, but we've seen it time and time again, most notably during World War II.

When the Third Reich came to power in 1933, Hitler signed a treaty with the Vatican that essentially caused the Vatican to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of the Nazis in return for the Church's continued existence in the country. It later apologized for not condemning the Holocaust, and I think forgiveness can be given, but that doesn't change what happened. The song lends some lyrics in support of this interpretation: "Wait supporting outright genocide", and the inclusion of shots of the Nazis in the video should make the connection clear.

Christianity, of course, isn't the only religion that has protected or kept silent about its criminals. Following the September 11, 2011, attacks, the Taliban in Afghanistan harbored Osama bin Laden, and there is at least some evidence that portions of the Pakistani military knew about his residence in their country for several years but kept quiet about it. Apart from that, there hasn't exactly been an outpouring of condemnation by the wider Muslim community for other terrorist-related violence.

Once we begin to see that the song and video is about religion's tendency to either directly or indirectly support violence (i.e. the "hysteria" of religion) against people and holy places, the reason for the inclusion of the burning churches in the video is clearer. Far from supporting the burnings, Aiden is criticizing those who would do so, particularly in the name of religion.

If the Christians who are hopping angry right now would only have taken some time to discover the true meaning of "Hysteria," maybe they wouldn't be so quick to label atheists as intolerant. This video has nothing to do with the alleged intolerance of atheism, but everything to do with how, as the late Christopher Hitchens put it, "religion poisons everything."

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