God Hates Fags

The Rhetorics of Religious Violence

229 pages

June, 2006

ISBN: 9780814716694



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Michael Cobb is Professor of English at the University of Toronto. He is the author of God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence, also published by New York University Press.

All books by Michael Cobb

2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

At the funeral of Matthew Shepard—the young Wyoming man brutally murdered for being gay—the Reverend Fred Phelps led his parishioners in protest, displaying signs with slogans like “Matt Shepard rots in Hell,” “Fags Die God Laughs,” and “God Hates Fags.” In counter-protest, activists launched an “angel action,” dressing in angel costumes, with seven-foot high wings, and creating a visible barrier so one would not have to see the hateful signs.

Though long thought of as one of the most virulently anti-gay genres of contemporary American politics and culture, in God Hates Fags, Michael Cobb maintains that religious discourses have curiously figured as the most potent and pervasive forms of queer expression and activism throughout the twentieth century. Cobb focuses on how queers have assumed religious rhetoric strategically to respond to the violence done against them, alternating close readings of writings by James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Jean Toomer, Dorothy Allison, and Stephen Crane with critical legal and political analyses of Supreme Court Cases and anti-gay legislation. He also pays deep attention to the political strategies, public declarations, websites, interviews, and other media made by key religious right organizations that have mounted the most successful regulations and condemnations of homosexuality.


  • “Michael Cobb raises questions of both ethics and effectiveness that are deeply urgent. If you, too, want to know how the rhetorics of violence that swirl around queer people work, then read this book.”

    —Janet R. Jakobsen, co-author of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance

  • “[Cobb] begins not only in the middle of still fresh news (Matthew Shepard, Fred Phelps, Colorado’s Amendment 2, and the marriage debates), but in the middle of ordinary assumptions about rhetoric and our east elision of sexuality with race.”

    Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

  • God Hates Fags is an exciting, even exceptional, book, and it will contribute to an important and necessary conversation between queer studies and African American literary and cultural studies.”

    —Christopher Nealon, author of Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion Before Stonewall

  • “I am moved by it, as by his practiced rhetorical sensibility.”

    Journal of the American Academy of Religion

  • “Looks specifically at texts and spectacles about religious violence and hatred.”

    —Julie Novkov, University at Albany, SUNY

  • "God Hates Fags is an excellent way to become immersed in the issues and rhetorical arguments of a sub-cultural world of American religious and political disourse."

    —Richard Hughes Seager, American Studies Journal