In a classic example of confusing belief with historical fact, Kylee Zempel at The Federalist is outraged at the very idea that Christians could be racist. She is so mad that she is going to defend her beliefs by misinterpreting Scientific American.
The Left Wants You To Believe The Bible Is White Supremacist So They Can Force Evolution Down Your Throat
It’s a no-holds-barred attack on Christianity to advance the opposing worldview, and if that means smearing as racist a — *checks notes* — time-tested historical account in which a divine Middle Eastern man is the central figure, so be it.
Can we right away clear up some misconceptions?
- The Bible itself is a document written by diverse people over a long complex history. In itself it is not “white supremacist” — although you could argue that it promotes a belief in a kind of tribal supremacy.
- That tribe was not white Europeans.
- However, while the Bible is not a white supremacist document, your interpretation of the Bible can be.
- Forcing evolution down people’s throats is not and has never been good pedagogical technique.
- Your religion, Christianity, is not necessarily opposed to evolution, so teaching evolution is not teaching that Christianity is wrong.
Most importantly, I would point out that waving broadly at a Middle Eastern Jesus does not protect you from accusations of racism, especially when there’s such a long history of your peculiar, particular branch of the Christian religion portraying Jesus as a light-skinned Northern European man. But Zempel’s main point is that her narrow clade of fundamentalist, evolution-denying religion is the entirety of Biblical belief, and therefore supporting evolution is a direct attack on the whole of Christianity, which isn’t true.
“Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy” is Scientific American’s not-so-subtle way of saying this synonymous phrase: “The Bible is racist.”
Oh, that’s a synonymous phrase? Break it down. “Denial of evolution” is a synonym for the Bible? I don’t think so. The Bible contains a half a page of poetry about a creation week that is then denied in the next chapter by a completely different creation story. There is clearly some latitude of interpretation permitted in Genesis. Furthermore, I think most Christians, other than this narrow sect of fundamentalist literalist creeps, would be horrified that you can equate all the complex moral and ethical and historical lessons of their very messy holy book with “denial of evolution”.
Of course, I’d fully agree with the other half of her equation: white supremacy is a synonym for racism.
She rages on a little more.
It would be easy to dismiss the whole article as record-setting idiocy or editorial catfishing. After all, what editor at a magazine with “scientific” in the name green-lights an article arguing that the religion that worships a man born between Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq is “white supremacist”? There’s something more nefarious under the brainlessness, however, and we shouldn’t breeze past it.
This headline is just the latest in the left’s crusade not only to brand everything that challenges their worldview as racist, but also to grant scientific legitimacy to their race-baiting. This time, however, they’re aiming their fire straight at the heart of the scriptures on which Christians base their beliefs — and they aren’t trying to hide the reason why.
heart of the scriptures is evolution denial? What did Christians do in the 1800 years before Darwin published The Origin? Let’s take a look at the SciAm article.
I want to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion…
Wait, stop right there. So one of the arguments is that evolution denial is NOT about religion, and Zempel has distorted this into her view that evolution denial IS her religion? OK.
…and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies. Under the guise of “religious freedom,” the legalistic wing of creationists loudly insists that their point of view deserves equal time in the classroom. Science education in the U.S. is constantly on the defensive against antievolution activists who want biblical stories to be taught as fact. In fact, the first wave of legal fights against evolution was supported by the Klan in the 1920s. Ever since then, entrenched racism and the ban on teaching evolution in the schools have gone hand in hand. In his piece, What We Get Wrong About the Evolution Debate, Adam Shapiro argues that “the history of American controversies over evolution has long been entangled with the history of American educational racism.”
The major point of the article is that the scientific view encompasses the totality of human history, and that humans aren’t always light-skinned, and even modern light-skinned people had darker-skinned ancestors, so what’s with this idea that humans are only 6,000 years old and the different races were established at the time of Noah’s Ark? It doesn’t argue against Christianity at all, but only that one bad idea that creationists strive to get into our educational curriculum, and that historically, creationism has used racial divisions in America to promote itself.
The KKK was and is a white Christian organization. Pointing that out is not the same as saying Christianity and the KKK are synonymous.
Zempel continues on in her naive lumper ways and makes another point that I agree with, but that also undermines her argument.
The complete title of Charles Darwin’s seminal book was “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” In his book “The Descent of Man,” Darwin recorded, “The Western nations of Europe … now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization,” and said, “The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.” In other words, Darwin’s white supremacy was underpinned by his evolutionary theory, the same theory Hopper champions.
Darwin’s white supremacist musings weren’t confined to the page. As Phil Moore noted, Darwin’s evolutionary theory influenced racism and genocide the world over. In America, it was used to justify the killing of Native Americans. In Germany, the Holocaust. In the Soviet Union, the murder of non-Russian people. The Serbs used it to rationalize the genocide against Kosovans and Croatians.
Yes! Darwin held racist views, as did many of the promoters of evolution in the 19th and 20th century. The theory has been greatly abused as an endorsement of genocide and oppression. That is entirely true.
But I can also say, in an accurately synonymous way, that Christianity has been greatly abused as an endorsement of genocide and oppression.
That does not imply that the theory or Christianity are necessarily false, or that opposing genocide and oppression are therefore directly opposing the science or the religion. You won’t see many scientists or Christians saying that we can’t condemn King Leopold II’s brutal and inhuman treatment of his African colony, or the slave trade, or the Holocaust, because that would be anti-evolutionary, or anti-Christian. We can oppose the false interpretation of science or religion without being anti-science or anti-faith.
But that’s what the goons at the Federalist want you to believe: by opposing their racism and misogyny and ignorance, we are opposing God himself.
At this point, I can only think of The Federalist as a satirical publication. These people think that by adopting the name of a deceased early American political party that they can make their beliefs less ludicrous and less odious. They could not be more wrong. I picture editorial meetings at The Federalist with these numbnuts dumbasses wearing wigs and aping the language of the colonies.
Really, somebody should write a sit-com. There’s comedy gold in them thar hills.
Matt G says
If the Federalist wants to be taken seriously, denying evolution by recycling old, debunked ideas is NOT the way to go.
The Federalist doesn’t need anyone to take them seriously.
They already have a huge amount of power because powerful people and interests take them seriously.
They are an important part of the GOP and the GOP ran the USA for the last 4 years by electing the president and controlling the US Senate.
Cthulhu, this is stupid.
.1. There is no such thing as xianity.
The religion has fragmented into 42,000 sects with more being formed every year.
It’s all over the map on anything and everything.
They don’t even agree on the number of gods, one, two, three, four?
.2. Not all xians are racists
In fact, most xians are nonwhites.
.3. It is quite clear that some xians are in fact, racists.
It is the very basis for their existence.
The Southern Baptists got the Southern in their name by supporting slavery, supporting the Confederate rebels, opposing desegragation, opposing integration, and hating Obama.
All the churches in the USA split along racist lines during the Civil War of 1860. They are still split along racist lines.
“What did Christians do in the 1800 years before Darwin published The Origin?”
I know you know, but ‘killing anyone with slight doctrinal differences’ springs to my mind.
Ray Ceeya says
If the bible is “white supremacist” why does the KKK hate Catholics so much? Never made much sense to me.
I think you can make a strong argument that reading the Old Testament teaches one how to be racist.
As much as that collection of books can be said to have a theme, that theme is the relationship between a deity and his “chosen people.” And it is very very clear throughout that there is no equality in God’s relations with humanity — the character very clearly plays favorites.
As a kid in the pew, I remember wondering who the “chosen people” were today. Well, obviously I and the people in my church must be on his good side — that went without saying. But who was on his bad side? How could you tell? Hopefully just people who lived far away — but were there any non-chosen who lived in my town? Who were my friends?
“Us and them” -ism drips off of every page of the OT, and Jesus isn’t much better with all his talk of sheep and goats.
I’m a devout Coptic Orthodox Christian, and neither I or my church has any problem with evolution. For all we know, Adam and Eve might have been Australopithicines in ancient Africa.
PZ Myers says
#3: You have confused the Federalist Society, a powerful conservative influence on the Republican party established in the 1980s, with The Federalist, a powerless blog with a reputation as a sinkhole of stupidity founded by Megan McCain’s hubby less than ten years ago. The Federalist is about as influential as Conservapædia.
@Ray Ceeya, the Klan was/is anti-Catholic because it was founded by Protestants, who though the Roman Catholic Church was illegitimate. Even though they made common cause with Catholics in the late ’70s, over abortion and other culture war issues, you wouldn’t have trouble finding US Protestants who think the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon.
Akira MacKenzie says
For the WASPs who founding the Klan, the great fear was that Catholics weren’t loyal to the nation, but to Vatican. That, and the long standing enmity toward the RCC they’ve held since Martin Luther threw his 1517 hissy fit.
Kevin Karplus says
I want to disagree somewhat with your claim “white supremacy is a synonym for racism.” White supremacy is one form of racism, and the most important form in the US (and Europe), but it is not the only form. Japan has a history of racism against Koreans, for example, and even against the original inhabitants of the Japanese islands (the Ainu).
So, while white supremacy is definitely racism, it is not a synonym for racism, but a special case of it.
I’ve read a good bit of antebellum pro-slavery literature. One of the most-common defenses was that the Bible authorized slavery; Jesus never denounced slavery; Paul endorsed slavery; so therefore the anti-slavery groups were anti-Christianity and anti-God. Some Christians called abolitionists “atheists.” As an FYI: Many, possibly the sizable majority, of slavery defenses were written by clergy. So slavery was synonymous with Christianity in their eyes. Segregation was also rooted in this equation. When a Va. magistrate exiled the interracial couple the Lovings, who got the Supreme Court ruling that overturned anti-race-mixing laws, he declared that God had created the races to be separate and therefore an interracial marriage/sex was an offense to God. Also FYI: The first Va. law banning interracial sex, in 1661, (as far as I can tell, the first such law in the American colonies) prohibited sex between “Negroes” and “Christians.” The concept of race was not cited or implied.
Also FYI: What the Europeans (by law, all were Christians) did to the dark-skinned pagan peoples of the Americas, Africa and Asia, they had first done to the “white” pagans of Europe. In its 1,000-year campaign to Christianize Europe, those pagans who refused to convert were either killed or enslaved. Children of the conquered were forcibly brought up as Christians, no matter what their parents might want. So the kidnapping, abuse of and forced conversions of Native American children in the U.S. and Canada was simply a continuation of Christians’ forcible conversion of white European pagans. A final FYI: The word “slave” comes from Slav, because in centuries of brutal wars and raids, so many pagan Slavs were captured and sold as forced laborers that “Slav” became synonymous with forced labor.
Look I know atheists are supposed to pretend that “evolution” isn’t incompatible with religion (along the lines of “some of my best scientific friends are christians, although the number of names given to support this claim is small), but really, you know, it is, though that has nothing to do with the loon quoted above.
Rob Grigjanis says
nomdeplume @14: Ah, you’re a representative of Smug Atheism, aka The Unholier than Thou.
Maybe you could explain to weylguy @8 what he’s doing wrong?
John Morales says
Rob, does your own smugness about not being a Smug Atheist bother you in the least?
Anyway, evolution is not in conflict with religion in general, only with fundamentalist creationist religionists.
That’s basically a USA thing.
Rob Grigjanis says
John @16: It’s a cross I must bear, but I see by your second sentence that you have the same objection to nomdeplume’s comment as I.
John Morales says
Well, yes, Rob. Christianity and Islam are but a tiny part of the vast variety of religious belief, and creationist Biblical literalism is but a tiny part of the vast variety of Christian belief.
Just say “God made evolution” and voilà, conflict solved.
@18 “God made evolution” is a meaningless phrase.
John Morales says
Not to a goddist, nomdeplume.
John Morales says
Well if that is way she wants it OK. I really do not care all that much about belief in gods so much as the denial of nature of reality If your belief does not match demonstrable reality I am sorry but your belief does not trump anything.
SC (Salty Current) says
Theistic Evolution, Evolutionary Creation, and other sad attempts to try to salvage religious faith in the face of reality don’t avoid the fundamental incompatibility between faith/religion and science. As they say in John’s link @ #21, they believe
It most certainly is the right tool for this. Since they can’t meaningfully define this phenomenon of a “creator God who loves us,” it isn’t a big question but not even a question at all. If they could define it, science would be the right tool for answering the question of whether or not it existed. They believe in a human-loving deity, miracles, etc., because of an old book, which they believe is divinely inspired just because they choose to believe it. This isn’t compatible with science.
But they also don’t really believe in evolution. Even as their religious claims have had to be pared back to the bare minimum as scientific knowledge has grown, they still retain essential faith-based beliefs that are inconsistent with a scientific understanding of evolution:
Randomly inserting the “providential guidance” of an imaginary deity into natural processes introduces a non-naturalistic and non-scientific element. (I agree that they’re not deists, who simply tack their god on at the beginning of the process, rendering it relatively less problematic for science but also totally pointless.) The arrogant notion of human specialness – being created “in the image of” their god, having unique and divinely gifted qualities or capacities, not being fully part of the natural world – also flies in the face of a naturalistic evolutionary understanding.
The thing is that the scientific process is atheistic–that is, there is no role for an omniscient, omnipotent being who can jam its celestial thumbs into the clockwork of the Universe and obtain any result it wants. One could in fact argue that the overwhelming success of the scientific enterprise argues against such a being–or put another way, deities are compatible with science in inverse correlation to their actually doing anything.
So, while science takes no position at all on whether deities exist, the process of science is atheistic, and it provides a pretty strong argument against the gods advocated by the god botherers.
Rob Grigjanis says
When people say this, my response is “and?”. It’s one of those little mantras that just sort of hangs there, seemingly disconnected from the world we live in. Religious people have been happily doing science for centuries. How they reconcile their beliefs with their work varies hugely. Some have said their beliefs inspire their work. So what exactly are you telling them? That they shouldn’t be doing science? That they have an obligation to subject their faith to the same kind of analysis they use in their work? That if only they thought about it the way you have, they would see the light?
Funny story. When Georges Lemaître (a Catholic priest, BTW) came up with what became known as the Big Bang* theory, he got a lot of pushback from scientists (most notably Fred Hoyle) who objected to its resemblance to the creation story. Hoyle:
Maybe atheism is incompatible with science.
*Coined by Hoyle as a pejorative.
SC (Salty Current) says
Rob Grigjanis @ #25:
The fact that there’s something that requires attempts at reconciliation is a clue to the basic incompatibility. The people we’re discussing right now – as opposed to the millions of Christians, like the person described in the OP, who reject evolutionary science – attempt to effect this alleged reconciliation by diluting their religious claims related to the subject so much that they would appear to comport with any empirical knowledge derived through scientific investigation. It’s a silly project, it never feels entirely honest (I sense that what they’re putting on websites for a more general audience is a toned-down version of what they really believe), and it still fails for the reasons I (and snarkrates) describe above.
But the fact that they have to do it at all, again, points to an inherent irreconcilability. Reconciling my naturalistic orientation with science (or evolution specifically), in contrast, requires zero work on my part. It’s simply compatible.
Well, I’m not talking directly to them, although I think I’ve said what I mean clearly enough around here many, many times (here I am a month ago, for example).
No, but they should spare everyone the nonsense about theistic evolution and evolutionary creation and the like.
This one, definitely yes. Once again I’ll point to Allen Wood and the evidentialist principle.
I know that story. It’s interesting as a tale from the history of science, but tells us nothing about the basic compatibility of science and faith-religion. It was simply some people making a stupid argument based on one of a million extremely superficial resemblances between a scientific finding or theory and a particular religious myth.
Rob Grigjanis says
No, it’s a clue that they’re human beings, with all the internal complexity that entails. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trying to fit square pegs into round holes. It means they are seeking harmony in their lives.
Who is this ‘they’? You’ve found some theists who do that, and apparently lump everybody in with them. AFAIK, Maxwell, Lemaître, and Abdus Salam never spouted such nonsense.
Good for you. You’ve found your path to harmony (much the same as mine, as it happens). Should everyone feel obliged to follow your path? If so, why? The people I mentioned did amazing science. They didn’t make a secret of their beliefs, but so what? Why do you care?
Works of science stand or fall on their merits. Period. If a faith-based judgement is necessary for a scientific argument, it will fall. You’re engaging in a philosophical argument which has no point, as far as I can see, beyond antitheists congratulating each other on how clever they are.
It tells us that stupid arguments can come from any ideology, including antitheism.
SC (Salty Current) says
Rob Grigjanis @ #27:
I don’t understand why my point is escaping you so. What I said about attempts at reconciliation also holds for “seeking harmony.”
The people we’re talking about! FFS, I was responding to a specific link from John Morales @ #21, which I quoted multiple times.
It wasn’t even my link! In any case, the founder of that organization is Francis Collins, the current director of the National Institutes of Health in the US.
I’ll reiterate my point one more time: there was no path to harmonizing or reconciling these or need for it because they’re fundamentally compatible. There’s no epistemic tension or disharmony between them. This is in contrast to faith-religion and science, which are in epistemic (and empirical, in this case) conflict.
I provided two links @ #26 explaining my position. If people are forming organizations, writing books, and posting on web sites about their theistic evolutionary or evolutionary creationist approach, I’m well within my rights to ask that they spare me that nonsense. Furthermore, their unfounded beliefs about human specialness and alienation from the rest of nature and the animal world – not to mention the “born in sin” bullshit – are offensive to me and I believe dangerous in addition to being contrary to science. (Now, my fundamental argument doesn’t concern the specific content of their beliefs – I would say the same even if I “liked” them – but these beliefs have real effects, and I care about that, too.)
It’s an ethical argument, with important psychological, social, and political implications. You’re attached to this ad hominem reading, but it’s both mistaken and irrelevant.
An even cheaper line. Like anyone was claiming otherwise.
I agree with you about the fundamental (epistemological) incompatibility between science and faith/religion, but I think you’re wrong here:
I don’t find anything unclear in the concept of “a creator God who loves us”. The problem (from a Christian p.o.v.) is the overwhelming evidence that if there is a supernatural being powerful enough to have created us (let alone omnipotent, as doctrinally orthodox Christianity insists), it’s at best indifferent to our welfare! The more honest Christians admit this “apparent” incompatibility (the “Problem of Evil”), and you can even find it in the Tanach (“Old Testament”), notably the Book of Job.
I recently came across (unfortunately I don’t recall the source) an interesting argument that a tension within Christianity played a crucial part in the genesis of (European) racism (I leave aside the question of whether other forms of ethnocentric bigotry such as that alluded to by Kevin Karplus@12 are sufficiently similar to be given the same name). In medieval western Christianity, it was permissible to keep and trade in slaves in some circumstances, but not to enslave Christians, and very doubtful whether Christians other than criminals could be kept as slaves. From the 1400s onwards, increasing numbers of Black Africans were bought, transported to Atlantic islands and the Americas, and for the most part, worked to death – and very few voices were raised in objection. But Christianity is the missionary religion par excellence, so many voices were raised saying the the slaves should be converted to Christianity. But this led to the question: once converted, how to justify keeping the slaves as slaves, which was extremely profitable?* Agreed-upon answer: the people we have enslaved are intrinsically inferior, as can be seen by their skin colour, and fitted by nature to be slaves! In fact, we’re doing them a favour by enslaving them, not only because their souls can then be saved, but because of their intrinsic nature.
*Of course, according to some here, owning slaves is much less profitable than employing waged labour, the fact that historical experience agrees with the slaveowners that this is by no means invariably so, notwithstanding. For example, when Britain ended slavery in the Caribbean colonies in the 1830s, free trade ideologues and the antislavery movement (two strongly overlapping groups) expected sugar plantations in those colonies to out-compete those in Brazil, Cuba etc., where the plantation workers were still slaves. In fact, British Caribbean sugar production crashed, as the ex-slaves had no intention of continuing to work in the deadly industry, and even importing semi-slaves (bonded labourers from India, China and elsewhere) didn’t reverse the decline.
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