Saturday, November 21, 2020

The colour of religion and opposition to secularism.

When I think of religion and its impact on politics, I look at a few criteria:

  • Is the religion hereditary, or does it increase membership through conversion. How aggressive is the conversion, and how do they treat people who don't convert?
  • Is it an example of spirituality, or does it contain a hierarchical political force?  Does that political force have state aspirations?
  • How populous is the religion, and thus how much influence can it exert on global politics?

Only 3 religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) currently have populations above 10%, and thus those are the religions that concern me the most. While it is fortunate that none of these religions have achieved 50% of the global population, it would be incorrect to think of any of these religions as minorities.


Consistent with my antiracism reading this year, I remain focused on systems.  I don't think about individual practitioners, where they live, or where their ancestors came from (and thus skin melanin). This works well for me as I have always been more comfortable thinking about systems and the connections between systems, and less comfortable with the concept of  individuality.

While these are my criteria and mindset, other people see religion very differently. They look at the race and ethnicity of the individual practitioner, and focus on that and not religious systems.


While Islam and Christianity originated in the middle east, it was Christianity that took over Europe. Judea and Europe were part of the Roman empire at the time, while Mecca was within Arabia. Given the subjects of Christian monarchs were sent by the Italian Pope (Doctrine of Discovery) to colonize and convert the world to Christianity, it is now hard to clearly differentiate European worldviews or even white supremacy from Christianity.


I personally know many people of Indian (the country) descent.  When they hear critiques of "ostentatious religious symbols" they think of the turban and hi·jab, not the religious habit of Christianity or the cross.  They feel that whole discussion is only an attack against brown people.

This is a hard problem to attempt to deal with. While I see so many people being critical of those of faiths different than their own, I don't think it is correct to lump into the same basket those fighting for a separation of every church from governance.


Religious groups quarrel with each other quite regularly, and have ongoing wars.  Those who are Christian and are only critiquing non-Christians, as well as those who are Muslim and only critique non-Muslims, are on the opposite side of the debate as those of us fighting for secularism. 

Some people have been able to move beyond individuals to systems, and finally recognize centuries of harmful political influence of the Catholic Church specifically, and Christianity generally. Even as this happens, issues around race make them unable to recognize religions not dominated by white people as being a similar threat.

While I recognize this problem, I can't think of a solution.  I am aware that I will regularly be considered a racist and/or bigot for opposing religious symbols being worn by people providing specific government services.  If I went to court and saw the judge wearing a cross or hi-jab I would not consider them any more trustworthy to do their job correctly than if the judge were wearing a MAGA cap.

(leave alone any mention of a specific symbol used in various religions in India that the Germans abused in the 1930's. Few westerners are even aware of the original meaning).

Saying nothing, and allowing religion to continue to be abused to manipulate and/or dictate the politics of nations is not an option.

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