America, Christians, and Religious Extremism


by Jai
15th July, 2010 at 9:30 pm    

There is a view in some quarters, including here in the UK, that modern-day Western societies are free of some of the caricatures often associated with some non-Western cultures; in recent times, negative comparisons have been drawn with Islam and Muslims in particular.

Similarly, there are uninformed arguments being made that, whilst – for example – it would be highly inaccurate to assert that the most ultraconservative, tyrannical and bigoted historical versions of Catholicism or some of the more fanatical and regressive versions of Christianity in general prevalent in some parts of the United States should be extrapolated to stereotype & denigrate Christianity and its diverse followers all over the rest of the world, Islam and Muslims do not demonstrate the same level of diversity either in the modern day or historically. The logic (not to mention the gross ignorance) of claiming that one particular religion and its followers encompass the spectrum of interpretations from liberalism & moderation to the ultraconservative opposite extreme, and that other religions and their followers do not, is patently faulty.

Matthew Harwood has recently written an excellent article for Comment is Free on the Guardian demonstrating this perfectly, titled ”America’s Paranoid Religious Right”. He specifically discusses the ‘Call 2 Fall’ movement in the United States. A few extracts, as follows:

The Call 2 Fall movement captures the mood among Christian nationalists – that God is punishing America for its sinful ways.

On the morning of Sunday 4 July, hundreds of thousands of Christians across America fell to their knees to beseech their god for forgiveness in an effort to decipher why he has forsaken the United States, the most Christian nation on earth.

The work of Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, the day owes itself to the undeniably ecumenical influence of “public days of humiliation, fasting, and prayer” called for by the Continental Congress and the Adams, Madison, and Lincoln administrations during the tribulations of America’s birth and the adolescence of civil war. (It should be noted that none of these presidents can be ever be claimed as fathers of today’s religious right.)

Parallels with regressive characteristics normally associated with negative stereotypes of certain other religions continue to mount:

The idea behind it is simple, says the Call 2 Fall website: “[O]n the day we celebrate our ‘independence’, we should also express our ‘dependence’ upon the Lord.”

If you’re of a certain Christian persuasion that believes the United States is God’s providential actor on earth, crowned as history’s savour, the call to fall isn’t insensible. The United States hasn’t fared well the last few years.

….. During such times, asking why such troubles plague the United States is not only natural but necessary. Unfortunately, too many answer the question by looking to the simplicities offered by the religious right. “From 9/11 to war to natural disasters to financial and moral collapse, we are witnessing what happens when a nation turns away from God,” the Call2Fall website exhorts.

Matthew Harwood and his wife decided to visit a church run by this organisation in order to see what it involves:

In an effort to understand how Christian nationalists deal with a very frightening and insecure time, my wife and I sat in on a Call 2 Fall service at a full gospel church in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. The experience was an insight into the cultural insecurities at work within the religious right and its Christian nationalism – the belief that the United States was, is, and for ever shall be a “Christian nation”, utterly dependent on God for its success.

…..The first hour of the service was taken up with devotional music, which had me questioning whether I had made a mistake: maybe this church wasn’t a hotbed of Christian nationalist sentiment. I was quickly disabused of that notion when one of the church’s elders approached the microphone at the front of the church.

Again, despite the current propaganda in certain quarters, including the media, fundamentalist priests using fear as a motivation and deliberately distorting facts (or being grossly ignorant of them) aren’t necessarily unique to any particular religion, as Harwood himself found out:

In a sweet voice, he spoke of the founding fathers as God-fearing Christians, never mind the Godless constitution and its establishment clause, and offered a prayer taken from George Washington’s prayer journal. He politely told the congregation that historical revisionists had wiped away the Christian character of the nation’s first president, denying his personal relationship with Christ, although the book he took the prayer from was long ago determined by the Smithsonian Institution to be a fraud.

Afterwards, the church’s pastor finally took the microphone and preached on the biblical passage provided by the Call 2 Fall website: 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The paranoia and fear quickly began to rise. The pastor jested that God wasn’t going to “kill all the non-Christians” to solve the problem of America turning its back on his lord. That would be too easy. Christians, he said, must “return what the enemy has taken away”, although he never defined who the enemy was. Therefore, Christians must repent and make a spiritual U-turn and return the country to its providential course.

Then the pastor prayed a special 4 July prayer, but one of submission not freedom, ignorance not knowledge. He spoke of the “rot of the godless media”, railed against government protecting sinful homosexual marriage and cried out against a country “infected by lies and spiritual darkness” where “evil is called good and good is called evil.” He called on America to return to his loving God, who would destroy this nation if we continued our sinful ways.

Harwood was a first-hand witness to increasingly disturbing behaviour on the part of the audience. Eventually he and his wife made their excuses and discreetly exited the building:

When the pastor’s call to fall rang out, the congregation fell hypnotically at an uneven pace to their knees or went entirely prostrate on the floor. A woman approached the microphone at the front of the church to give a rambling plea for her god’s love and understanding, tears rolling down her face.

The fear, the confusion, the misery, the self-reproach were palpable. These are scared and confused people groping for anything to make a maddeningly and frustratingly complex world intelligible. So they grasp for a simple answer, a book they believe is infallible and has all the answers. But it only leads them into the throes of fear and hatred. What originally began as songs of love and sacrifice quickly rot into gay-bashing and the dangerous, yet indistinct talk of enemies everywhere. The room began to take on the darkness of Arthur Miller’s Crucible more than the enlightenment of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

Historical precedents

Before anyone starts referring to historical events such as “the Reformation” or “the Enlightenment”, it is also worth bearing in mind that very large numbers of the Confederacy during the American Civil War believed they literally had a God-given, religiously-sanctioned divine “right” to own slaves, and that they were willing to kill their fellow Americans in order to defend this alleged “right”; the war eventually resulted in more than 600,000 deaths, the largest number of American fatalities in any military conflict which that nation has ever been involved in.

Similarly, the actions of the East India Company in the subcontinent from the end of the 18th century onwards and particularly throughout the 19th century were heavily motivated by the rise of Evangelical Christian fundamentalism; people at the most senior levels fervently believed they had a God-given right sanctioned by the contents of the Bible and Christianity as a formal religion to wage wars of aggression in India, annex the territories involved either via outright conflict or various “doctrines of lapse”, and forcibly subjugate colossal numbers of the region’s inhabitants. This included exhortations to use the full machinery of the British Empire to try to convert India’s entire population to Christianity (or at least the imperialists’ own warped version of it); not to mention the increasingly severe penalisation of any British officers who were deemed to be “too” tolerant of the other religions prevalent in India, whether it involved participating in celebrations associated with local religious festivals, an academic interest in the actual religious beliefs, or even simply donating items to their places of worship. British historical records also confirm that the mass atrocities committed by EIC soldiers during the extremely bloody conflict of 1857 were frequently motivated by explicitly religious reasons, with the perpetrators again believing that they were behaving entirely in accordance with the tenets of Christianity.

Some of the surviving journals of British military personnel involved make truly disturbing reading, both in terms of the barbaric actions they committed and their unashamed dehumanisation of their targets. Various influential members of the Christian clergy during the Victorian era are also on record as similarly encouraging extreme bigotry towards Indians, including attitudes towards “non-believers” on a par with some of the most venomous diatribes by modern-day Islamist “preachers of hate”. And despite the carnage of 1857, the most hardline Evangelicals refused to acknowledge that Christian extremism had been one of the major factors in triggering the conflict, but instead they actually claimed that they had not gone far enough. This has also all been heavily discussed and forcefully condemned in the writings of modern-day British historians as diverse as Niall Ferguson and William Dalrymple. Furthermore, a particularly ironic fact is that there have actually been settled communities of Christians in India for hundreds of years longer than there have been Christians in northern Europe, including Britain. The parallels with the attitudes of the BNP and the EDL, particularly towards Muslims, are of course also obvious; not least the explicit presumptions of being “the new Crusaders”, a stance shared by aggressive Victorian colonialists when it came to their actions in India.

Universal failings in human nature

The extracts above from the CiF article, and this PP article, have not been published here as an attack against Christianity in its entirety or against Christians en masse, and certainly not in order to denigrate America and its citizens as a whole, but because Harwood’s writings eloquently demonstrate that the followers of no single religion have a monopoly on destructive irrational beliefs (eg. “female immodesty causes earthquakes”) or regressive religious fanaticism, regardless of the current propaganda and frequently-neurotic hysteria about one other Abrahamic faith in particular.

As the article above discusses and as readers familiar with the ultraconservative right-wing Fox News will also know, such attitudes can even occur amongst hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s most advanced and prosperous nations, and it is a result of some basic (and all-too-universal) failings in human nature rather than necessarily being exclusively associated with any particular religion, nationality or “race”. Tragically, it is evident that such destructive behavioural traits did not die out in either the 19th or the 20th centuries but in numerous cases continue to this day. Nevertheless, these issues also highlight the irrationality and immorality of tarring a religion’s followers en masse with the same brush because of the contemporary and/or historical attitudes of its most extreme adherents, or indeed attempting to stigmatise the religion as a whole by downplaying the scale of internal diversity it encompasses and falsely depicting it as a homogenous faith defined by its worst possible interpretation…..irrespective of the specific religion concerned.


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  1. sunny hundal

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    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: America, Christians, and Religious Extremism http://bit.ly/bXJpgB


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  4. links for 2010-07-21 « Embololalia

    [...] Pickled Politics » America, Christians, and Religious Extremism Before anyone starts referring to historical events such as “the Reformation” or “the Enlightenment”, it is also worth bearing in mind that very large numbers of the Confederacy during the American Civil War believed they literally had a God-given, religiously-sanctioned divine “right” to own slaves, and that they were willing to kill their fellow Americans in order to defend this alleged “right"… [...]




  1. Bill — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:04 pm  

    Harwood’s writings eloquently demonstrate that the followers of no single religion have a monopoly on destructive irrational beliefs (eg. “female immodesty causes earthquakes”) or regressive religious fanaticism

    Great post, but it’s bound to provoke an awful many Christians around the world into a violent reaction when they hear about it. Recommend you seek immediate police protection!

  2. boyo — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:14 pm  

    well…. you could have also mentioned Hitler and Stalin – they were both products of Christian civilisation!

    yes, there were atrocities during the response to the Mutiny which yes, was partially caused by Protestant evangelism…. and your point is?

    perhaps you mean to allude to the ban in France? In any case, i think you create a straw man – as if all Muslims are regarded as evil or sommat – which you then challenge, but i don’t think any (rational) person claims that

    there are issues vis – Islam and the West; the West and Islam; the religious right in the US; faith schools in the UK. But i don’t understand what your post is trying to say, except the bleeding obvious.

    Sorry!

  3. Gary — on 16th July, 2010 at 12:12 am  

    I would just like to point out that many Christians were involved in the ending of the slave trade (such as William Wilberforce and the reformed slave trader (who wrote Amazing Grace) John Newton.

    I – as an Evangelical Christian (although certainly NOT a fundamentalist) do condemm violence in the name of Christianity. It is wrong, and there is no excuse for it. I also think that my American brothers are too involved in politics, and specifically the republicans – thereby isolating anyone like me, who is broadly left of centre, while most certainly “doing God.”

  4. dave bones — on 16th July, 2010 at 1:07 am  

    Call to fall I love it! ha ha ha cheers for posting. Seriously this isn’t that serious tho it almost reads like the Suns exaggeration of some of the “Islamic threat” over here. Some people who threaten no one have controversial views. Really? When they threaten people get back to me says Mr Policeman.

    I thought it was going to say that they wanted to wage war or something. “public days of humiliation” that is fantastic. Brilliant. I used to do all this. It was very earnest but quite non toxic. “evil” probably means the devils influence in their own lives.

  5. justmeint — on 16th July, 2010 at 5:06 am  

    As a Christian I am often challenged on why “Your Good God causes bad things to happen to people?”

    It’’s all well and good for me to right now feel assured that it is not God who is causing these things to happen. My faith is strong today. That might sound very strange limiting “strong faith” to ‘today’ – what about tomorrow, next week, five years from now?

    http://justmeintchristian.blogspot.com/2010/07/can-god-do-away-with-evil.html

  6. boyo — on 16th July, 2010 at 6:11 am  

    As a non-conformist myself, I would point out to the “evangelical” Christian, that WW was a Quaker and Friends were then, as now, at the other end of the “literalist” spectrum – ie, they were in a position to critically question their faith. The Church of the time was overwhelmingly behind the slave trade.

  7. Yakoub Islam — on 16th July, 2010 at 6:41 am  

    Almost all the finger pointing directed at Muslims can be thrown straight back at Euro-American society, from sexism (check out rape conviction rate, level of domestic violence and risible response to Amnesty International’s campaign on the same) to use of political violence (see US foreign policy 1945+). This has always been the way of Orientalism, whereby ‘The East’ functions effectively as the West’s dark shadow. Islam is the bogey man ‘over there’ that keeps folks from seeing the one stood right next to them.

  8. boyo — on 16th July, 2010 at 8:07 am  

    @ 7 Yes, it’s always someone elses fault, although its ironic that you invoke Freud, that 20th Century Western icon, to understand the phenomenon. But Islamism is the ultimate Western construct is it not?

    Sexism… face it: Islam is OBSESSED with sex: why else all the covering up? It’s sex, sex, sex. As for rape convictions, domestic violence, etc, you can’t be serious (although i fear you are).

    How about the West being Islam’s shadow? All those “forbidden” things the Westerners do, from drinking alcohol to “allowing” women the right to sunbathe topless. Doesn’t it just drive you crazy with desire Yakoub? Better ban it quick!

    How about Islam’s obsession with the West? What a provocation!

  9. boyo — on 16th July, 2010 at 8:17 am  

    Islam is certainly the sexiest religion, no doubt about it. It’s hard to think of a sexy Christian (sorry Christians!) but I’m sure I’m not alone in finding something sexy about a woman in a veil, or even just a pair of oval eyes behind a veil. Those jihadi babes know what their about, make no mistake.

    More seriously, I believe it’s because of power sits at the heart of Islam. That’s what submission is all about – submit to the power of God. Sex is power, a woman’s sex appeal fills her full of power to men, who are dominant in Islam because ultimately they are stronger. Ergo, a woman’s power must be muted, hence the covering up business. It’s all nonsense of course, but it’s also very, very sexy. ;-)

  10. boyo — on 16th July, 2010 at 8:46 am  

    In Islam, a woman’s sexuality is a man’s shadow. How’s that for a bit of Freud for you mate?!

  11. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 11:41 am  

    perhaps you mean to allude to the ban in France?

    No. The article is nothing to do with that.

    But i don’t understand what your post is trying to say, except the bleeding obvious.

    Sometimes the obvious needs to be clearly spelt out. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t necessarily always as common as it should be.

  12. Kismet Hardy — on 16th July, 2010 at 11:51 am  

    This might be as banal an observation as a Scouting For Girls lyric, but all religions teach children that they belong to the right team and everyone else is going to hell, and you can’t be surprised when many of them grow up to be adults filled with hatred for other man.

    Kyrie eleison is a tune though

  13. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 12:10 pm  

    but all religions teach children that they belong to the right team and everyone else is going to hell,

    Not necessarily. For example, Sikhism emphatically does not teach this, neither do most mainstream versions of Hinduism, and some of the most influential versions of South Asian Sufi Islam do not either.

    If you want a historical example of the last point, it wouldn’t exactly make sense for a member of one of northern India’s major Sufi orders to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar if he thought the Sikh Gurus and all of their past, present and future followers were going to hell; even more so when you consider that he was also the main religious instructor of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s chosen heir, Prince Dara Shukoh.

    However, in the cases of faiths or particular interpretations which do teach that “they belong to the right team and everyone else is going to hell”…..

    and you can’t be surprised when many of them grow up to be adults filled with hatred for other man.

    …..this would be a correct observation to make.

  14. Kismet Hardy — on 16th July, 2010 at 12:23 pm  

    Agreed and understood

  15. Shamit — on 16th July, 2010 at 12:58 pm  

    Adding on to Jai’s clarifications @13 – one thing must be highlighted – the concept of heaven and hell & judgement day as preached by Abrahamic religions does not hold true for the Hindu philosophy or religions that emerged from that philosophy such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism etc etc.

    It is not a singular line that begins with the garden of eden and ending with the judgement day but it reflects a cyclical view of life – where souls have to travel through numerous lives before they attain nirvana – or become one with God.

    Therefore, it is almost impossible to define heaven and hell within that concept – in fact, a great sufi Muslim scholar Kabir – once said that heaven and hell resides within humans.

    These religions do not also believe in the “devil” – God is omnipotent and is responsible for both creation and destruction.

    Many believe and I concur, Hinduism is not a religion but a philosophy and therefore religions that grew out of that philosophy has a very different perspective. They do not seek a us and them division so prevalent among the Abrahamic faiths.

  16. Shamit — on 16th July, 2010 at 1:06 pm  

    wish the edit options were still available.

  17. Gary — on 16th July, 2010 at 2:08 pm  

    With respect to Boyo, I think you will find that Wilberforce was in the Anglican Church, on the Evangelical wing. He did have a non-conformist influence, it’s true, but he remained an Anglican, as did Newton.

  18. boyo — on 16th July, 2010 at 2:38 pm  

    I stand corrected, although an easy mistake to make…

    http://www.quaker.org.uk/quakers-initiate-abolition-movement-britain

  19. Rumbold — on 16th July, 2010 at 2:42 pm  

    The non-Abrahamic religions may not teach that non-believers go to hell, but they often teach a more insidious version, which is karma. Just witness how disabled people are treated in the countries where these religions hold sway (not that disabled people are treated well anywhere); the belief they are being punished for sins in a past life is widespread.

  20. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 3:09 pm  

    The non-Abrahamic religions may not teach that non-believers go to hell, but they often teach a more insidious version, which is karma.

    Whilst various interpretations of “karma” are indeed concepts integral to the non-Abrahamic religions originating in India, it is worth clarifying that this is not quite an accurate comparison.

    There is no “divine punishment” (either in the current life or in future lives) inflicted on people purely for being “non-believers” in the sense of them not being members of the Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist faiths. Sikhism doesn’t even have a term for “non-Sikh”, for example.

    the belief they are being punished for sins in a past life is widespread.

    “Karma”, in the basic sense of “you reap what you sow, whether in this life or the next”, does not necessarily mean “you will be punished with physical and/or mental handicaps”. Although there are obviously going to be ignorant people who subjectively interpret the concept of karma in this way, this does not mean that the mainstream versions of the religions themselves actually teach this.

    I’ll let Shamit and other Hindus handle any required clarifications re: Hinduism, and likewise for Buddhists, but speaking for the Sikh angle, the religion absolutely does not teach this at all. In fact, given the considerable focus on compassion towards the weak and vulnerable (which would include the handicapped, especially the severely disabled), the notion that God is such a sadist that he would punish someone with actual disability even though they have absolutely no memory of what they presumably did wrong in a previous life is the complete opposite of what Sikhism actually teaches, both in terms of the religion’s concepts of God himself and the kind of behaviour which Sikhism encourages towards the aforementioned disadvantaged people.

    Not that I should need to make this point on the comments thread for an article which, somewhat ironically, is about the dangers of making sweeping generalisations about the alleged teachings of religions based on the actions & worst interpretations of their most extreme adherents, Mr Rumbold ;)

  21. Shamit — on 16th July, 2010 at 3:30 pm  

    Rumbold –

    Agreed.

    Like all religions there are idiots within those religions that try to subvert the true teachings and impose upon others false bill of goods which have no grounding on truth.

    No GOD or religion can ever accept lack of compassion for those who are hurting – or those who need help. And all religions teach to love fellow human beings and that best way to serve god is to serve humans.

    Nutters, the world over have a fascination with twisting and subverting goodwill and compassion and fail to leave judging to HIM – and they come in all colour, creed and religion.

  22. boyo — on 16th July, 2010 at 4:46 pm  

    oh come on, karma and caste was introduced by the Aryans t keep down the indigenous population.

    you know i really am an equal opportunities religiophobe…

    even though i’m actually quite religious!

  23. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 6:17 pm  

    karma and caste was introduced by the Aryans t keep down the indigenous population.

    Not quite, although it’s interesting to see that those particular aspects of self-serving 19th century colonial propaganda are still accepted as “fact” by some people. It’s even more ironic when you consider that the previous attitude of the majority of British people who had dealings with India was very different indeed for centuries, right up to the end of the 18th century.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste

  24. Rumbold — on 16th July, 2010 at 6:21 pm  

    Jai:

    Well, whatever the religions teach, the reality is that there are plenty of bigoted people who believe that people are being punished for something they did in their past lives (including Sikhs). I agree with you and Shamit that the religions may not teach this explicity, but a widespread and continued acceptance of the caste system amongst both Sikhs and Hindus means that this is the reality. And this is the logical conclusion to reach if you believe in a caste system. And the problem is that this is the reality on the ground (I was shocked when I went to India and went to a Hindu temple where disabled people had been segregated from others because they were seen as unclean. Hypocritically, the guide tried to use this as a way to get me to donate to the temple because they were ‘helping’ the disabled). I don’t deny that plenty of Hindus and Sikhs do treat disabled people well, but I don’t like the notion of karma that underpins both religions (well, Hinduism and neo-Sikhi).

  25. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 7:11 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Again, I’ll let other people speak for their own particular religions on this occasion, but in terms of Sikhism, your statement here:

    Well, whatever the religions teach

    …..doesn’t correlate with your statement here:

    but I don’t like the notion of karma that underpins both religions (well, Hinduism and neo-Sikhi).

    The concept isn’t necessarily as black & white as some may think, but in a nutshell, somewhat oversimplistic definitions of “karma” are “What goes around comes around” and, as I said earlier, “You reap what you sow”.

    Both are concepts which are also very familiar in Western society and culture too, incidentally.

    However, “karma” may not mean what you think it does, at least in Sikhism. If something bad happens to someone, or they are undergoing suffering in some way, they are not necessarily automatically being punished for something they did either in their current life or in any previous lives.

    You can refer to the lives of the Sikh Gurus for numerous examples of that. Several of them didn’t exactly have trauma-free lives, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they were being subjected to some kind of “karmic punishment” for alleged transgressions in alleged previous lives.

    I don’t deny that plenty of Hindus and Sikhs do treat disabled people well,

    I’m assuming you’re well aware of, for example, the large numbers of Indian doctors from both Hindu and Sikh backgrounds who are practising members of those religions and whose daily jobs involve them caring for disabled people, both in India and elsewhere in the world, including here in the Britain.

    (I was shocked when I went to India and went to a Hindu temple where disabled people had been segregated from others because they were seen as unclean.

    So you went to one Hindu temple where this occurred. Do you think that this automatically means that the majority of Hindu temples in India have similar attitudes towards disabled people (especially at major holy sites) ? Or, indeed, that Hindu temples elsewhere in the world, including Britain, treat disabled people in the same way ?

    Should abhorrent behaviour at a single location or a minority of places of worship associated with any particular religion be falsely extrapolated to describe the majority of the religion’s places of worship ? Obviously not. Otherwise one could make the same kind of disparaging statements about Christian churches based on, for example, the American church discussed in the main article. I think we all know the fallacy of that particular line of argument.

    I agree with you and Shamit that the religions may not teach this explicity,

    It goes beyond “not teaching this explicitly”; in certain cases they do not teach this at all.

  26. Bill — on 16th July, 2010 at 7:27 pm  

    The logic (not to mention the gross ignorance) of claiming that one particular religion and its followers encompass the spectrum of interpretations from liberalism & moderation to the ultraconservative opposite extreme, and that other religions and their followers do not, is patently faulty.

    It’s not faulty logic, it’s the present-day facts on the ground. If there were Christian Republics imposing Old Testament punishments on their citizens, you might have a point. But so far, despite claims that Islam and its followers are no different from other religions and their followers, only those brought up as Muslims are engaged in terrorist insurgencies across the globe. That’s why it’s safe to satirize Christianity but extremely dangerous to ridicule Islam in the same terms. Dredging up barbarisms committed by European societies in the 19th century or earlier only serves to emphasize how backwards are those states which practice similar (or much worse) in the 21st century.

  27. Don — on 16th July, 2010 at 7:58 pm  

    Revealed religions teach whatever the particular adherent wants to hear.

    Shamit,

    No GOD or religion can ever accept lack of compassion for those who are hurting – or those who need help.

    That’s a bit of a ‘No true scotsman’ approach, isn’t it? There are plenty of interpretations of religion – not just cranks and wierdos – who are perfectly comfortable with their version of religion teaching that compassion is reserved for the righteous. Aren’t they equally valid religions? They are held with as great a conviction, often more so.

    Jai is right that to take a particularly toxic interpretation of a religion and extrapolate that to define all who are adherents of the same nominal religion is either lazy or malicious. But similarly to point out some nice believers and claim that theirs is the ‘real’ version is avoiding reality.

    The abrahamic religions are based on a god who smites. A mighty and redoubtable god who can scatter your enemies and deliver them into your hands for bloody (and often disturbingly graphically described) vengeance. And if you happen to be on the wrong end of the smiting the best thing to do is grovel and look for ways in which you have offended. Fortunately that often means that you were too tolerant of ‘them’ so some vigorous auto da fe should do the trick. Or self-flaggelation, metaphorical or literal.

    Compassion is mentioned quite a lot, but often in the sense that Old Nobodaddy has chosen to lay off on the smiting for a while.

    Look in key texts for justifications for excluding, despising, persecuting or exterminating the out-group and in will only take a couple of hours to come up with a stack of citations.

    Look for injunctions to accept others simply as fellow humans and it can be done, but clear your diary and the result will still fit on the back of an envelope.

    Humans (and others) are capable of compassion, empathy, love, humour, self-mockery, altruism, awe in the presence of beauty, anger in the face of injustice and grief in the face of death. That wasn’t god, that was evolution. And the same process gave us the capacity for vicious and deliberate cruelty, for a ruthless urge for dominance, for a killing frenzy in the face of a perceived threat or a campaign of petty discrimination in the face of those who disturb our sense of what is appropriate, for preening hierarchies and display and stupid bloody hats.

    (The hats are just us. The other primates haven’t sunk that far.)

    Religion can support either side of our natures, because that’s why we invented it. Scholars and theologians have expended unimmaginably vast amounts of time and intelligence in trying to contort reality into a system compatible with a loving and perfect god at the top. They’re still working on it. And far too many of them have thought (and continue to think) that ‘…or we will kill you.’ is a valid debating technique.

  28. xtian — on 16th July, 2010 at 8:21 pm  

    What exactly is the purpose of this post? I am an Indian Christian and even I find this post biased. The aim of the post is clearly to denigrate Christianity and elevate all eastern religions above it without criticism.

    Yes, Christians have committed crimes in the name of their religion. But tell me any other religion that hasn’t? I do believe Christianity has a self-correcting apparatus. It was Christians who abolished the slave trade. Without this we would still be living in the era of slavery. If anything Christianity has actually civilised the former barbarians of Western Europe and made it less stratified.

    I live in the UK which has been shaped by Christian values. I’m glad I live here rather than in India. I see in India religion creeping in all aspects of life. You are born into a caste and that to a large extent determines what you do in life. This is a form on ingrained racism. I know plenty of Indians who think human beings are of different value depending on how they look. The lighter you are, the more superior you are. That’s not much different from the BNP ideology.

    For all the writer’s ire about Christian missionary activity, it was the missionaries that gave India many of its best hospitals, schools and colleges. These institutions are still serving Indian society today. Without them, as in the past, India would be living in the dark ages. And they weren’t to convert the masses. They were to serve society as it is a Christian’s duty to help the poor, not to keep them down with their feet.

    The problem with Indians in general is they suffer from an inferiority complex. They revoke history to seek a redress for the past. Britain has a bloody past. Its been invaded by foreigners likes the Celts, Romans, Saxons, Angles, Vikings, Normans and other groups over the ages. It is a mongrel nation and better for it in my opinion. Yet Indians are extremely touchy about their history. Some things come simply conquest. If it weren’t for the English language, India probably won’t be the back-office powerhouse it is today.

    Just grow up man!

  29. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 9:11 pm  

    It’s not faulty logic, it’s the present-day facts on the ground…..But so far, despite claims that Islam and its followers are no different from other religions and their followers, only those brought up as Muslims are engaged in terrorist insurgencies across the globe.

    If you want to take that particular line of logic, it can be extrapolated to state that people affiliated with the two Abrahamic religions which have the most followers have, in total, been engaged in the most violence and aggression across the globe for most of the past 1000 years, particularly during the past 500 years, including the last century alone, and that this is continuing to this day. Such an argument would not, however, be in the spirit of the article’s basic premise.

    Incidentally, the following quote from within the past decade may also be enlightening. I’ll leave it to readers with access to Google to find out exactly who said it:

    “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did…..And now again, I feel God’s words coming to me: ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.’ And by God, I’m gonna do it.”

    If there were Christian Republics imposing Old Testament punishments on their citizens, you might have a point…..those states which practice similar (or much worse) in the 21st century.

    The only accurate Muslim analogies for those in the modern world are Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and Taliban Afghanistan. Neither of those interpretations are the mainstream versions of Islam amongst the majority of Muslims in South Asia, a part of the world which as a whole has more Muslims than anywhere else (and far more than either Afghanistan or, particularly Saudi Arabia), including India — a country which has the third highest number of Muslims on the planet, after Indonesia and Pakistan. Presumably readers are aware that Indian Muslims are not exactly over-represented in global Islamist activities, either terrorism or any other actions.

  30. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 9:12 pm  

    Dredging up barbarisms committed by European societies in the 19th century or earlier

    To add some clarity to specifically British attitudes on the matter, it’s worth remembering the following: The actions committed in the 19th century included an extremely lengthy and widespread campaign of propaganda and historical revisionism to enable British imperialists to justify their own actions in India (not least because the Muslim aristocracy had previously been the dominant power in the subcontinent), including their long-term plans to systematically strip the Mughal administration of its power and eventually escalating in its complete overthrow, something which was technically an act of treason as the EIC were still legally the Mughals’ vassals.

    Attitudes towards Islam and Muslims in particular deteriorated considerably for these reasons (including the Victorians’ pretensions of being “the new Crusaders”), along with the fact that it had previously been extremely common for British people living in India to dive into Indian Muslim society and embrace local customs and culture, resulting in a particularly high attrition rate amongst EIC officers for hundreds of years until the aforementioned influence of extremist Evangelical Christianity from the end of the 18th century onwards. When the EIC subsequently turned from a predominantly trading & diplomatic operation into an outright imperial enterprise, some of the most senior people involved didn’t want a recurrence of what had recently happened with the catastrophic loss of the American colonies and associated perceived “conflicts of interest” amongst their own military, diplomatic and trading personnel.

    In more recent times, extremists like Al-Qaeda and Al-Muhajiroun have certainly played their part in poisoning matters (in fact, that would be an understatement), but the actual historical origins for British hostility towards Muslims and negative stereotypes of Islam go back 200 years.

  31. Rumbold — on 16th July, 2010 at 9:20 pm  

    Jai:

    Both are concepts which are also very familiar in Western society and culture too, incidentally.

    Yes and no. I have never heard anyone of an Abrahamic religion express the view that disabled people were being punished for sins in a past life. I have heard that view from Hindus and Buddhists, and I have heard Sikhs express opinions that victims of natural disasters were being punished for sins in a past life. This doesn’t make them representative, but it is fair to say that their views derive from the importance of multi-life karma in these religions.

    So you went to one Hindu temple where this occurred. Do you think that this automatically means that the majority of Hindu temples in India have similar attitudes towards disabled people (especially at major holy sites) ? Or, indeed, that Hindu temples elsewhere in the world, including Britain, treat disabled people in the same way?

    No, but I was using examples from my travels, combined with reports from the media. This doesn’t mean that I think all Sikhs/Hindus/Buddhists think this way, any more than I think all Muslims and Christians are violent homophobes. But you can see the religious springboard which causes this to happen. That doesn’t mean that they would be nice people without religion, but you can’t divorce such actions from religion when they are religiously inspired, even if it might be a distortion of religion.

  32. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 9:32 pm  

    Don,

    Absolutely brilliant post #27. Your contributions to the discussions on this website are phenomenal, as always.

  33. Jai — on 16th July, 2010 at 9:47 pm  

    The aim of the post is clearly to denigrate Christianity and elevate all eastern religions above it

    Hardly. Christianity is originally an “eastern” religion in terms of its historical roots in the Middle East – like Islam and Judaism. And as I mentioned in the main article, there have been settled communities of Christians in India for hundreds of years longer than there have been Christians in northern Europe, including Britain; Christianity didn’t suddenly arrive in India with the Jesuits and it certainly didn’t arrive via the actions of British-backed missionaries during the colonial era. In all aspects, Christianity is therefore an “eastern” religion as much as it is a “western” one.

    Furthermore, Christianity is not a monolithic, homogenous faith any more than any other major religion is. It never has been, notwithstanding Emperor Constantine’s efforts.

    For all the writer’s ire about Christian missionary activity,…..And they weren’t to convert the masses. They were to serve society as it is a Christian’s duty to help the poor, not to keep them down with their feet.

    I’m afraid not – at least when it came to those who were affiliated with the East India Company from the end of the 18th century onwards along with the subsequent British imperial administration in India from 1857 onwards. This has been confirmed by a mountain of fully authenticated British historical records from military, commercial, diplomatic and civilian sources involved in India at the time.

    You don’t have to take my word for it: For initial primers, I suggest you refer to “Empire” by Niall Ferguson, and “White Mughals” and “The Last Mughal” by William Dalrymple. Both writers are acclaimed modern-day British historians at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and all of their books include hundreds of fully-authenticated primary and secondary historical sources in their respective Bibliographies.

    Without them, as in the past, India would be living in the dark ages.

    That statement alone is a direct consequence of Victorian propaganda. India certainly wasn’t “in the dark ages”, and for hundreds of years the vast majority of Europeans in India (including the British), from Vasco de Gama’s arrival, through to the formation of the East India Company in 1600, right through to the end of the 18th century, were all perfectly aware of that – as the considerable surviving records of their own actions, opinions and lives confirm.

    But again, since I’m of Indian origin, you don’t have to take my word for it if my background poses a credibility problem for you; you’re welcome to refer to the extensive writings of the two British historians I’ve mentioned, including the hundreds of historical references they’ve based their work on.

  34. Dalbir — on 17th July, 2010 at 12:58 am  

    Nice posts Jai

    I’ve been reading Akal Ustat lately. If there ever was a religious text that directly struck at narrow, puritan, exclusive interpretations of God, it is this.

    Worth a revisit if you have the time and inclination.

  35. xtian — on 17th July, 2010 at 7:45 am  

    Jai,

    There are beliefs in Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and other religions I find abhorrent. Do you really want me to go into them here?

    There are hundreds of millions of Indians having a pitiable existence in what is supposed to be a future economic superpower. You cannot deny the link between caste and poverty in India. 35% of the Indians survive on a dollar a day. This an absolute disgrace, and you can’t blame the British for this.

    I’m sure there were plenty of atrocities committed by European colonialists. What’s worse is atrocities purportedly committed in the name of Christianity. This is contrary to the teachings of Christ. However, I still defend the work of missionaries. They have generally done a noble service. Indians have absolutely no qualms receiving the best education and health care from schools and hospitals set up by missionaries. There was an excellent article about missionaries by Joel Edwards in The Guardian a few days ago: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/04/religion-missionaries-christianity

    He says, “recent studies in the US have shown that only 14% of work done by missionaries from some of the largest and most evangelical churches is about conversion and as much as 96% of those who go on short-term mission trips visit other nations such as Guatemala where most of the people are already Christians.”

    You keep evoking history to justify your views. This is typical of the attitude of many Indians. There’s a fascist organisation known as RSS that combines this attitude with religion. They hark back to history to provoke a redress. The ultimate aim is to create a Hindu theocratic state in which minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, are reduced to being second class citizens. The RSS has tens of millions of members, which is scary. They have attacked lots of Muslims and Christians. If you look at Gujarat today, which is run by the Hindu hardliner Narendra Modi, it is virtually a fascist state. I don’t think that is great model.

    I find the concept of karma frightening. Some Hindus think its payback time for them. Whatever atrocities they suffered in the past can now be avenged. This kind of vicarious attitude leads to more violence.

    Whatever your views on Christianity, it is a truly global religion. The growth in Africa and China has been phenomenal. This has happened in the post-colonial period. In China, where religion is banned, there are an estimated 80 million underground Christians and the number is growing. Why is it growing? Perhaps it makes perfect sense to them. It is no longer the “white man’s religion”.

  36. xtian — on 17th July, 2010 at 8:17 am  

    Jai,

    A lot of people hate something because of its success. That’s why they hate Christianity. You seem to fall into that category.

    Ultimately you have to analyse what the religion teaches because often followers are not the best exponents. On the basis of evidence, the trustworthiness of the bible, as well as the growth of the early church, I do believe the central tenants of the Christian faith. That’s ultimately what matters to me.

  37. boyo — on 17th July, 2010 at 8:29 am  

    “you can’t blame the British for this.” O xstian, you certainly are not familiar with PP are you? ;-)

    Funny that this rather non-sensical original post has now deteriorated into a debate about the British Raj.

    I think Jai’s efforts to “trace” supposed contemporary British “hostility” to Muslims (which frankly is infinitely arguable – the UK is one of the most docile “multi-cultural” societies by any reasonable measure) gives the British more credit than is necessary. Britain was largely indifferent to Islam until 9/11, if not positive (the “Arabist” tendency within the Foreign Office, for eg). Indifferent then wildly ignorant – witness the launch of the Iraq adventure with little consideration of the consequences.

    It is quite correct the Victorian British (indeed well in to the 20th C as vividly described in http://www.amazon.co.uk/Setting-Desert-Fire-Lawrence-Britains/dp/0747579865) were acutely aware of Islam – not in antagonism but fear, principally as an imperial competitor under the Ottoman Caliphate. But by the 21st Century this was long forgotten.

    Time to move on!

  38. Jai — on 17th July, 2010 at 12:29 pm  

    There are beliefs in Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and other religions I find abhorrent. Do you really want me to go into them here?

    No, because I won’t allow this thread to be used as a platform for anyone to promote religious bigotry or religious supremacism, despite your own prolific efforts so far. Your remark “India was in the dark ages” really does say it all, not least because it is explicitly contradicted by acclaimed modern-day British historians with very different perspectives; the considerable surviving records of Europeans in India prior to the Raj similarly tell a very different story of their own opinions on the matter, both in relation to their attitudes to those particular religions and their views of India as a whole.

    Presumably you’re not going to accuse Niall Ferguson and William Dalrymple of being “like the RSS” or people who “hate Christianity”, given that I’ve simply echoed their own writings and the results of their own extensive academic research.

    what is supposed to be a future economic superpower.

    It’s not just a “future” economic superpower; it was the wealthiest region in the world during the Mughal era and, along with China, jointly responsible for approximately 50% of the global GDP. I’m assuming you’re aware that this was the primary reason that Europeans were so keen to engage in diplomatic and trading relations with the subcontinent in the first place…..although I wouldn’t be surprised if this was news to you, considering your misinformed statements about “dark ages”.

    Whatever your views on Christianity,

    With the exception of my remarks in #40 in relation to the fact that there is material in orthodox Christianity which can be exploited in the same way that there is material in every other religion which can be similarly abused, I have been entirely silent on my “views on Christianity”, despite your transparent Al-Muhajiroun-style strawman accusations. In fact, both the main article and my subsequent comments on this thread explicitly condemn the notion of making sweeping negative generalisations about Christianity as a whole or any kind of prejudice towards ordinary Christians based either on current events or historical events.

    For your part, you have, of course, been somewhat less than enlightened when it comes to your own clearly hostile views on non-Christian religions, particularly Sikhism, Islam and Hinduism. I wonder if you could stomach the notion of saying anything positive at all about any of those faiths, in their various interpretations, along with their respective followers.

    That’s why they hate Christianity. You seem to fall into that category.

    I’m afraid not.

    Christianity & Islam in Mughal India:
    - Part 1: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6912
    - Part 2: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6961

    The BNP and the Hijacking of Christianity: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/7702

    The Music of Unity and the Politics of Division: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/7999

    Incidentally, I’m not a Hindu. Furthermore, I’m as opposed to the abhorrent views & actions of the RSS and other Hindutva extremists as anyone else in their right mind should be. As any number of articles I’ve written on PP during the course of the last year would confirm, since in several of them I explicitly mention the RSS and similar Hindutva groups and I make little distinction between them and, for example, the BNP, the EDL, and Al-Muhajiroun.

    Nice try, but no cigar, as the saying goes.

  39. Jai — on 17th July, 2010 at 12:31 pm  

    Dalbir,

    Nice posts Jai

    I’ve been reading Akal Ustat lately. If there ever was a religious text that directly struck at narrow, puritan, exclusive interpretations of God, it is this.

    Worth a revisit if you have the time and inclination.

    Thanks mate, I’m glad that at least someone here (along with Don) gets the point I’ve been trying to make. Good to see you back on PP too.

    (By the way, I recently wrote a short article about Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh and one of his projects recently being given an award by the Queen. In case you missed it, here’s the link: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/9147 ).

  40. Jai — on 17th July, 2010 at 12:38 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Re: #31

    Your exact words were “a” Hindu temple; subsequent additions involving travelling in India and alleged media stories won’t cut it, especially as you know that some of us here have travelled far more widely in the region and over a far longer period of time. Sorry mate ;) However, I do of course appreciate the rest of your observations.

    Having said that, any concerns about Sikh & Hindu theology or the behaviour of some members of those religions would have been more appropriate on the comments threads for PP articles which actually focused on those religions. They are not appropriate here. If some other commenters appear to present some kind of adversarial “Abrahamic religions vs. non-Abrahmic religions” argument, then – with all due respect — it does not mean you need to respond to it in the same manner, particularly as a PP writer and most of all as a member of the editorial team. It would therefore be best to desist from that particular line of conversation.

    Furthermore, it’s worth bearing in mind that allegations of certain theological concepts being misused as “springboards” for negative behaviour can also be levelled at Christianity. Some of the core “exclusivist” doctrines of ultraorthodox Christianity have caused no end of trouble worldwide ever since Constantine hijacked the religion and “formalised” it for his own ends; in fact, as has already been discussed, the fact that certain influential British people decided to embrace these concepts played a direct role in the catastrophic deterioration of relations between British and Indian people during the course of the past 200 years, a situation which formed the foundation of British imperial policy in India right until the subcontinent’s independence in 1947, and whose legacy is continuing racism towards South Asians in general in the present day.

    We don’t even need to go back to the 20th century or “the 19th century and earlier” for major problems caused by sections of the Christian population: The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern version of the Inquisition, has just officially stated that as far as the Vatican’s own policies and injunctions are concerned, the ordination of female priests is as grave a crime as sexual abuse : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1295012/Vatican-labels-ordination-women-grave-crime-par-sex-abuse.html

    Along with the ongoing child abuse scandal, this is happening right now, in the present day, involving the leadership of the largest Christian denomination in the world.

    However, to re-iterate my basic point, none of these issues should be used by non-Christians to smear the planet’s entire population of ordinary Christians, or to assume that the latter personally agree with these beliefs & actions, or opportunistically be exploited to pick apart, denigrate or “debunk” Christianity in general. Or, indeed, to make abhorrent statements such as (to paraphrase what a CiF commenter recently said about Islam) “There is a cancer at the heart of Christianity”.

    As for the remarks by our alleged “Indian Christian” visitor about my allegedly “hating Christianity”, it’s the equivalent of – for example – a Muslim claiming that someone who criticises Wahhabism and/or extremists like Al-Muhajiroun “hates Islam”, or a Hindu claiming that someone who criticises the RSS “hates Hinduism”. I think we all know what kind of fanatical and bigoted person makes such allegations in an attempt to discredit and silence the other party. Statements such as “India was in the dark ages” say it all (see #28), not least because, prior to the EIC’s own religious radicalisation and the associated propaganda, for hundreds of years the majority of Europeans themselves who had any familiarity with India would have forcefully objected to such suggestions. There is still ample literary evidence from that period confirming this.

    In any particular faith, there is obviously going to be source material which can (either accurately or inaccurately) be abused by people wishing to excuse and justify their own nefarious actions. Beyond that, as I keep saying, it’s senseless to point fingers at ephemeral theological constructs as though they were actual entities, regardless of whether one is attacking “Islam” or “Christianity” or any other faith; it’s imperative to look beyond the superficial veneer of religious affiliations and understand that ultimately it’s human beings who are responsible for exploiting such concepts and any negative actions which may result. Not just “primarily” responsible, but solely responsible. Again, it’s to do with some of the nastier aspects of human nature, not what religion the person concerned may be affiliated with. That is what my article is essentially about. Don has also made some superb points which overlap with what I’m saying, albeit from a slightly different perspective in his case.

    To quote a well-known and clichéd-but-accurate literary statement, “The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves”.

  41. Rumbold — on 17th July, 2010 at 12:56 pm  

    Jai:

    Some of the best threads are ones that meander off into a different direction.

    It would therefore be best to desist from that particular line of conversation.

    Not really- I am enjoying the debate, as are others, and it is working the old grey matter. People are free to float in and out of it.

    Furthermore, it’s worth bearing in mind that allegations of certain theological concepts being misused as “springboards” for negative behaviour can also be levelled at Christianity.

    I agree. And I attack those tendencies amongst Christians, and rightly so. If a Christian is using the Bible to attack homosexuals, they should be condemned, just as Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists should be attacked when they use their religions in such a way. No religion or religious group is above reproach.

    As a deist, I don’t believe in the sanctity of religious texts. Therefore I feel they aren’t deserving of any special protection. If they teach something I disagree with, I will say so. And if I see that particular opinions (such as views on homosexuality or the disabled) are derived from religious teaching, I will criticise it. That doesn’t mean that everyone in that religion believes it, but it is disingenuous to suggest that there is no connection between the two.

  42. xtian — on 17th July, 2010 at 3:25 pm  

    Nice try, but no cigar, as the saying goes.

    You make me laugh! You accuse me of “transparent Al-Muhajiroun-style strawman accusations”. What exactly do you find offensive about my comments, especially:

    There are beliefs in Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and other religions I find abhorrent. Do you really want me to go into them here?

    You’re clearly resorting to rather crude ad hominem attacks now. I have not said “death to the infidel” or “I want to see the black flag of Christianity flying over 10 Downing Street”? Why the double standards Jai? Why are you allowed the license to hark back to history in order to slander Christians and I can’t say anything non-PC?

    You could live in the past Jai, and keep writing posts here about how bad the British were. It’s not going to get you very far. There are some things the British did give us that still survive including the English language, a civil service, railways and a Westminster style parliament. Not everything the British did was bad. They did make mistakes but also made some valuable contributions. I know there are many Indians who view the British influence quite positively in fact.

    If you look at British history, the worst case of ethnic discrimination occurred after the Normans invaded England. The were a small group of French-speaking Vikings who killed the English elite, stole all the land, and subjected the native 98% of the population to two centuries of serfdom. Do you find English people today expressing disgust at what the Normans did and how we should hate the French?

    Coming to the Christianity, the population of Christians in India is miniscule – 3% – but its 3% too much for Hindu nationalists. By harking back over a hundred years, you’re making the same mistake as them. What is particularly explosive about Christianity is that it believes in the equality of man. This is why Christians were mercilessly persecuted by the Romans in the first few centuries AD. The Roman world was incredibly stratified, a bit like India today. What the church is doing is threatening the millennia old prejudices. There is no time in Indian history when the church has come under such intense pressure.

    In recent times there have been anti-Christians pogroms in India. The most recent one was in Orissa in 2008 and before that in Dangs, Gujarat, in 1999. Its a fact Christians are being persecuted in many parts of the world today, particularly in the Middle East. The Christian population of Iraq, where Christianity dates back to the birth of Christianity, is almost on the verge of extinction.

    Keep reading Dalrymple Jai. He’s a good writer but self-hating liberal who apologises for everything British.

  43. john — on 17th July, 2010 at 4:07 pm  

    xtian
    “In recent times there have been anti-Christians pogroms in India. The most recent one was in Orissa in 2008 and before that in Dangs, Gujarat, in 1999. Its a fact Christians are being persecuted in many parts of the world today, particularly in the Middle East. The Christian population of Iraq, where Christianity dates back to the birth of Christianity, is almost on the verge of extinction.”

    Thanks to two western Christians Mr Bush and Mr Blair who decided to launch an illegal invasion of that country where as bad as Saddam’s dictatorship was, Christians werent in such a bad state. Indeed the Vice President of Iraq under Saddam Tariq Aziz was a Christian.

  44. Jai — on 17th July, 2010 at 4:36 pm  

    You’re clearly resorting to rather crude ad hominem attacks now.

    As opposed to the following presumably “non ad hominem” comments by you:

    A lot of people hate something because of its success. That’s why they hate Christianity. You seem to fall into that category.

    Whatever your views on Christianity,

    The aim of the post is clearly to denigrate Christianity and elevate all eastern religions above it without criticism.

    Just grow up man!

    And, of course, let’s not forget the following classic outburst about India itself:

    India would be living in the dark ages.

    An assertion which, once again, was explicitly contradicted by numerous Europeans who actually lived in India over the course of several centuries, particularly when it came to the views of the British prior to the Victorian era.

    Moving on….

    Do you find English people today expressing disgust at what the Normans did and how we should hate the French?

    So you’re claiming that there are no English people today who exhibit hostility towards the French based on historical reasons, however light-hearted their opinions along those lines may be. That’s an interesting assertion.

    Incidentally, the end of the British Empire in India was a little more recent than the Norman invasion. It happened two years after the end of World War 2.

    Keep up the Al-Muhajiroun & Hizb ut-Tahrir strawman debating tactics, though. They like to claim that anyone who says anything negative about their particular interpretation of Islam or about contemporary and historical Islamist extremists is “slandering Muslims” and encouraging people to “hate [all] the Muslims” too, irrespective of the actual context of those statements.

    What is particularly explosive about Christianity is that it believes in the equality of man.

    So you’re claiming that this concept is exclusive to Christianity. Your ignorance continues to mount.

    This is why Christians were mercilessly persecuted by the Romans in the first few centuries AD. The Roman world was incredibly stratified, a bit like India today.

    The Roman world was indeed highly class-ridden much like India is and much like most parts of the rest of the world, including Britain. But that was certainly not why Christians were persecuted – it was because a) their primary allegiance was to God, not to the Roman Emperor, b) they were avowedly monotheistic in a pluralistic society which was also obviously highly polytheistic, c) the Christians were regarded as demonstrating insufficient respect to Roman deities and the associated traditional rituals, and d) the often secret nature of Christian meetings and religious rituals led to a lot of false assumptions about the nature of their secret activities and the political threat they posed to the Roman administration.

    So while Christians certainly did experience horrific persecutions at the hands of the Romans, and it was completely unjustified, it had absolutely nothing to do with the reasons you’ve claimed. Even Edward Gibbon’s influential-but-now-superceded work “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” doesn’t claim that. Along with British/Indian history, perhaps you need to brush up on your knowledge of Roman history too. For example, “The Fall of the West: Death of the Roman Superpower” by Dr Adrian Goldsworthy, “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Peter Heather, and “Millennium” by Tom Holland should go some way towards clarifying your confusion.

    Keep reading Dalrymple Jai. He’s a good writer but self-hating liberal who apologises for everything British.

    Fascinating choice of words in that little ad hominem attack on William Dalrymple. It’s also very interesting coming from someone who has declared himself as an “Indian Christian” but is yet to actually say anything positive about anything Indian.

    How about Niall Ferguson, whom I also referenced and who has made many of the same assertions that William Dalrymple has ? Is Ferguson also a “self-hating liberal who apologises for everything British ?”

    In the meantime, I’m sure it’s fun for you to keep pushing obsolete and discredited Victorian propaganda. Being psychologically trapped in the 19th century tends to have that effect on people.

    And we’re still waiting for you to say something positive about Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam, along with their respective followers. Surely an “Indian Christian” such as yourself will possess enough insight into the positive ideals of the best interpretations of those faiths to be able to provide some examples.

  45. john — on 17th July, 2010 at 4:54 pm  

    “Coming to the Christianity, the population of Christians in India is miniscule – 3% – but its 3% too much for Hindu nationalists”

    Hindu nationalists are much like our own British nationalists only more so- they hate Christianity (and Islam) because they are “foreign” religions which started outside India.

  46. damon — on 17th July, 2010 at 5:37 pm  

    I thought Jai’s OP was too long and windy, and doesn’t really want to deal with the fact that Britain is a mostly secular society.
    We aren’t that religious. Maybe you are – and maybe because the greater majority of people of an Indian origin in Britain are practicing Hindus, Muslins or Christians, whilst most other people are not, can make one defensive.

    I went into a catholic church in Lisburn Northern Ireland on a satuurday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, just for a quick look inside – Lisburn being a mostly non catholic town …. and what did I see inside?
    About 30 or 40 Indian Catholic people having a catholic service in their own cultural tradition.
    With Indian music and of course their own language – and all lovely people like my former Indian catholic neighbours in London.

    It seems that if you are from south Asia you are religious. Being an atheist, that always leaves a certain distance with me. But you try not to say anything that might cause offence.

  47. Jai — on 17th July, 2010 at 5:57 pm  

    the greater majority of people of an Indian origin in Britain are practicing Hindus, Muslins or Christians,

    If you mean “Indian origin” as in specifically Indian, as opposed to South Asian, then this statement is inaccurate; the greater majority of Indians in Britain are Hindus or Sikhs, with Muslims and Christians being much smaller minorities.

    The demographics are different in India, of course, with Hindus comprising the vast majority, Muslims being the next largest group, and Sikhs and Christians being much smaller minorities and in approximately equal numbers.

  48. damon — on 17th July, 2010 at 6:45 pm  

    Sorry for my slight inaccuracy. I had meant to talk of south Asian people in general not just those of Indian origin.
    The point of your picking me up on it though, I can’t see.

    I disagree with the OP, that’s all.
    Maybe it’s just hard for religious people and non religious people to have much of a conversation about religion.

  49. xtian — on 17th July, 2010 at 9:45 pm  

    So while Christians certainly did experience horrific persecutions at the hands of the Romans, and it was completely unjustified, it had absolutely nothing to do with the reasons you’ve claimed.

    No Jai. Class prejudice also played a major factor as well as monotheism. Most Christians came from the lower strata of society and they were regarded as a despicable rabble by the Romans. To the Romans, Christianity was a religion of uncultured barbarians who derived their teaching, not from Greeks or Romans, but from Jews – a primitive people whose best teachers never rose to the level of Greek philosophers. The situation today is not much different to the early church in many parts of the world. Christianity has nearly always appealed to the poor first. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)

    And we’re still waiting for you to say something positive about Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam, along with their respective followers.

    I accept there are good principles in all religions including Hinduism and Sikhism. I acknowledge everyone, irrespective of their faith, is a creation of God. However, having had contact with other faiths and having questioned my own, I’m glad I’m a Christian. I don’t want to go into it all here, as people still won’t believe, but I feel the evidence to support the New Testament is pretty strong. This is not a conclusion I reached overnight or was forced on me. I was a nominal Christian before, like most Christians in the world today. Circumstances, situations and my own study and searching made me come to this conclusion. To change one’s religion in some parts of the world is extremely dangerous, so I’m rather lucky my ancestors converted.

    Thanks to two western Christians Mr Bush and Mr Blair who decided to launch an illegal invasion of that country where as bad as Saddam’s dictatorship was, Christians weren’t in such a bad state. Indeed the Vice President of Iraq under Saddam Tariq Aziz was a Christian.

    I didn’t support the invasion of Iraq, but I do think Saddam was a terrible dictator and Iraq was going to be failed state. It would have been better to topple him using different means other than military invasion. The invasion and the subsequent vacuum led to massive sectarian violence. That is regrettable. The Christians there are nearly all gone and they were the indigenous Assyrians, the original people of Iraq.

  50. boyo — on 18th July, 2010 at 7:38 am  

    “Do you find English people today expressing disgust at what the Normans did and how we should hate the French?”

    Hm.

    I think Muslims believe in equality too, don’t they? As part of their religion, I mean.

    It’s the “love and forgiveness” thing that’s Christianity’s USP, is it not?

  51. xtian — on 18th July, 2010 at 10:31 am  

    Some people claim that Evangelical principles and leaders ultimately gifted India with the priceless legacy of a skilled, meritocratic, and basically clean civil service, army, and political structure. Vishal Mangalwadi asserts:

    India never had a political movement until the evangelicals gave it one. It always had gangs of robbers. So one of the greatest things the evangelical movement gave us was a clean government. When we became independent in 1947 we inherited a clean government, a clean army. There is still a generation in India that remembers that.

    Christian initiatives were behind India’s first TB sanatoria, leper hospitals, widows’ homes, mental institutions, homes for prostitutes, and rehabilitation centres for deaf, dumb or blind people. Christians led the fight against drunkenness, sati (the practice of a widow cremating herself alongside her husband), infanticide, untouchability and slavery.

    And India’s Christian movement was a force for empowering the poor and needy. The 19th century evangelical influence possibly did more for the dignity of India’s poorest than anything that had been done for them in the previous 3000 years. The Christians’ example in treating outcasts as human beings, educating them, fighting for their rights, and being willing to call them ‘brother’ changed India forever. It also had a significant impact on liberal Hindu reformers like Rammohun Roy and Gandhi.

  52. Jai — on 18th July, 2010 at 12:40 pm  

    “Xtian”,

    I see that you still haven’t responded to my question of whether Niall Ferguson is also a “self-hating liberal who apologies for everything British.”

    Again, fascinating choice of words in your description of William Dalrymple. “Self-hating liberal”, eh…..Very interesting choice of words indeed, Mr “Indian Christian”. Curiouser and curiouser…..

    No Jai. Class prejudice also played a major factor as well as monotheism. Most Christians came from the lower strata of society and they were regarded as a despicable rabble by the Romans.

    All of the above are completely outdated claims which have been comprehensively debunked by the foremost modern Western historians specialising in the classical era, including Dr Adrian Goldsworthy and Dr Peter Heather, all of whom have used an absolutely huge number of fully authenticated historical sources to back up their work. As I said, it appears you need to brush up on your historical knowledge of quite a few periods and areas of the world.

    Christians led the fight against…., sati (the practice of a widow cremating herself alongside her husband), infanticide, untouchability and slavery.

    They were not the first to do so. The majority of the “Great Mughal” emperors were also involved in opposing all of the above, particularly Akbar, and so were every single one of the Sikh Gurus. Explicit opposition to all of the above is actually formally enshrined in the Sikh religion, as is the concept of the fundamental inherent equality & dignity of all human beings irrespective of their religious affiliation, “race” or gender.

    The Christians’ example in treating outcasts as human beings, educating them, fighting for their rights, and being willing to call them ‘brother’ changed India forever.

    Again, Christians were certainly not the first to do so; furthermore, whilst great figures like Gandhi were indeed influenced by Christian principles, you are exaggerating the scale of the impact of Christian activity both in recent times and during India’s long history. There were already considerable precedents for these ideals and the associated actions by Buddhists – not only the religion’s founder and his subsequent followers more than 2000 years ago, but especially by Emperor Asoka, his administration and the Buddhist missionaries he sent forth on both a local and international level – and later by extremely influential Muslim Sufis during the past thousand years, followed by various influential ‘bhakti’ Hindus and of course also by Sikhs.

    I accept there are good principles in all religions including Hinduism and Sikhism.

    The fact that you are pathologically incapable of actually saying anything positive about Muslims, Sikhs or Hindus (beyond vague platitudes) speaks volumes. I wonder what you also think of Jewish people and Judaism.

    Incidentally, I’m assuming you’re also aware that there have been settled Jewish communities in India for more than 2500 years, and that although the majority relocated to Israel upon the state’s creation in the mid-20th century, India has been one of the few places in the world where Jews have never suffered any persecution (with the exception of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa), and is still a very popular tourist destination for Israelis.

  53. Jai — on 18th July, 2010 at 12:41 pm  

    (continued)

    “Xtian”,

    Regarding your claim in #35 about the RSS:

    The RSS has tens of millions of members

    Out of a total Indian Hindu population of more than 830 million (and a total Indian population of more than 1.2 billion), the actual number of RSS members in India is 2.5 to 6 million. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashtriya_Swayamsevak_Sangh ) Whilst that is still 2.5 to 6 million fanatical bigots too many, it is nowhere near as many as the “tens of millions” you claimed.

    So, you lied. Again.

    However, since you’ve mentioned the RSS a number of times, it is worth mentioning that – although they do indeed exhibit hostility towards Christians – the primary targets of the RSS and other Hindutva groups such as the Shiv Sena are actually another minority group in India. For the benefit of this website’s wider audience, please remind us of exactly which group are the main targets of the RSS and Shiv Sena, and the exact nature of the propaganda they have attempted to promote about this group. It goes considerably beyond simply labelling the latter as “foreigners”.

    Furthermore, the RSS and the Shiv Sena currently have near-exact counterparts here in Britain, involving several British organisations which use their interpretation of Christianity and/or Christian identity to justify their own actions and attitudes. Please remind us of exactly which British organisations are involved, exactly which minority group in Britain are currently the main targets of persecution by these organisations, and the exact nature of the propaganda they have been attempting to promote about their targets.

    You’ve repeatedly made a number of remarks about the perceived benefits of colonial rule in India, mainly along the lines of “they made the trains run on time”. Please remind us of the total number of famine-related Indian deaths (confirmed by modern Western historians) resulting from colonial mismanagement and/or indifference in British-ruled territories from 1757 to 1947. Please also remind us of the total number of major famines which have occurred in India since the country’s independence in 1947.

    Finally, since you’ve made various remarks about “the plight of Christians in India” and, again, the perceived benefits of colonial rule, as someone claiming to be an “Indian Christian”, please remind this website’s wider audience of the official British colonial policy towards Indian Christians from 1800-1947.

  54. earwicga — on 18th July, 2010 at 5:35 pm  

    damon – which church in Lisburn was it? I’d like to find out more about this.

  55. xtian — on 18th July, 2010 at 6:08 pm  

    Oh dear Jai! I’m beginning to question whether you are living in your own world. You clearly like to twist history to suit your own prejudices. And you’re looking at events more than a hundred years ago, so it’s quite easy to interpret things differently. Why don’t you move on?

    You don’t have to lecture to me about the early church and Romans. I know about it. The Roman world was one of the most unequal in history. Around 25% or more of the population were slaves. Regarding persecution of early Christians, class did play a role as well as insistence on monotheism. They weren’t the only reasons. They were seen also as subversive, disloyal, evil, would not partake in emperor worship, etc.

    I’m not denying that many Indians found the British Raj unpleasant. For instance, the Indian Mutiny was put down with savage force. However, I think evangelicalism actually moderated some of the less pleasant aspects of the Raj. The Evangelicals were milder and more progressive than the Portuguese. I would admit the Portuguese were heavy handed. You could say they were Christian fanatics. Yet many Goan Catholics today are quite proud of their Portuguese Catholic identity. The feast of St Xavier, patron saint of Goa, is celebrated every year with much fanfare in Goa.

    I would not rely on wikipedia to be an accurate source for the number of RSS members. Firstly, anyone can edit the wiki. And secondly, the RSS is a secretive organisation. It doesn’t disclose its membership. The number of RSS members is well into the tens of millions. So it has a fair amount of influence, far more than what Nehru ever thought it would. As you know the RSS is a fascist organisation, and a former leader – M. S. Golwalkar – is one record for being an admirer of the Nazis. This is what he said:

    “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one whole, a good a lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

    The leader of the Shiv Sena, another Hindu extremist group, is also an admirer of Hitler. You’ll be surprised how many Indians actually like Hitler! Not necessarily for his racism, but for his dictatorial characteristics.

    The fact that you are pathologically incapable of actually saying anything positive about Muslims, Sikhs or Hindus (beyond vague platitudes) speaks volumes. I wonder what you also think of Jewish people and Judaism.

    What exactly do you want me to say? You can’t like all political parties; likewise you can’t like all faiths. I’ve seen in India the less pleasant aspects of these faiths. After a bit of searching myself, I’m happiest with the Christian faith despite some of the actions of Christians over time. The story of Christ is one the most inspirational stories for the last two thousand years and I believe in it. I’ve studied the evidence to support the faith and I’m happy with it.

    I regard the Jewish people as the Covenant People. The Old Testament is clearly about God protecting his chosen people. But I see in Jesus the fulfilment of over four dozen prophecies.

    Why do I have to keep justifying myself with you all the time. Maybe we should just agree to disagree?

  56. Jai — on 18th July, 2010 at 7:16 pm  

    “Xtian”,

    And secondly, the RSS is a secretive organisation. It doesn’t disclose its membership. The number of RSS members is well into the tens of millions.

    How convenient – you repeatedly state the figure “tens of millions”, but can provide absolutely no verifiable evidence to support this assertion.

    In fact, you even explicitly contradict yourself by stating that the RSS is a secretive organisation and doesn’t disclose its membership, which (if accurate) would therefore make it impossible to accurately estimate the number of members – including your plucked-out-of-thin-air figure of “tens of millions”.

    Presumably we should all just take your word for it, in the same way that we should just take your word for it in relation to a number of your claims about British, Indian, and Roman history, despite the fact that they are directly contradicted by the modern Western world’s leading professional historians in their respective fields. I see.

    Regarding the rest of your comments: You’re still avoiding answering some basic questions, as usual. Let me present them to you again:

    However, since you’ve mentioned the RSS a number of times, it is worth mentioning that – although they do indeed exhibit hostility towards Christians – the primary targets of the RSS and other Hindutva groups such as the Shiv Sena are actually another minority group in India. For the benefit of this website’s wider audience, please remind us of exactly which group are the main targets of the RSS and Shiv Sena, and the exact nature of the propaganda they have attempted to promote about this group. It goes considerably beyond simply labelling the latter as “foreigners”.

    Furthermore, the RSS and the Shiv Sena currently have near-exact counterparts here in Britain, involving several British organisations which use their interpretation of Christianity and/or Christian identity to justify their own actions and attitudes. Please remind us of exactly which British organisations are involved, exactly which minority group in Britain are currently the main targets of persecution by these organisations, and the exact nature of the propaganda they have been attempting to promote about their targets.

    You’ve repeatedly made a number of remarks about the perceived benefits of colonial rule in India, mainly along the lines of “they made the trains run on time”. Please remind us of the total number of famine-related Indian deaths (confirmed by modern Western historians) resulting from colonial mismanagement and/or indifference in British-ruled territories from 1757 to 1947. Please also remind us of the total number of major famines which have occurred in India since the country’s independence in 1947.

    You’re also conspicuously silent in response to the following question:

    since you’ve made various remarks about “the plight of Christians in India” and, again, the perceived benefits of colonial rule, as someone claiming to be an “Indian Christian”, please remind this website’s wider audience of the official colonial policy towards Indian Christians from 1800-1947.

    Don’t you know the answer ? You should, as someone claiming to be an “Indian Christian”.

    Let me provide some further clarification for you: A number of official policies based on British attitudes to the Indian population were implemented and enforced by the British administration in India during colonial rule. Numerous British Christians were also adversely impacted by these regulations, but due to their obviously much greater numbers the primary people affected were Indians of all religious backgrounds; Indian Christians were not exempt from the policies concerned. Furthermore, some of these policies specifically targetted one particular group of Indian Christians. Much of this legislation was in effect in British-ruled territories in India from approx. 1800 until the subcontinent’s independence in 1947.

    Again: You have proactively made a series of assertions on this thread about the colonial era in India. Most of all, you have repeatedly made statements about the welfare of Indian Christians in particular. Therefore, please provide details of the nature of the official colonial legislation in India from approx. 1800-1947 whose consequences included a direct impact on Indian Christians.

  57. Vikrant — on 18th July, 2010 at 7:52 pm  

    Jai,

    To be honest the impact of American rigth wing nutjobs is overstated in the UK. Just because Faux news gives a lot of airtime to tea baggers doesn’t translate into ground support. America is essentially any different nations yet the political power solely rests in its cosmopolitan urban metropolises. I live in Illinois where for instance, south of Chicago this state is essentially a part of American south. Out of 102 counties most of them votes Republican, yet this state overwhelmingly went to Obama.

    Many of these people, the tea baggers i.e. have none to very little experience of urban United States. Thus an odd visit to either coasts can be scary to them, given the rate of change since the post-1965 immigration reforms. Hence the narrative of wresting “our” country back and “real” America. No matter how vocal they are, they just cant muster enough numbers to be politically viable.

    As for the civil war, it wasn’t a war about slavery up until the Gettysburg address in 1863. Many people especially in the south do still believe to this day that it was more of a war about states rights really because up until then United States was a loose federation of American states. The current federated avatar only came into being after the new deal in 1930′s.

  58. boyo — on 18th July, 2010 at 8:17 pm  

    “You have proactively made a series of assertions on this thread about the colonial era in India.”

    Didn’t you start that Jai? And I don’t think implying xstian is neither Indian or Christian, and is in fact an anti-semite flatters you.

    Perhaps you should remind yourself of the original thrust of your post (so far as there was one) – nobody’s perfect. Nobody. ;-)

  59. xtian — on 19th July, 2010 at 7:01 am  

    [Deleted by Jai]

  60. Jai — on 19th July, 2010 at 8:48 am  

    “Xtian”,

    re: #59

    I will also delete any further posts by you that keep avoiding answering the questions in #56 — especially if you persist in responding by going on irrelevant tangents attempting to excuse your own religious bigotry along with writing yet more rambling, propaganda-laden diatribes aimed at deliberately trying to whip up hatred against more than 1.2 billion non-Christian Indians worldwide.

    Irrespective of your opinion that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually other people will believe it.

    Again: Any posts by you that do not precisely answer the questions in #56 and whose contents are not restricted solely to answering those questions will also be summarily deleted.

  61. xtian — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:02 am  

    [Deleted by Jai. See #60.]

  62. xtian — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:10 am  

    [Deleted by Jai. See #60.]

  63. douglas clark — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:27 am  

    Whilst I kind of agree with boyo @ 58 – bloody hell! – I’d have thought someone would have disagreed with this:

    f you look at British history, the worst case of ethnic discrimination occurred after the Normans invaded England. The were a small group of French-speaking Vikings who killed the English elite, stole all the land, and subjected the native 98% of the population to two centuries of serfdom. Do you find English people today expressing disgust at what the Normans did and how we should hate the French?

    I find the back story to this idea that the Normans were Vikings, frankly unbelievable. Though xtian appears to have some internet support for the concept:

    Here, for instance:

    http://www.viking.no/e/france/contribution.html

    Or here:

    http://www.britannia.com/history/articles/normvik.html

    But, much of this is meaningless, is it not? In 1066 we are looking at a completely different Europe from the one we see now. It is interesting that the Danes settled Northern France and, with the hyperbolic rights that the author of the first piece above assumes, just got into bed with the locals and integrated. You could accuse me of stereotyping, perhaps if you are Danish you might actually be angry at me. But that is the quality of the arguement put forward by that author. Northern French are:

    One can detect psychological features which are characteristic of the Normans and which were attributed to Old Scandinavians: pragmatism, sense of nuance, reserve, prudence and mistrust, the importance of keeping ones word, a sense of order, individualism, craftiness, a taste for concrete materialism, a willingness to take risks and to adventure.

    Well, no you can’t, not without an enormous amount of wishful thinking.

    Allegedly, some Danes fought for England and some for Normandy. So, it is not that simple…

    What is interesting, well, to me at least, is that – back then – you made your own mind up about what you thought, and you were prepared to die for that thought, and some were for one side, and some for another.

    How romantic, ’cause it is in the past. And how damn stupid it seems to us now.

  64. douglas clark — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:42 am  

    By the way, I also think that Don’s contribution to this thread @ 27 is perhaps the best contribution anyone has made to this thread.

    Absolutely brilliant!

  65. douglas clark — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:57 am  

    Please give us back the edit function! It is only when you see your post up there with complete redundancy in the words ‘this thread’ that you realize that the edit function is so helpful in saving anyone reading this from just assuming that I am an illiterate twit. I’d far rather they knew I was an illiterate twit after edit ;-(

  66. douglas clark — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:58 am  

    :-(

  67. douglas clark — on 19th July, 2010 at 9:58 am  

    See!

  68. Jai — on 20th July, 2010 at 10:29 am  

    Well, it’s more than 24 hours later and, predictably, the normally-prolific “Xtian” has suddenly become conspicuously silent…..despite his previous habit of writing lengthy posts offering unsolicited & irrelevant opinions and unsubstantiated information throughout this thread. In fact, the silence is deafening.

    Since “Xtian” has been pondering how to answer the questions in #56, and has clearly come to the conclusion that to do so accurately & honestly would cause him to incriminate himself even more than he already has, let me provide the answers instead.

    These are the facts which “Xtian” has been refusing to disclose and attempting to hide:

    However, since you’ve mentioned the RSS a number of times, it is worth mentioning that – although they do indeed exhibit hostility towards Christians – the primary targets of the RSS and other Hindutva groups such as the Shiv Sena are actually another minority group in India. For the benefit of this website’s wider audience, please remind us of exactly which group are the main targets of the RSS and Shiv Sena, and the exact nature of the propaganda they have attempted to promote about this group. It goes considerably beyond simply labelling the latter as “foreigners”.

    The main targets of the RSS and the Shiv Sena in India are Muslims. In a nutshell, their stance towards the latter and their associated propaganda about Muslims are very similar to that of the BNP and the EDL.

    Furthermore, the RSS and the Shiv Sena currently have near-exact counterparts here in Britain, involving several British organisations which use their interpretation of Christianity and/or Christian identity to justify their own actions and attitudes. Please remind us of exactly which British organisations are involved, exactly which minority group in Britain are currently the main targets of persecution by these organisations, and the exact nature of the propaganda they have been attempting to promote about their targets.

    I was of course referring to the BNP and the EDL. PP readers will presumably also already be aware of the details concerning these organisations’ propaganda about Muslims.

    Incidentally, the BNP’s attempted hijacking of Christianity is particularly well-documented, including Nick Griffin’s own ridiculous efforts to present himself and his party as pious champions of Christianity. Some examples can be read here: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/7702 , although Nick Griffin has subsequently continued his misbegotten campaign, not least his bizarre “Easter message” a few months ago.

    You’ve repeatedly made a number of remarks about the perceived benefits of colonial rule in India, mainly along the lines of “they made the trains run on time”. Please remind us of the total number of famine-related Indian deaths (confirmed by modern Western historians) resulting from colonial mismanagement and/or indifference in British-ruled territories from 1757 to 1947.

    Approximately 30 million deaths.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_major_famines_in_India_during_British_rule )

    Please also remind us of the total number of major famines which have occurred in India since the country’s independence in 1947.

    Zero.

    **************************************

    The final question is covered in the following posts below.

  69. Jai — on 20th July, 2010 at 10:31 am  

    (continued)

    Let me provide some further clarification for you: A number of official policies based on British attitudes to the Indian population were implemented and enforced by the British administration in India during colonial rule. Numerous British Christians were also adversely impacted by these regulations, but due to their obviously much greater numbers the primary people affected were Indians of all religious backgrounds; Indian Christians were not exempt from the policies concerned. Furthermore, some of these policies specifically targetted one particular group of Indian Christians. Much of this legislation was in effect in British-ruled territories in India from approx. 1800 until the subcontinent’s independence in 1947.

    Again: You have proactively made a series of assertions on this thread about the colonial era in India. Most of all, you have repeatedly made statements about the welfare of Indian Christians in particular. Therefore, please provide details of the nature of the official colonial legislation in India from approx. 1800-1947 whose consequences included a direct impact on Indian Christians.

    These issues have been discussed in forensic detail in “White Mughals” by William Dalrymple, and were also extensively covered in “Empire” by Niall Ferguson; PP readers based in the UK may be aware that the topic was also mentioned in the recent BBC documentary series hosted by David Dimbleby, “The Seven Ages of Britain”. Both Ferguson’s book and Dalrymple’s own follow-up book “The Last Mughal” also provide further information about the nature & impact of the policies concerned up to the time of Indian independence in 1947. The subject has also been covered in the historian Simon Schama’s writings about British history.

    I think that the best way to provide a comprehensive answer to the question above is to simply supply some extracts from “White Mughals”, as they systematically list a number of the major policies involved, including the timeline and the impact of these events.

    As the extracts demonstrate, they did not just affect Indians (including Indian Christians); they also had a devastating impact on many British people living in India. For the sake of readability, I will supply these extracts in two separate posts below.

  70. Jai — on 20th July, 2010 at 10:33 am  

    (continued)

    White Mughals, by William Dalrymple, published by Harper Perennial 2004 – extracts from pp 46-54:

    “Most powerful of the critics was one of the Company’s Directors, Charles Grant. Grant was amongst the first of a new breed of Evangelical Christians, and he brought his fundamentalist religious opinions directly to the East India Company boardroom. Writing ‘it is hardly possible to conceive any people more completely enchained than they [the Hindus] are by their superstitions’, he proposed in 1787 to launch missions to convert a people whom he characterised as ‘universally and wholly corrupt…..depraved as they are blind, and wretched as they are depraved’. Within a few decades the missionaries – initially based at the Danish settlement of Serampore – were beginning fundamentally to change British perceptions of the Hindus. No longer were they inheritors of a body of sublime and ancient wisdom,….but instead merely ‘poor benighted heathen’, or even ‘licentious pagans’, some of whom, it was hoped, were eagerly awaiting conversion, and with it the path to Civilisation.

    ….It was to combat the intolerance of these Evangelicals that [the more enlightened British General] Stuart anonymously published a pamphlet called A Vindication of the Hindoos. In this text he tried to discourage any attempt by European missionaries to convert the Hindus, arguing that, as he put it, ‘on the enlarged principles of moral reasoning, Hinduism little needs the meliorating hand of Christianity to render its votaries a sufficiently correct and moral people for all the useful purposes of a civilised society’…..The reaction that Stuart generated by writing his defence of Hinduism is a measure of how attitudes were beginning to change at the close of the eighteenth and the opening years of the nineteenth century. A full-scale pamphlet war broke out, with furious attacks on the anonymous ‘Bengal Officer’ who produced the work, denouncing him as an ‘infidel’ and a ‘pagan’.

    ….[General] Stuart was not alone in facing criticism. All over India, as the eighteenth century gave way to the nineteenth, attitudes were changing among the British. Men who showed too great an enthusiasm for Hinduism, for Indian practices or even for their Indian wives and Anglo-Indian children, were finding that the climate was growing distinctly chilly.

    David Hare, a Scottish watchmaker who founded the Hindu College in Calcutta, was actually denied a Christian burial when he died of cholera, on the grounds that he had become more Hindu than Christian. Many more found that their Indian ways led to a block on their promotion. When Francis Gillanders, a British tax-collector stationed in Bihar, was found to be involving himself too closely with the [Buddhist] temple at Bodh Gaya, to which he donated a bell in 1798, the Directors of the Company back in London wrote to the Governor General expressing their horror that a Christian should be, as they put it, administering ‘heathen’ rites. A little later Frederick Shore found that his adoption of native dress so enraged the increasingly self-righteous officials of Calcutta that a government order was issued explicitly forbidding Company servants from wearing anything other than European dress. The following year the army issued similar orders forbidding European officers from taking part in the [Hindu] festival of Holi….The shutters were beginning to come down.”

  71. Jai — on 20th July, 2010 at 10:35 am  

    (continued)

    “Ideas of racial and ethnic hierarchy were also beginning to be aired for the first time in the late 1780s, and it was the burgeoning mixed-blood Anglo-Indian community which felt the brunt of the new intolerance. From 1786, under the new Governor General, Lord Cornwallis, a whole raft of legislation was brought in excluding the children of British men who had Indian wives from employment by the Company. Cornwallis arrived in India fresh from his defeat by George Washington at Yorktown. He was determined to ensure that a settled colonial class never emerged in India to undermine British rule as it had done, to his own humiliation, in America.

    With this in mind, in 1786 an order was passed banning the Anglo-Indian orphans of British soldiers from travelling to England to be educated, so qualifying for service in the Company army. In 1791 the door was slammed shut when an order was issued that no-one with an Indian parent could be employed by the civil, military or marine branches of the Company. In 1795, further legislation was issued, explicitly disqualifying anyone not descended from European parents on both sides from serving in the Company’s armies except as ‘pipers, drummers, bandsmen and farriers’, Yet, like their British fathers, the Anglo-Indians were also banned from owning land. Thus excluded from all the most obvious sources of lucrative employment, the Anglo-Indians quickly found themselves at the beginning of a long slide down the social scale. This would continue until, a century later, they had been reduced to a community of minor clerks and train drivers.

    ….It was not just the Anglo-Indians who suffered from the new and quickly-growing prejudices in Calcutta. Under Cornwallis, all non-Europeans began to be treated with disdain by the increasingly arrogant officials at the Company headquarters of Fort William….These new racial attitudes affected all aspects of relations between the British and Indians. The Bengal Wills show it was at this time that the number of Indian bibis [wives or consorts] being mentioned in wills and inventories began to decline: from turning up in one in three wills in 1780 and 1785, the practice went into steep decline. Between 1805 and 1810, bibis appear in only one in every four wills; by 1830 it is one in six; by the middle of the century they have all but disappeared. The second edition of Thomas Williamson’s East India Vade Mecum, published in 1825, had all references to bibis completely removed from it, while biographies and memoirs of prominent eighteenth-century British Indian worthies which mentioned their Indian wives were re-edited in the early nineteenth century so that their consorts were removed from later editions;

    ….Two words were growing apart…..If that gap widened into an abyss during the first years of the nineteenth century, it was largely due to the influence of one man….On 8 November 1797, Lord [Richard] Wellesley [elder brother of Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington], a minor Irish aristocrat, set out from England to take up his appointment as Governor General of Bengal and head of the Supreme Government of India. For nearly three hundred years Europeans coming out to the subcontinent had been assimilating themselves to India in a kaleidoscope of different ways. That process was now drawing to a close. Increasingly Europeans were feeling they had nothing to learn from India, and they had less and less inclination to discover anything to the contrary. India was perceived as a suitable venue for ruthless and profitable European expansion, where glory and fortunes could be acquired to the benefit of all concerned. It was a place to be changed and conquered, not a place to be changed or conquered by.

    This new Imperial approach was one that Lord Wellesley was determined not only to make his own, but to embody. His Imperial policies would effectively bring into being the main superstructure of the Raj as it survived up to 1947; he also brought with him the arrogant and disdainful British racial attitudes that buttressed and sustained it.”

  72. Jai — on 20th July, 2010 at 10:43 am  

    The last paragraph above makes a salient point, as the period right up to 1947 includes numerous further examples of official colonial policies and the associated bigotry and aggression which became even worse after the conflict of 1857 and which continued for another 90 years. This is not mere speculation on my part; these are all heavily documented, fully authenticated facts and matters of public record, confirmed by multiple modern-day British historians who are amongst the global leaders in their field (including individuals who are certainly not “self-hating liberals” by any stretch of the imagination).

    Given the horrific human cost of the racist colonial policies and the resulting damage to generations of Indians (including Indian Christians) and British people, irrespective of claims by certain parties on this thread along the lines of “the ends justified the means” and “they made the trains run on time”, I’ll leave it to PP readers to use their own judgement when deciding if someone who really is Indian would actually make the various assertions posted by “Xtian” earlier on this thread. Similarly, given the fact that the British Empire in India was ultimately based on the use of armed military force, it may be worthwhile considering the credibility of the individual concerned hypocritically excusing these actions whilst claiming to be an ardent follower of Jesus Christ, a truly great man who was one of the most pacifist, compassionate and ethical religious figures in history.

    Furthermore, given the details now provided in posts #68-71, I have no doubt that readers can similarly exercise their intelligence and common sense in relation to the real background of the individual currently using the alias “Xtian” and the issue of exactly why he desperately did everything he could to repeatedly avoid answering the simple questions presented in #56.

    However, since “Xtian” is obviously determined to insult the intelligence of PP’s wider audience, I’ll end this charade right now: “Xtian” is actually a BNP activist with a lengthy history of commenting on this blog using various aliases, most notably the usernames “Dan Dare” along with “notDigby” and “Donald”, amongst others. During the second half of last year, over the course of several months he even pretended to be an “ex-Muslim Iranian” called “Reza”.

    Most recently, he admitted to being a BNP member in his “Dan Dare” incarnation on the BNP/Killer Question thread http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/8222 , which PP’s audience are very strongly advised to read as it includes a considerable amount of information about his real views (including what he really thinks of Hitler and the Third Reich).

    As per his assertions on the current thread, he has also been heavily involved in promoting numerous lies about India and Indians, including on this previous PP thread: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/8316

    As flagged up by a number of PP readers who have been in touch offline, his heavy commenting on the internet makes it very easy to identify him; he has also been disguising his electronic tracks very poorly as far as his comments on PP during the past year are concerned.

    “Xtian” is also a prolific contributor to the white supremacist website “Majority Rights” along with the neo-Nazi forum “Stormfront”, where he uses his “Dan Dare” alias. The distorted version of global history which he has been promoting on this thread is directly from Stormfront and similar far-Right sources; also, the specific claims about India, its history and British colonial involvement in the subcontinent are all straight from the BNP’s own “handbook” in terms of their specific agenda on the subject. The BNP’s online activists have also been instructed to refrain from admitting their membership of the party when involved in pushing the BNP’s agenda via the internet.

    Incidentally, you can read some further information about the BNP’s propaganda strategy and online techniques via the following links, from the National Union of Journalists: http://www.reportingthebnp.org/index.php/public-image/ and http://www.reportingthebnp.org/index.php/publications/ .

    It goes without saying that I will not allow “Xtian/Dan Dare/notDigby/Donald/Reza” to attempt to exploit this thread as a platform for racist propaganda any further; in any case, PP’s owner and senior editor Sunny Hundal formally banned him from this website a few months ago. Therefore, any further comments by “Xtian/Dan Dare/notDigby/Donald/Reza” will be summarily deleted.

    The fact that the BNP persistently engage in such duplicitous behaviour really does speak volumes about the scale of moral bankruptcy involved; ironically, they are also engaging in exactly the kind of bigoted behaviour which was detailed in the extracts in #70 & #71 and (most of all) which the main PP article above explicitly condemns. I don’t think there are adequate words to describe the sheer scale of hypocrisy, corruption and moral degradation exhibited by the BNP – particularly the party’s leadership and their associated online activists — in terms of their attempted hijacking of Christianity and their efforts to falsely present themselves as “devout Christians” in particular.

  73. douglas clark — on 20th July, 2010 at 1:34 pm  

    Err, Jai. I am as guilty as anyone of posting one thing after the other. I think it was Sonia that kind of made the point that you can, legitimately, follow on, as it were..

    But this is somewhere near the record!

    You are making a point. It is one I happen to agree with.

    Just so’s you know – I think you do know, but others might not – I am a whitey. And I am, at the very least, completely uncomfortable about what the Brits did in (greater) India.

    However, India, (lesser), seems to have taken a bit of a turn to the better with that legacy. It is quite amusing when Americans claim to be the Worlds Largest Democracy when they clearly are not.

    Anyway, you are completely capable of arguing against people like Digby or Dan Dare.

    These are characters out of the Eagle comic.

    Did you know that?

    That is how pathetic they are. The theme of that comic strip – Dan Dare – was that green people, apart from perhaps Sondar who was also a Treen but one of the good guys were evil bastards.

    (I may have got that wrong, Sondar, I mean.)

    Jai.

    You see off a complete idiot like Lee John Barnes, and when the lesser idiots appear, you freak! What is that all about?

    In any event, your comment at 72 is right. When you say:

    I don’t think there are adequate words to describe the sheer scale of hypocrisy, corruption and moral degradation exhibited by the BNP – particularly the party’s leadership and their associated online activists — in terms of their attempted hijacking of Christianity and their efforts to falsely present themselves as “devout Christians” in particular.

    Christians are, usually, quite boring, rather than devout. They are not, usually, BNP members….

  74. Jai — on 21st July, 2010 at 10:11 am  

    Thanks Douglas. Considering that Unilever are apparently on the brink of financially crippling the BNP due to the recent Marmite case and the party’s chairman Nick Griffin may end up being sent to jail and stripped of his EU seat due to the EHRC’s continuing prosecution, you’d think they’d have better things to do with their time.

    However, India, (lesser), seems to have taken a bit of a turn to the better with that legacy. It is quite amusing when Americans claim to be the Worlds Largest Democracy when they clearly are not.

    Maybe they actually mean “the world’s greatest democracy”. Flaws and all, they’re probably right in that sense.

    Obviously it depends heavily on who’s in power at the time, but the fundamental idealistic basis of the United States is extraordinary and tremendously inspiring (although they obviously haven’t necessarily always lived up to those ideals) — I think the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are amongst the greatest intellectual/moral accomplishments of the human race.

    Given India’s own basis as an (increasingly liberal) secular democratic republic, with a huge, extremely diverse population and the same pluralistic principle of “Out of Many, One” as the US, increasing ties with the newly-resurgent India is very much the logical thing for America to pursue. As we all know, India is also projected to join the US as one of the world’s largest economies in GDP terms during the next few decades. In all aspects, India and America are therefore natural allies.

    Interesting times ahead.

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