About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Udo nails it on race and religion

This piece by Udo Schuklenk is superb. I hope it gets picked up by some of the high-traffic sites such as RD.net, B&W, Pharyngula, etc. I'm still interstate and running around, so can someone else draw it to people's attention? (I drove PZ Myers back from the post-convention presenters' party last night, but won't be seeing him again on his trip to Australia.)

Sample from Udo: It is deeply offensive to conflate in a report on racism with discrimination against people who make the choice to believe such stuff, and who then go out of their way to let the world know that they do (eg by putting black cloth over their heads, or wearing any number of religious knickknack around their necks etc). If you belong to an ethnic minority and you have been subjected to racism you will be permanently scarred to some extent or other. You will continuously wonder when the next shoe's gonna drop. Well, compare that to people who choose to wear religious paraphernalia in order to identify themselves as adherents to an ideology they have chosen. Surely this doesn't exactly fall into the same ballpark. Again, my issue is not at all that unfair discrimination against people because of the ideologies they subscribe to is fair game. Quite to the contrary.


Lisa said...

Done! See the "Latest News" on richarddawkins.net: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5257

Russell Blackford said...

You're a star, Lisa.

ColinGavaghan said...

I kind of agree with the general point, but not for quite the same reason as Udo. As someone already pointed out on his blog, it's questionable to say that we can choose what to believe; I could no more choose to believe in the literal ttruth of the Bible than I could will my skin to change colour.

For me, the principal difference between religion and race lies in its relevance to the sort of circumstances in which we might legitimately discriminate. Whereas skin colour tells us next to nothing of importance about someone, their religion - if they do more than pay it lip-service - will often determine their most important moral values. And what more reasonable basis to decide if I like someone than that?

I'd also say that the relationship between racism and religious discrimination is a little more complex in reality than Udo acknowledges here. Groups like the English Defence League are pretty cynically exploiting concerns about fundamentalist Islam to target certain ethnic groups, while anti-Catholicism in Scotland has often been a very close bed-fellow of anti-Irish racism.

Unknown said...

Sorry, to conclude briefly: while we might be aware that religion and race are quite separate phenomena, we should perhaps be aware of their cynical conflation by a motley array of intelectually disingenuous bad guys.