Re: Religion and ethnocentrism

Brian Michael Howell (bmhowell@ARTSCI.WUSTL.EDU)
Fri, 12 Apr 1996 13:45:01 -0500

> en masse. In other words, worldviews and religious backgrounds that
> claim to have a monopoly on the
> truth don't seem to foster as many anthropologists (who are required to
> be somewhat relativistic) as worldviews that allow for ethnic difference.
> Excuse my gross generalization. Even better, disprove it!
> Carolyn
There is a mistaken (IMHO) connection between universalistic beliefs and
intolerance for ethnic difference. Of course, in the course of the most
obvious example, X-ianity, there are plenty of instance of ethnocentrism
and even ethnocide, but, as scholars such as Lammin Sanneh point out,
that is not a characteristic of the belief system, but the methods of
some individuals. The writings of Paul (the apostle) are, in fact,
explainations and interpretations of the life of Jesus which take ethnic
difference into account and explicity affirm such difference. The
association of X-ianity with Western/Roman culture is the imposition of
the powerful on the weak (a common theme in many cultures) not an
inherent quality of a universalistic belief system.