Religion and ethnocentrism

Benjamin Spatz (bspatz@BRONZE.LCS.MIT.EDU)
Sun, 14 Apr 1996 13:02:14 -0400

Brian Michael Howell writes:

This same argument could be made for liguistic diversity, ethnic
diversity and all the other things which have been used as the basis of
"us-vs.-them" views of the world. I would suggest that perhaps there IS
an "us" and a "them". Is this a bad thing? Yes, it can be used for ill,
as you point out, but this is a kind of "slippery slope" arguement that
argues a view suggesting...

In other words, your arguement doesn't really suggest that there is
something inherent in the world religions that necessitates intolerance
for other ethnic groups. Particularly once we move away from an
essentializing notion of ethnicity.

I completely agree that the same argument could be applied to linguistic
and ethnic diversity. The difference, though, as I see it, is that I know of
no program which was founded on the basis of enjoyment of multiculturalism or
celebration of divirsity which then went on to commit evil, intolerant acts.
I think the reason for this is that such acts would go against the precepts
which are the backbone of such programs.

Religion, on the other hand, uses backbone principles which have little do to
with such things, which I think makes it easier for them to commit evil acts
based on the "us and them" mentality, and thereby makes them more dangerous.
This can easily be seen in a survey of the major violent acts of history, none
of which (as far as I know) were supported by multiculturalism or divisity, but
many of which were supported by religion.

______________________________________________________________________________ Ben Spatz
Cambridge, MA (617) 661-2430
"Infelicity is is involved in our corporeal nature." - Samuel Johnson
"Which way I fly is hell. Myself am hell." - John Milton
"Look within. Be still." - the Buddha