Atheist Beliefs — Part III
Part III – Scientific Racism
Atheism is a belief system. Atheists don’t like to admit it but it is. They want us to believe atheism is based on scientific facts, not beliefs. However, the basic tents of atheism are unproven and cannot be proven. You must believe atheist doctrine in order to be an atheist.
This discussion of atheist beliefs is divided into three sections. The first section examined ancient atheist beliefs. Lucretius produced the most complete statement of this system of belief during the first century B.C. in his book On the Nature of Things. The second section concerns the growth of atheism and the application of atheist doctrine to new areas such as science and business. This third section discusses one of the ugliest developments of atheism—scientific racism.
Please pay attention to the warning placed in the text box at the side of this essay.
During the Enlightenment, people abandoned the Bible in favor of unguided reason. Reason is not a bad thing but unguided reason is dangerous. It becomes more and more warped over time. The Bible describes this danger in Proverbs 14: 12, which says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” This proved true in the case of scientific racism. How did it begin?
The Discovery of New Peoples
How do people react when a group of outsiders comes into their midst? Some people react with fear. Others seek to understand and learn from this new group. In spite of the initial reaction, sooner or later people want to compare themselves to the outsiders. Are we better than them? Are we smarter? Are we stronger?
Beginning in the late fifteenth century, the nations of Europe “discovered” a number of “new” races. Some of these races were already known to Europeans, such as the Muslims, the Chinese, and the people of India. Each of these groups developed a high state of civilization. They were considered equal or nearly equal to the races of Europe.
Other races lacked the markings of civilization. Members of these races were unable to read and had no written language. These “uncivilized” races had no strong, central government. There was no evidence of scientific study or scientific progress. They had no doctors, teachers, lawyers, or systems of law. European leaders considered them clearly inferior to the people of Europe.
From where did these races come? They came from sub-Sahara Africa and from the New World. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Europeans had little knowledge of black Africans. European ships and navigation techniques were too primitive to permit transit as far as the Ivory Coast of Africa. After the Portuguese successfully navigated Cape Bojador in 1434, Europeans started trading with sub-Saharan Africans.
Slavery was extinct in Europe at the time. Yes, that’s right, slavery was extinct in Europe. Christian belief overcame slavery throughout Europe. Slavery was unacceptable to practicing Christians. The Bible says that all men and women are created in the image of God. There is no race that is inferior to another. The apostle Paul went a step beyond this. He wrote in Galatians 3: 27-28:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Bible teaches the equality of all people before God. Slavery had to be stopped. And it was. England stopped slavery in 1215. Germany outlawed the practice around 1220; France in 1315; Sweden in 1335; Poland in 1347.
But greed got the best of those in power. In less than one hundred years slavery was back.
European nations soon started to enslave these Africans. Why? Economics. As Europeans spread toward the southern hemisphere they found extremely favorable conditions for the growth of some crops—notably sugar. Europeans were unable to work the farms and fields in these tropical and subtropical climates. They did not like the heat. They also had no resistance to tropical diseases.
Where could they find workers for the new sugar plantations in the south? Where could they find laborers that were accustomed to warm climates and resistant to tropical diseases? The answer was obvious. Black Africans were the perfect laborers for these plantations.
Europeans easily enslaved the Africans and forced them to work the plantations in places such as the Canary Islands. In 1441 the first African slaves were taken to Portugal. In 1452 African slaves began working on sugar plantations. After Columbus “discovered” America in 1492, the Spanish developed sugar plantations in the New World. Who were their workers? You guessed it—black African slaves.
Why were Europeans so quick to enslave black Africans? According to James Sweet,
The majority of Africans were thought to be sub-human and therefore subject to enslavement. The policies and ideas that flowed from these understandings of African inferiority only served to crystallize racial hierarchies, not only in Iberia, but across Europe.
Africans were considered an inferior race. This “inferior” race was enslaved for economic reasons. The Roman Catholic Church strongly protested the reinstitution of slavery. Their cries went unheard. The people of Europe wanted sugar. Their leaders wanted money.
Deism Increases Racism
The belief that blacks are inferior grew dramatically during the Enlightenment. During this time courtiers and pseudo-intellectuals denied the truth of the Bible, calling the Bible a book of superstition and fantasy.
As people threw away their Bibles, their beliefs changed. They rejected divine revelation. They preferred a “rational” god based on nature and science. They believed in a god who did not care about us. These people were called “deists.” They misused science to defend their beliefs regarding race. Voltaire provides an example of the nastiest statements about race:
And it is a big question whether among them [Negroes] they are descendants of monkeys, or if monkeys come from them. Our wise men have said that man is the image of God: behold a pleasant image of the eternal Being with a flat black nose, with little or no intelligence!
Thomas Jefferson wrote about equality but also wrote the following:
I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.
The Scottish philosopher and deist David Hume wrote about black inferiority and white superiority:
I am apt to suspect the Negroes . . . to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences… Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men.
Not only are blacks inferior, according to Mr. Hume, but they are so inferior that they must be a distinct and separate species of man. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant completes our short list of deist examples.
The Negroes of Africa have not received any intelligence from Nature that rises above foolishness. . . . among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who have wandered far away from their homelands . . . not one exists who has succeeded in anything great, either in the arts or the sciences or in any other noteworthy thing.
George Fredrickson in his book Racism: A Short History provides a link between the nasty statements of deists and the scientific racism yet to come.
Whatever their intentions. . . eighteenth-century ethnologists opened the way to a secular or scientific racism by considering human beings part of the animal kingdom rather than by viewing them in biblical terms as children of God endowed with spiritual capacities denied to other creatures.
Atheists Blend Science and Racism
Atheists not only continued these deist attitudes but in the nineteenth century they used their pseudo-science to confirm their prejudices. Craniometry and comparative anatomy delivered the earliest scientific “proofs.”
Petrus Camper (1722-1789) worked as one of the first scholars in the scientific field of comparative anatomy. He is known for his theories of facial angle. He discovered that modern humans have facial angles between 70-80 degrees. European facial angles hovered mostly in the 80 degree range. The facial angles of Africans were 70 degrees. He proved “scientifically” that the facial angles of Africans were closest to those of an orangutan.
Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) continued the work in craniometry. After comparing the interior cranial capacity of skulls, he concluded that Caucasians have the largest brains and Negroes have the smallest.
Morton also popularized the theory of polygenesis. Polygenesis speculates that different races came from different ancestors. Thus some races were lower by nature than other races on the evolutionary scale. This idea was opposed by monogenesis which believes that everyone descended from Adam and Eve.
Much of the science “developed” by these atheists was an invention of their own minds. These scientists sat in their offices, dreamed up theories, and presented them as scientific fact. One of the most prolific providers of untested theories was the German atheist Ernst Haeckel. He once wrote,
The Caucasian, or Mediterranean man (Homo Mediterraneus), has from time immemorial been placed as the head of all races of men, as the most highly developed and perfect.
A wide difference exists between the races. According to Haeckel, a lower value should be placed on the life of a person from the lower races.
It is civilization, and the fuller development of the mind that makes civilization possible, that raise man so much above the other animals, even his nearest animal relatives, the mammals. But this is, as a rule, peculiar to the higher races, and is found only in a very imperfect form or not at all among the lower. These lower races are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes or dogs) than to civilized Europeans; we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives.
Haeckel also wrote that Negroes have stronger and more freely movable toes than any other race. He claimed this as evidence that Negroes are related to apes. Apes are able to hold onto trees with their toes. Haeckel compared Negroes to “four-handed” apes. Some people wonder whether Haeckel ever actually saw or examined an African.
French author and atheist Arthur de Gobineau wrote a book titled The Inequality of Human Races. In addition to ranking the races from white as the highest to black as the lowest, Gobineau claimed the differences between races prevented inter-racial marriage:
“The permanence of racial qualities is quite sufficient to generate the radical unlikeness and inequality that exists between the different branches, to raise them to the dignity of natural laws.”
Gobineau claimed that miscegenation would lead to the collapse of civilization.
Thomas H. Huxley was known as Darwin’s bulldog. He believed no one could know anything for sure about God—even whether He exists. Huxley coined the word “agnostic” to refer to his beliefs. But his beliefs did not rescue him from racism. He once said,
No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal . . . of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed . . . he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried out by thoughts and not by bites.”
Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright was a well-known and respected physician. He practiced medicine in antebellum Mississippi and Louisiana. He is known for his article “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race.” The article appeared in 1851 in De Bow’s Review. Cartwright claimed discovery of a new disease called Dysaesthesia Aethiopica.
Dysaesthesia Aethiopica is a disease peculiar to negroes, affecting both mind and body in a manner as well expressed by dysaesthesia . . . There is both mind and sensibility, but both seem to be difficult to reach by impressions from without. There is a partial insensibility of the skin, and so great a hebetude of the intellectual faculties, as to be like a person half asleep, that is with difficulty aroused and kept awake.
Because of this disease, Cartwright reported, the sufferers may not be aware of their actions.
From the careless movements of the individuals affected with the complaint, they are apt to do much mischief, which appears as if intentional, but is mostly owing to the stupidness of mind and insensibility of the nerves induced by the disease.
Cartwright reports the disease as resulting from “negro liberty.” He wrote that it does not affect slaves. This was good news to slave holders. Scientific racism confirmed that black Africans were better off as slaves.
The disease is the natural offspring of negro liberty–the liberty to be idle, to wallow in filth, and to indulge in improper food and drinks.
Hundreds of other similar quotes are available. We don’t need to see them. These few quotes are sickening enough. The message is clear. Atheists developed a scientific racism during the nineteenth century which laid the foundation for the horrors of racism and Aryanism in the twentieth century.
The twentieth century had its own challenges. From 1915-1917 more than 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Although this was the work of Muslims (rather than atheists), the first use of the word “genocide” described the mass murder of the Armenian people.
“Genocide” also describes the murder of more than 20 million citizens of the U.S.S.R. at the hands of atheist Josef Stalin. But this number is dwarfed by the estimated 45-65 million murdered in Communist China since 1937. As many as 45 million Chinese were killed in just four years—1958 to 1962—during Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.”
Starvation took the lives of a significant number of those murdered in China and Russia. Due to land restructuring and the collectivization of peasants, many farmers (peasants) died of starvation while living on their own land. Both Stalin and Mao believed such losses were beneficial. After all, they thought, killing off the people of one generation should advance the acceptance of Communism by the next generation.
Aryanism—the superiority of the white race—led to World War II and the Jewish Holocaust. Although Adolf Hitler never publicly endorsed atheism, he certainly was a godless sociopath.
Less destructive aspects of scientific racism included the eugenics movement. Francis Galton, atheist cousin of Charles Darwin, founded this movement. Eugenics was a scientific means for improving the race. Eugenics involved the forced sterilization of people considered inferior. The future of humanity, they believed, should be derived only from persons with better genes.
Thirty states passed laws favoring the forced sterilization of “lesser” people, such as criminals, the mentally challenged, and those with genetic disorders. These laws were given greater authority in 1927 when the Supreme Court, by an 8-1 decision in Buck v. Bell, upheld the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924. This decision has not been overturned.
Why was the twentieth century so racist? Why was so much blood spilled over inferior persons and races? Was it a coincidence that racism and atrocities increased significantly with the secularization of our society?
Atheism is a belief system without morals or standards. In an atheistic society what prevents us from being as bad as we want to be? As Dostoevsky implied and Sartre sated, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”
The Bible speaks of this in Psalm 11: 2-3:
For, behold, the wicked bend the bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string
To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”
The foundations are destroyed. Biblical standards and ethics no longer govern our society. The wicked bend their bows and shoot at the upright in heart. What can the righteous do?
The Bible answers this question with this word of hope in Psalm 11: 4,
The LORD is in His holy temple;
The LORD’S throne is in heaven