• Peter Kupisz

Skeptic of Religion Promoted Scientific Racism

Atheists, such as the late Christopher Hitchens, have argued that “religion poisons everything.” Religion, he claimed, made the world worse, not better. If only people would abandon religion and champion science, so the thinking went, humanity could flourish to a much greater extent. This attitude, which is common amongst atheists and skeptics of religions, fails to appreciate that the real problem is not religion but rather our corrupt human nature. If religion was eradicated, people would still express the sin in their hearts through other means.

Science, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It is simply a tool by which people can learn about the world around us. However, given the evil desires of the human heart, it can (and has) been used to cause harm. This provides evidence that the real problem is not "religion" but rather the human heart. One example of this is how science was used, by those who rejected religion, to promote racism. The intellectual historian, John Gray, describes one such example in the German biologist Ernst Haeckel and how he promoted scientific racism in his book The Riddle of the Universe. This book, and the ideas they promoted, helped provide the environment which later allowed Nazi ideology to flourish.

In 1929, the Thinker’s Library, a series established by the Rationalist Press Association to advance secular thinking and counter the influence of religion in Britain, published an English translation of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1899 book The Riddle of the Universe. Celebrated as “the German Darwin”, Haeckel was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; The Riddle of the Universe sold half a million copies in Germany alone, and was translated into dozens of other languages. Hostile to Jewish and Christian traditions, Haeckel devised his own “religion of science” called Monism, which incorporated an anthropology that divided the human species into a hierarchy of racial groups. Though he died in 1919, before the Nazi Party had been founded, his ideas, and widespread influence in Germany, unquestionably helped to create an intellectual climate in which policies of racial slavery and genocide were able to claim a basis in science.

Learn More

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John Gray, “What Scares the New Atheists,” The Guardian, March 3, 2015, sec. World News, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/03/what-scares-the-new-atheists.


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