Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Nov/09

1

Religious diversity & its discontents

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHOver at ScienceBlogs I’ve put a comment up about tensions in New York City between a mosque & an establishment across the street which serves alcohol. The issues around public displays of religion, and the norms which are enforced around religious establishments, are both complex and cross-culturally general. In India riots have often occurred when a group of Muslims or Hindus march by an establishment of the other community in the course of a religious procession. Similar issues occurred in Europe during the Reformation when religious diversity was extant in many areas. Catholic festivals and parades relating to saints and relics were ripe targets for zealous Protestants to engage in disruption & violence. Apparently the same sort of clashes are now occurring in Latin America as sizable evangelical Protestant minorities challenge the Catholic domination of public space.

The relationship of Protestants and Catholics in the United States has often been fraught as well, not to mention strife between Protestant denominations themselves (in the latter case, one might read up on the oppression which Baptists and Methodists in New England complained of even into the 1800s at the hands of the Congregationalist establishment). John T. McGreevy’s Catholicism and American Freedom relates the sordid 19th century history of conflict between the majority and the minority, which often resulted in violence, as well as its 20th century ramifications. To a great extent the resolution was achieved once American Catholicism evolved into just another denomination in the American order, when American Catholic’s began to espouse beliefs and norms approaching those of Protestants (“traditionalist Catholics” resist this tendency, but they’re numerically marginal). Because Jews were so much less numerous the similar tensions never manifested. American Judaism before the emigration of Hasidic rabbis in the wake of the chaos in Europe in the mid-20th century, turned itself into another denomination, with the Reform Movement setting the tone. Unlike Catholics Jews simply did not have the numbers or political power to bargain for anything more. In fact, Reform Judaism in the 19th and early 20th century was more assimilated than it is today, having disavowed the concept of a Jewish nationality and recasting themselves explicitly as analogous to the Protestant groups which populated the American scene (see American Judaism). McGreevy describes how these Jews, Protestantized and often secular, formed an alliance after World War II with the post-Protestant WASP establishment and initiated the modern Culture Wars, with conservative Catholics, evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Jews arrayed on the other side.

These Culture Wars, which saw the emergence of the social Left and the Right as well understand them, were the culmination of a process which began during the Reformation, and built up steam during the Enlightenment. In short, the fracture of the seamless collaboration of the supernatural and the society (leading to in the case of the French Revolution and Marxist regimes the suppression of the supernatural in the society). Among the American founders it was James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who promoted a view which would have left the religious constitution of the society up to destiny, a view which wields the most influence today. Though the modern “high wall” of separation between church and state developed only over time, the American republic was still shocking to contemporaries because it disavowed adherence to any one religious confession. Certainly the British state of the time tolerated dissenters, but Anglicanism was the religion of the ruling class, of polite society. The head of the British state was the head of the Anglican Church (as remains the case today). Other nations, such as the Netherlands and parts of  Central & Europe had established a modus vivendi between sects, but these understandings were always on the terms of a dominant religious dispensation. Until the 19th century Roman Catholics in Amsterdam were forced to make due with houses of worship which were small and discreetly masked as residential homes. The Jewish presence in the Netherlands was contingent upon that population’s self-policing (ergo, the expulsion of Baruch Spinoza by the Jewish community was motivated in part by the need to disassociate the community from his heresies, which were alarming orthodox Christians).

Of course not every polity adhered exclusively to one sect. In much of East Asia pluralism was common and the elites patronized many religious orders and movements. But again, as in Europe there were particular preferences and biases of the elites. Buddhism may have been a vibrant folk religion in China, but the Confucian elites had little use for it. Rather, the sacral foundation of the Chinese Empire lay in a pre-Buddhist cosmogony which reputedly dated back to the Zhou dynasty. Even though the Chinese state was more tolerant of open variation in opinion and practice than the European Christian monarchies, it was not neutral. After the Chinese rites controversy Catholic missions to were banned. “Foreign religions” were suppressed in the 9th century (including, but not limited to, Islam, Christianity, Manichaeism and Buddhism). The pagan Roman Empire was similar to Imperial China. It was pluralist, but preferential, in its policies. Its elite united by a common canon and core values.

Though there was state support for particular churches during the colonial period, and this extended into the early 19th century in New England, it was very significant that the founders did not declare the United States a Christian nation. France before the Revolution was a Catholic nation, England an Anglican one, and the Ottoman state a Sunni Muslim entity. The Japanese state during the Tokugawa period took a Chinese line, enforcing registration with Buddhist temples by the population not because of any attachment to Buddhism, but to stamp out a religion which they wished to exclude from their domain, Catholic Christianity. There was a discussion about this peculiarity of the American republic at the time, with a minority of notables such as Patrick Henry arguing for the declaration of Christianity as the national faith (if not necessarily a Christianity). They lost that argument. Rather, the American state was explicitly neutral on matters of religion, as evident by the ban on religious tests for federal office. Implicitly and in practice this was not so, the emergence of the Roman Catholic school system was conditioned on the fact that the public school system had a sectarian Protestant aspect (e.g., the demand from teachers that Catholic children read Protestant Bibles).

But what was an Anglo-Protestant nation in fact, but not name, now faces the reality that its laws and cultural sensibility in regards to encouraging pluralism are being tested by radically increased levels religious diversity. The mainline churches which were culturally dominant until the 1950s are not even the majority among American Protestants, who themselves are only at bare majority. This may pose problems, as I agree with Winnifred Sullivan’s argument in The Impossibility of Religious Freedom that one of the ways in which the American religious injunction toward neutrality was made practicable was that religion qua religion was fundamentally shaped by a belief-centric (orthodoxy) Protestant model. Why did Roman Catholicism and Judaism not change that model? Because both of these religions in the United States were heavily “Protestantized.” The vast majority of American Jews do not adhere to the orthopraxy, a system of behaviors and actions, which defined Judaism for nearly 1,500 years. Rather, their Judaism is defined by an unadorned monotheism, a small set of rituals, holidays and taboos, and a “culture.” Similarly, American Catholics are very hard to differentiate from mainline Protestants in their beliefs & practices; the Americanist won over the long haul. In fact, they would no doubt be shocked at how Protestant American Catholics had become in their outlook. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the nation which pushed the envelope in teasing apart the traditional association between state and sect has also been the seedbed for the explosive growth of strains of Protestantism which ultimately reach back to the anti-statist Radical Reformation. One reason that the Anabaptists were driven out of most of Europe was that they rejected the central concept of a nominal universal church which was coterminous with the nation, officially if not substantively. This was a concept which went back to Constantine in the West, and which these Protestant extremists rejected as corrupting. In the United States this idea was naturally not considered subversive, as there was no official national sect which played that role as the mediator between the state and God (though again, the alarm at Catholic immigration immediately tells us that the ruling class conceived itself as culturally Protestant). To be sure, just as “magisterial” Protestantism was modified in the United States (Episcopalianism, Lutheranism), so most “radical” Protestant groups (Baptists) are not as extreme as the Amish in their renunciation of the mainstream. But the Radical Protestant idea that religious faith should be arrived at through conscious reflection and struggle, that it is a personal relationship which an individual enters into with God, has seeped deep into the presuppositions of the American populace. 20-30% of Americans change religions in their lifetimes, the American town is characterized by churches, not the church. This idea even affects religions though of as inimical to these individualist belief-centric planks such as Hinduism.

What does this have to do with “Secular Right”? It gets to why I am Right and not Left, and that is that I reject multiculturalism, whereby there some illusory equipoise between innumerable normative frameworks can be achieved. I believe that nation-states need a core common culture, a set of values, to bind them. Insofar as religious pluralism undermines that, it is problematic. There are many solutions to the problem of pluralism. One solution which was common in pre-modern Europe and the Islamic world was to separate out religious groups into their own worlds, with one group being culturally dominant and defining the parameters of operation and relation. Jews could live in a “Jewish world” in the ghetto, adhere strictly to their faith and practices within the confines of a bubble. Similarly, Christians and Jews in the Muslim world lived in their own world, under their own leaders. The major downside of this system is that it is hierarchical, and involves subjugation. Another model is the Chinese one, whereby some sects and practices are proscribed if they are viewed as subversive, but a multitude are tolerated among the masses while the elite remains characterized by a normative uniformity. This system though seems to flourish in top-down autocracies, where elite uniformity of purpose and outlook are all that is necessary for political functioning as they are the only true citizens in fact. Then there is the American model. What model is that? To be rhetorically extreme, I would name it pluralism-in-name-only. Rather, despite the specific instantiations of the religious idea, American confessionalism is united by its structural family resemblance. Catholics may have attempted pillarisation, but these attempts failed, and in failing produced Will Herberg’s trichotomy of “Protestant, Catholic, Jew”. The term “Judeo-Christian” is another fiction which nevertheless exhibits some fidelity to the reality that the Reform and Conservative movements within Judaism have engaged with and been transmuted by Protestant conceptions about the nature of religion. The values of most American Jews are not Judeo-Christian, they’re Protestant Christian. Or at least, the come from the Anglo culture where Protestantism was the religion. As for the fundamental Protestantism of American Catholicism, I’ll leave it to Father John McCloskey to attest to that.

Despite America’s official “hands-off” policy in regards to religion, in the 19th century to a great extent the Protestant elite won its kulturkampf with th Roman Catholic Church. The first Roman Catholic President of the United States was a cultural heir of the anti-Catholic Boston Brahmins (John F. Kennedy has been accused of being a secular humanist in his private beliefs by some religious conservatives, and even if the aspersion is not factual it goes to show that his specific commitment to the details of Catholicism are held to be suspect by many). And that is why I am “Right,” I think that that kulturkampf is always necessary, because it is necessary to have some common set of cultural values. Religion is a signifier of those values, if not necessarily the source of them. Adherence to a set of values at radical variance with the American Protestant consensus can, and does, occur. The Amish and Hasidic Jews of New York are cases, but these are rare exceptions. As an atheist I would have to admit that first & foremost Protestantism is the religion I am not, insofar as the honest truth is that I hold all supernatural claims with deep skepticism, but the values which are associated with American Protestantism, the values which are also associated with the American republic, are values which I find myself in rough agreement with. I do not in any ultimate sense believe that American Protestantism is more or less true than Orthodox Judaism, but a society where the majority religion, or at least the religious style, is predicated on Orthodox Judaism would not be the United States (in fact, it would be Israel, which though having a secular majority and elite recognizes only what we in the United States would term “Orthodox” as Judaism for all practical purposes). I am not worried by the trend of a non-Protestant majority if that majority is “not Protestant” in the way that American Roman Catholics and Reform Jews are “not Protestant.” That is because these two religious groups have inculcated the essence of American Protestantism (and revealingly in the process invited accusations of heresy from their co-religionists abroad). Similarly, other religious traditions can prosper as well, so long as they become Protestant in all but name.

What American can not tolerate, or at least will break the pluralist consensus, are strident orthopraxic religions which make demands on the society as a whole, and which are predicated on the whole society sharing the same specific religious outlook. So in regards to Hinduism, the specific forms and rites of Sanatana Dharma are simply far less transposable to the United States than those of Arya Samaj. It is no surprise that Arya Samaj has been termed by some “Protestant Hinduism,” and is extremely prominent in Hindu communities in Trinidad and Guyana. Similarly, Muslim adherence to religious law which presumes a Muslim milieu, a society which accepts the dominance of Muslim presuppositions, simply can not flourish in the United States without being disruptive to non-Muslims. The American boundaries in regards to appropriate usage of public space and private decorum are in sharp contrast to the values encapsulated by traditional Muslim cultures. It may be on the even of the Revolutionary War that Muslim women had greater property rights than women in the colonies, but that is not so today. American religious culture has acceded to, and some cases been a participant in, those broader changes. This does not mean that Hinduism or Islam can not be Americanized, in many ways I believe that Rabbinical Judaism resembles Islam the most of all religions, and yet in the United States other forms of Judaism are dominant. Similarly, a form of Islam which requires less marking off from the “kufar,” and implicit dominance of Muslim norms in the public space, can persist and flourish. Shared practices and values, broadly construed, is entirely compatible with starkly contradictory views on the nature of God, or the appropriate manner in which to worship God within religious establishments. As an atheist, I naturally think these views and behaviors are grounded in nothing real in any case. What is practically important are the material and social consequences of religious belief, and so long as those are not disruptive to the American polity than they should be accepted. Unlike many Leftists and libertarians I am not neutral in regards to the shape of religious belief. Nor do I celebrate the co-existence of religious traditions with radically different presuppositions of public reason and extremely strict requirements of practice upon the believer. This is not because I believe that Protestantism is any more true than Vodun, rather, an America where Vodun is dominant, and its norms framed our cultural discussion would not be the America I know. And just as I value my own identity as who I am at this moment, shaped by all my experiences over my life, I treasure the collective identity of the American republic, through all its travails and triumphs.

In sum:

1) Pluralism of religious belief can is possible, but only under particular conditions. I have made it clear which conditions I find preferable.

2) I believe that if everyone in Iran converted to Theravada Buddhism, or if everyone in Thailand converted to Shia Islam, these nations would suffer a rupture or discontinuity in identity. Iran and Thailand as we know it would cease to be. Similarly, I value America for what it has become, and would prefer that its culture be framed by de facto Protestantism.

References:

Catholicism and American Freedom: A History
American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America’s Most Powerful Church
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America
The Reformation: A History
Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe
A History of Christianity
American Judaism: A History
What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
The Great Upheaval — America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800
The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State
The Thirty Years’ War
The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000
The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire
American Judaism: A History
The Essential Talmud
China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty
The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han
Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-Hsi
A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present
Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914
One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism

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32 comments

  • Don · November 1, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Fascinating essay. But wow, the reason that you are “Right” is your deeply held belief that nations need a common culture? Is this proclamation not as much an attempt to brand the “Left” as as anything else? Who or what tradition on the “Left,” with which you are attempting to contrast with “Right” holds the opposite opinion?

  • muffy · November 1, 2009 at 7:03 am

    I really wish you actually defined the term “Protestant.” It sounds like you’re using that word to refer to any Christian who isn’t Catholic (or Orthodox). Under that definition, many (if not most) American “Protestants” don’t have traditional Reformation-era beliefs at all, e.g. Sola Fide, Predestination, etc. Even the term Anglo-Protestant is highly problematic — are you referring to the faith of the Anglican settlers or the Puritans, who were mortal enemies of one another? I guess what I’m trying to say is that the term “Protestant” is a lot less useful than you’re making it out to be. Either that or I don’t understand your definition of “Protestant.”

  • Spawn of Cthulhu · November 1, 2009 at 8:49 am

    A very well-written piece. I find myself in accord with your view that a common cultural view is needed to maintain national cohesion.
    I was raised a Protestant in Texas and now live in Florida. My wife remains Catholic and takes our kids to church still. My eldest is somewhat religious, but my second has already picked up on my views though I never discuss them.
    The catholics that I know socially are all very protestant-like and really aren’t that different from the Methodists, which are the largest denomination in the ares. I’ve often pointed out that if you disagree with the Pope on abortion, and don’t really agree with the priest’s sermons, then you’re a protestant in all but name.
    Culturally I fit in fine with these people and we have very similar beliefs in general (right-wing southerner, basically, football the main sport of interest, dislike of government intrusion in our lives, military vet, etc). Often, in private, they’ll ask me about my lack of religious beliefs because they’re genuinely curious (and not repelled). I’ve had several decent philosophical discussions about atheism/agnosticism without any ill feelings (they always ask respectfully, because they’re worried that I might be offended by their asking).
    Certainly I prefer my neighbors to the stereotypical outspoken atheist. Likewise I’m sure they prefer me to a left-wing religious type.

  • Author comment by David Hume · November 1, 2009 at 9:23 am

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the term “Protestant” is a lot less useful than you’re making it out to be.

    it’s really useful because i don’t care too much about top-down definitions. remember that i don’t think most people really understand the details of their religion anyway. so all the stuff about sola scriptura is actually secondary to me (protestants and catholics will obviously disagree, but as i said above, there’s a disjunction about what they say they believe and what is relevant in my opinion). “protestant” here is a marker for a historical-social stream which has evolved continuously in the united states. not a changeless religious belief system. it would be totally different in, as an example, sweden, because its history is different. note my usage of terms like “protestant hinduism.” obviously sola scriptura is irrelevant to me (though actually arya samaj tends in that direction in regard to the vedas), since it is evident that even the most biblically based protestants outsource their interpretation to “experts.”

  • Roman · November 1, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I think, Razib, that you should take a closer look at the United Kingdom as an example of a more-or-less successful co-existence of various religions and cultures. I live in London and I enjoy the variety of people I meet in the streets, with various clothing, language and behaviour — though linked by the common courtesy so predominant in England. I probably sound very sentimentalist, but I think that multiculturalism can work as long as one bit of the culture is shared — that we should be *nice* to each other. Perhaps I am mistaken, but Americans don’t seem to value this as high as the British people do. Also, the British government is actively trying to keep peace among various cultural groups. The US approach seems “just let the events flow”, with sometimes drastic consequences.

  • Author comment by David Hume · November 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

    The US approach seems “just let the events flow”, with sometimes drastic consequences.

    exactly, look at the subway bombings which native born american muslims have engaged in, no? or the race riots in this decade. not to mention the prominence of white nationalist political parties. and all with much less diversity than you brits.

  • Roman · November 1, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    “which native born american muslims have engaged in, no”

    Do you have any?

  • muffy · November 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    David Hume :

    David Hume

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the term “Protestant” is a lot less useful than you’re making it out to be.
    it’s really useful because i don’t care too much about top-down definitions. remember that i don’t think most people really understand the details of their religion anyway. so all the stuff about sola scriptura is actually secondary to me (protestants and catholics will obviously disagree, but as i said above, there’s a disjunction about what they say they believe and what is relevant in my opinion). “protestant” here is a marker for a historical-social stream which has evolved continuously in the united states. not a changeless religious belief system. it would be totally different in, as an example, sweden, because its history is different. note my usage of terms like “protestant hinduism.” obviously sola scriptura is irrelevant to me (though actually arya samaj tends in that direction in regard to the vedas), since it is evident that even the most biblically based protestants outsource their interpretation to “experts.”

    Sola Scriptura is not a minor detail, if that’s what you’re suggesting. It’s one of the main reasons why Protestantism even exists as a separate religion (or sect, or sub-religion, or whatever you want to call it). Protestantism exists because of many things that many so-called American Protestants don’t believe in, e.g. Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, etc.. The fact is that “Protestantism” in the USA has drifted away from its roots just as much as other religions, which is why I object to your theory that (mostly reform) Jews and Catholics in the USA have essentially become Protestant. There may be a generic “American religion” or even “American Christianity” that people of different religions have drifted towards over the years, but it’s not Protestant in any meaningful sense, although it may have elements borrowed from Protestantism (as well as other religions). I do, however, agree with your overall point about the need for religions to assimilate into one model in order to function together successfully in one society. We’re probably just quibbling about semantics.

    Related to Roman’s point, I don’t think there’s any country that can be called a modern multicultural success story. This isn’t to say that the UK, USA, Canada, etc. are failures, just that there are still quite a few kinks to work out, to say the least.

  • Danny · November 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    @David Hume

    It does it make a confusing term though; for example, a major trait of what I would call American Protestantism is many waves of revivalism which has resulted in breathtaking religious proliferation. Catholicism & Judaism in the USA have not had the same dynamic.

    I happen to think that a general Western perspective would be more helpful; thus Reform Judaism say in Germany, England and the USA resemble each other because they faced the same obstacles and came up with the same solution. Catholics in the UK and in its white dominions had to face a broadly similar environment as in the USA, and so on.

  • Author comment by David Hume · November 1, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    We’re probably just quibbling about semantics.

    yes. i am well aware of what you’re talking about, and in a worldwide context your objection makes more sense.

    (though to be honest, i don’t think sola scriptura was either necessary or sufficient for the reformation; wycliff and many others anticipated this, but the particular configurations of the protestant reformation were contingent on a lot of other parameters. the theological outcome was very diverse, with protestants exhibiting more range in theology than catholics)

    This isn’t to say that the UK, USA, Canada, etc. are failures, just that there are still quite a few kinks to work out, to say the least.

    these are qualitatively different too. UK is 80-90% white british (large interval because the 3rd or 4th generation of ashkenazi jews, or 10-15th generation of french protestants, etc., probably don’t identify themselves as “white other” like recent polish immigrants). canada has a huge regionally concentrated french speaking minority. etc. the USA is 65-70% white non-hispanic.

    for example, a major trait of what I would call American Protestantism is many waves of revivalism which has resulted in breathtaking religious proliferation. Catholicism & Judaism in the USA have not had the same dynamic.

    neither group seems to have the fissiparous tendency of radical protestants. that being said, american judaism has become more ‘traditionalist’ over the past few generations as the reform movement, for example, has become more secure about its place on the american scene. and perhaps the reformation of the american catholic church by the irish hierarchy at about the same time as the second great awakening can be thought of as a revival as well?

  • Clark · November 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Canada is much more interesting on the multicultural front than Britain, for the reasons you mention. It’s also very interesting comparing Canada, which went heavily multiculturalist in the late 70’s and accelerated through the late 90’s, with America and it’s melting pot metaphor. I agree with you that culture wars are an intrinsic part of Americian progress. I’ll not repeat my comments I made at Gene Expression. I just think culture wars are important in order to find ideas to put into the “core” of American shared culture. And I think America’s strength is that this core has been successful at adopting ideas from many peoples but also amazingly succesful at assimiliating other groups. The current big worry is Mexicans but I honestly think that if the core of American culture has been tested pragmatically that it will assimilate those groups as well (and perhaps even helpfully export a lot of that to Mexico)

    The problem I see in Canada (and many of my friends and family disagree) is that this sort of inquiry is cut off in preference for “elites” who decide what is done. Canadian politics and culture evolved quite differently from the US (especially after the Revolution with the Loyalists fleeing to Canada). So the Canadian population is much more accomadating of such “top down” directives. And I don’t want to say Canada is a failure. Far from it. In many areas it is more successful. Just that I’m very skeptical it has a shared culture to hold it together. The tensions with Quebec through much of its history are but one example as is the cultural conflict between the west and the rest of Canada. In a certain way there is far more diversity amongst provinces than there are states in the US, as much as one likes to think of Utah, Texas, New York and so forth as quite different. (Actually after living there, I’ll put Louisiana as an outlier although that might be changing)

  • Clark · November 1, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    To add, I also think it clear that a strong Canadian nationalism has been developing the past decade which is of a sort of movement counter to the multicultural tendencies even if it’s not obvious on the face. So, for instance, pride in the medical system is a part of core identity now.

  • Author comment by David Hume · November 1, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    quebec should secede. and anglophone canada should join USA. we tried to get nova scotia during the revolution, i think though their subsidy from britain was so high or something that they balked. not worth it.

  • Clark · November 1, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    LOL. Speaking as a Nova Scotian I think you’ll find few at the time wanted to come. It was a hotbed of Loyalists and a lot of Americans fled persecution by the rebels to come to Nova Scotia.

    Of course we then got screwed when Ottawa decided to start bribing Quebec in the 20th century. But that’s an other story…

  • muffy · November 2, 2009 at 2:28 am

    ” It’s also very interesting comparing Canada, which went heavily multiculturalist in the late 70’s and accelerated through the late 90’s, with America and it’s melting pot metaphor. ”

    This was around the time the melting pot metaphor was more or less falling out of favor in the USA, at least in an academic setting. While I was in school in the USA in the late 90s to 2000s, we were told all about the wonders of multiculturalism and how the “melting pot” model is just not in style anymore. I think “stew” was the preferred term.

  • Roman · November 2, 2009 at 4:09 am

    @muff

    “Related to Roman’s point, I don’t think there’s any country that can be called a modern multicultural success story. This isn’t to say that the UK, USA, Canada, etc. are failures, just that there are still quite a few kinks to work out, to say the least.”

    Of course they do, but when you compare, say, France with the UK, it is obvious that UK multiculturalism fares much better (because there is much less economical discrimination of non-white people).

    As for the argument about London bombings: 8 years after WTC, could a Muslim woman walk on a NYC street with a scarf on her head, without fear of being singled out and looked on with animosy? Because in London, there is no animosy towards the traditional Muslims, despite these (more recent) bombings. In fact, I saw very little displays of racism in London — the only racist remark I heard was when a black guy told me “all whites are pigs”.

    I am aware of the problems UK has with racial tensions, but, for me, the benefits of multiculturalism far outweigh the costs. Anyway, USA had antisemitic pogroms as recently as in 1992… (Crown Heights riot in NYC).

  • Roman · November 2, 2009 at 4:10 am

    @Roman

    I should have written “Of course there are”.

  • hrm · November 2, 2009 at 4:13 am

    “quebec should secede. and anglophone canada should join USA.”

    and vancouver should secede and join china. and the dixie states should secede and reinstate segregation. and the southwestern states should secede and join mexico.

    how far do you want to break it down to maintain this illusion of uniformity?

  • abb3w · November 2, 2009 at 7:45 am

    @Don

    You might want to look into the work of Jonathan Haidt; in particular, the paper “When morality opposes justice”. Defining and use of INGROUP for conception/expression of ethics marks conservatives; liberals focus on FAIR and HARM to the exclusion of the other three flavors.

  • muffy · November 2, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Roman, it depends what you mean by “success.” In France, there is probably more discrimination against Muslims with outwardly displays of their faith (e.g. the headscarf ban in schools). However, there are some polls that do indicate that French Muslims are more moderate than British ones (e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/may/07/muslims-britain-france-germany-homosexuality). There are also polls (e.g. http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=801) that indicate that French are less prejudiced against Muslims than the British are. Then again, there’s also polls that show that the British are less likely to hold negative stereotypes of Muslims (e.g. http://www.parapundit.com/archives/003551.html). How do you define success, and once you do, how do you measure it? You shouldn’t rely on anecdotal data, as you seem to be doing.

  • Matt Springer · November 2, 2009 at 10:49 am

    As for the argument about London bombings: 8 years after WTC, could a Muslim woman walk on a NYC street with a scarf on her head, without fear of being singled out and looked on with animosy?

    Yes. Have you ever been to NYC?

    For that matter, I saw a woman in a full-blown niqab recently in a supermarket with (presumably) her husband in the heart of Bush country Texas, shopping peacefully. Frankly I find the sight of a niqab in America to be deeply off-putting and entirely anathema to the idea of a nation where both sexes are free and independent citizens. But it was what is was, and no one bothered them.

  • Author comment by David Hume · November 2, 2009 at 10:54 am

    yeah, that was a really strange rhetorical question. NYC has a rather large muslim population. though i guess more queens than manhattan, right. probably the niqab would attract less attention in new york partly because there are lots of attention-seeking weirdos around which makes it seems less annoying. when i go to new york (regularly) muslims in atypical garb catch the eye a lot less than other transgressive types.

  • Clark · November 2, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Muffy, there definitely was a push towards multiculturalism everywhere in the 70’s. I think though that despite the change of language in the US that the US never seriously embraced multiculturalism the way Canada did. At best the switch from melting pot to stew (which isn’t much of a metaphoric change) meant more tolerance to groups that weren’t tolerated much at all before. (i.e. expanding acceptance beyond Europeans as the civil rights movement progressed) So while I agree there were huge changes in the US relative to racism and civil rights I’m very skeptical you saw a dramatic shift in practice about American culture. Plus even that shift, from what I can see, didn’t go too far.

    Contrast this to Canada which did a pretty dramatic shift from being basically little Britain into something radically different.

  • Roman · November 2, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Frankly I find the sight of a niqab in America to be deeply off-putting and entirely anathema to the idea of a nation where both sexes are free and independent citizens.

    Why do you automatically assume it is a sign of oppression? I think this is a symptom of your prejudice.

    http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2006-09-01-abulughod-en.html

  • Oran Kelley · November 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Interesting, though I’m not at all sure there’s a problem related to this.

    I think pretty much the same thing will happen with these immigrants as happened with prior waves–they’ll be slowly assimilated into the cultural whole over three generations or so, regardless of the visions of multicultualists.

    I think the ONLY thing that’ll mess that up is the intervention of busybodies of the right with language requirements and oppressive one-culturalist measures.

    The system of assimilation works very well here, we ought to just leave it alone.

    I think if we looked we’d find that the more strongly a culture asserts itself vis-a-vis newcomers, the worse its success at assimilation.

  • Eoin · November 2, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Roman’s arguments, boiled down to their core, are multiculturalism as nationalism. *We* are better than the French, or the Americans. Or the Spanish.

    In fact the English are not very multicultural at all, except to live amongst – with no knowledge of – other cultures in their 20’s in London, and then retire to the Cotswolds. A movement of the upper middle classes which is unique in history. Diversity is loved from a distance. Welsh and Gaelic are as unknown as before, even though they are indigenous to the Island, the increase in halloween practice gets their goat up even though it spread to the US from the United Kingdom ( just not England),and this comes replete with Anti-Americanism too, and anti-EUropeanism. In the last EU elections the (governing) labour party lost votes to any number of nationalist parties, from the BNP, the English nationalists, to Scottish, Irish, cornish, Welsh and even UK anti-European nationalists. Nationalism -it hasnt gone away you know.

    As for the reaction against Islam since 9/11, while that is true amongst the elites ( who have instead gone into a virulent anti-Catholic stupor) it is not true amonsgst the working classes, as the internet proves.

    France on the other hand, with it’s forced secular integrationist model, sees only 10-20% of Muslims go to the Mosque. The UK is the European centre of honour killings, and anti-semitism, and imman led anti-homosexuality, none of hich is reported in case it gets in the way of some Guardian led Catholic bashing. Which is, of course, also nationalist.

    So no go with the UK, I am afraid. I like the French model.

  • Roman · November 3, 2009 at 3:52 am

    @Eoin

    “Roman’s arguments, boiled down to their core, are multiculturalism as nationalism. *We* are better than the French, or the Americans. Or the Spanish.”

    But I am not British! I am just an immigrant working in the UK. If UK was so nationalistic and xenophobic as you claim, then surely I would experience it as well.

    “Diversity is loved from a distance.”

    True, and that’s what I love about living here — nobody’s sticking their nose in my life, and I don’t stick my nose in theirs.

  • ElamBend · November 4, 2009 at 6:35 am

    Roman,
    What you are writing about America shows that you have a misunderstanding of life here. It’s understandable if you haven’t been here and only exposure is t.v. and news but let me provide you with some anecdotes.

    First of all, there are many native born Muslims in the US. They are all over, but there are also large communities. Dearborn Michigan is home to a very large (mostly Arab) Muslim community. My home town Chicago is also home to a large Arab Muslim (Bridgeport) and South Asian Muslim communities. (Devon Street)

    As for your comment on a woman wearing a hijab in New York. I flew into New York a couple of years ago and as I went through security, one of the security people (it’s called TSA here) was a woman in a hijab! In Detroit’s airport, I think half the security staff are drawn from the local Arab population and most of the women wear hijab.

  • J. J. Ramsey · November 5, 2009 at 9:57 am

    muffy :

    muffy

    I really wish you actually defined the term “Protestant.” It sounds like you’re using that word to refer to any Christian who isn’t Catholic (or Orthodox).

    From what I can see, the working definition of “Protestant” being used is implied in this quote from “David Hume”: “This may pose problems, as I agree with Winnifred Sullivan’s argument in The Impossibility of Religious Freedom that one of the ways in which the American religious injunction toward neutrality was made practicable was that religion qua religion was fundamentally shaped by a belief-centric (orthodoxy) Protestant model.” Protestants here are characterized by a tendency to think of religion as a system of beliefs that can be entertained privately rather than a system of practices that require a public infrastructure to carry out.

  • Secular Right » American, a dissenting Protestant nation? · November 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    […] my post Religious diversity & its discontents I referred to America as a “Protestant nation.” This caused some confusion because as […]

  • georgesdelatour · November 7, 2009 at 2:10 am

    @Roman

    I once asked a Muslim man why he didn’t wear a Burqa. He said it would be humiliating for a man to wear one.

  • Roman · November 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    @georgesdelatour

    Ask a European man why isn’t he wearing a bra?

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