I have been reading some modern African literature (particularly Chimamanda Adichie) and note the presence of European Christian missionaries in the narratives. The European imperialists seem intent on simple plunder, but the missionary role is much more sinister IMHO.
It is understandable that someone might think that they have discovered a religious or other truth, even share it as a personal happiness, but the effort to foist this on others is something else. Then to take this mindset to another country and trample on that country's cultural history, wiping out their traditions, beliefs and conventions, even their language, is beyond me. Of course such mindset is not confined to religion, considering Mao's China and Stalin's Russia, but to do it in the name of goodwill is very hard to swallow.
The African writers have been remarkably restrained in their descriptions of this practice, which I guess makes them more readable. But, the darkness of the missionary mindset comes through.
I am wondering where this level of arrogance comes from, and how it is so easily clothed in religious 'goodwill' ?
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@Dworkin: Have you figured out the difference between Atheism and Agnosticism?
As far as foisting beliefs and values on others, it's not just a religious thing. Cultures have been doing this, religious or not, all throughout history. Governments do it, religions do it, corporations do it, and organizations do it.
I agree that there is a psychological grounding in our desire to dominate. I have even seen evidence of this on internet discussion forums! My interest on this thread is about doing it in the name of religion.
PS - I remember a sketch in the old 'Fast Show' on UK TV. Harry Enfield says " You don't do it like that, you do it like this."
"My interest on this thread is about doing it in the name of religion. "
It is happening right in front of our eyes, all we have to do is observe.
I know a very balanced and rational Jehovah's Witness who served his missionary work in North East France. Think about that for a second. An offshoot cult decide their brand of religion is superior to what is practiced in the very heart and hotbed of Catholicism? Anyone familiar with the Knights Templar know that that region played a significant part in it's history.
It is a fundamental fact that each distinct religious sect sincerely believe they are practicing the true intent of their god. My god is the right god. Period.
Agreed. What I noticed in the African writers is the way that populations might seem to take on the Christian message but still behave as if they were relating to the old tribal gods. This is reasonable as the words used by the Christian missionaries would not have denotation for tribal Africans who had never been out of their own regions.
Amusingly, there is something of this for us in the West. Judeo Christianity took hold well enough here in the UK, but our Xmas holidays just resemble the old midwinter festivals of Northern Europe, with all the trimmings, feasting and general bonhomie that would have been present without any of the Christian import.
Of course, general populations and lovesick evangelists are different creatures. There is a book I like, by Willa Cather, called 'Death comes for the Archbishop'. It is about a missionary who lives apparently successfully among the Pueblo Indians until one day they just chuck him off a cliff. Lovely.
"What I noticed in the African writers is the way that populations might seem to take on the Christian message but still behave as if they were relating to the old tribal gods. This is reasonable as the words used by the Christian missionaries would not have denotation for tribal Africans who had never been out of their own regions."
This is a pattern that is an integral part of the history of christianity. A great part of christianity is borrowed/stolen stories from previous, older cultures. The story of the great flood comes from an ancient Babylonian flood myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Easter is just a derivative of pagan spring fertility rituals. But all of that originates from the Roman culture, of integrating conquered societies so that once conquered, they remain conquered.
But we are losing sight of the big picture.
It is not just Africa, missionaries have always been the leading edge of conquest for a nation/culture. That was played out in Australia and all of the Americas, and attempted in India and China.
First discovery, then exploration, then missionaries, then soldiers before everyone joins the Borg collective ... or they perish.
The missionary mindset is expressed very clearly many popular books from the mid nineteenth to well into the twentieth century.
Some popular films based on some of those novels include "The Keys to The Kingdom" and "The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness" . Both justifying the colonialisation and attempted conversion of China. Each is quite a good film in its own right if you ignore the propaganda.
As for the root cause of the missionary mentality, there are a few which come to mind:
Notions of white superiority, as expressed in the theories of racialism and eugenics were widespread until the Second World war.It wasn't just the Nazis who thought the so called white races were superior.
Of course Imperialists needed a rationalisation for going into another country, taking it over and looting it whilst decimating the existing population..
This superior attitude was build on wilful ignorance. Firsts on the notion that the use of tools clearly showed the intelligence of a people. That attitude allowed colonisation of North America, and Africa especially.
The imperialist ignored the great civilisations of the past, in China, India, SE Asia , Africa (Egypt, an African civilisation) as well as contemporary civilisations in South and Central America
The the books and poems of Rudyard Kipling clearly show the imperial attitude. The poem "The White Man's Burden" is an excellent example.***
In case all that wasn't enough, the missionary had the gospels, which were interpreted as DEMANDING christian proselytise any peoples who knew not Jesus, to save their souls. .
I can think of two broad ideas;
Jesus is reported as saying: "No one comes to the father except through me" . I looked it up and found TWENTY gospel entries supporting this idea. So a very powerful admonition.
Jesus is also reported as saying Christians should preach to all nations. The link below is to a list of 26 verses supporting this admonition.
Part of the staggering arrogance of imperialism is rationalisation for immoral behaviour. Human beings have always been highly skilled at justifying literally any behaviour seen to be to our advantage.
Oh, I left out the fascinating a notion of 'Manifest Destiny" popular in nineteenth century America to justify western expansion****
Beneath all of the humbug was an often fervent belief that to colonise of inferior people was doing them a huge favour. After all, the Victorian culture of the nineteenth century was seen by the Victorians as the acme of civilisation .(My reference 'The Victorians', A N Wilson)
***The White Man's Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands (1899), by Rudyard Kipling, is a poem about the Philippine–American War (1899–1902), which exhorts the United States to assume colonial control of the Filipino people and their country.
Kipling originally wrote the poem to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (22 June 1897), but it was replaced with the sombre poem "Recessional" (1897), also a Kipling work about empire. He rewrote "The White Man's Burden" to encourage American colonisation and annexation of the Philippine Islands, a Pacific Ocean archipelago conquered in the three-month Spanish–American War (1898). As a poet of imperialism, Kipling exhorts the American reader and listener to take up the enterprise of empire, yet warns about the personal costs faced, endured, and paid in building an empire; nonetheless, American imperialists understood the phrase The white man's burden to justify imperial conquest as a mission-of-civilisation that is ideologically related to the continental-expansion philosophy of Manifest Destiny of the early 19th century.
"Manifest destiny was a widely-held cultural belief in the 19th-century United States that its settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to manifest destiny:
The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America
An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty
Historian Frederick Merk says this concept was born out of "a sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example ... generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven"."
What an excellent response. I couldn't have expected better and will reread several times, noting your references.
Thanks for that.
The missionary mindset, huh?... *scratching head in contemplation*... By chance, would that be anything like the missionary position?
"The missionary mindset, huh?... *scratching head in contemplation*... By chance, would that be anything like the missionary position?"
I guess that would depend on the missionary .
It IS true that for centuries, the Church taught that the missionary position wast the only approved position for fucking. I'm unaware of the official church teaching about the sodomising of little boys. I suspect there may have been some unofficial defacto rule.
@cranky47: Nice overview.
@ “ The missionary mindset ”
‘fuckin outside activities ...I’m missing all the “indoor sports”. I got excited about the thread title - wasn’t at all what I expected.
One place where the destructive missionaries met their match was Japan. Portuguese and Spanish missionaries established a foothold during a period of war and confusion in Japan. But Tokugawa Ieyasu, who unified Japan in the early 17th century, rightly saw the Catholic missionaries as tools of Spanish colonialism. He banned Christianity and supplied the church with a substantial number of martyrs.
I wonder if someone who spends their time actively working to educate folks about what atheism really is could be called a missionary. Or maybe we could call someone who fights to keep religion out of government could be called a missionary. Seems to me that a missionary is someone on a mission....and that is NOT solely owned by the religious.
@Cyber: I made the same point above and got poo-pooed. The OP is only interested in Religious Missions..... I don't get it either. Seems pretty much like human nature to me.
So sorry I didn’t read your post first...didn’t mean to copy.
You make a good point. I tend to avoid anyone who is on a mission of any kind, just as a personal thing. However, I can draw a distinction between someone selling double glazing and someone wanting to close down my freedom of thought.
I remember specifically mentioning Mao and Stalin in the OP as relating to the missionary mindset, although I have met some doorstep double glazing salesmen with just a hint of the madness.
@Dworkin: When you give up your fucking dipshit mission to be "Agnostic" I will believe you. Until then I am engaging in Hasty generalization and based on past discussions can not trust a fucking thing you say....
I'm inclined to agree with you. No worries, as long as I don't meet the fate of Socrates in 399bc! Of course I would have a choice, likely the same as his.
@Dworkin: It's not "Me" you are agreeing with. It's basic definitions and logic. Anyone on the site will tell you the exact same thing. As for the fate of Socrates, Christians are some of the most unforgiving assholes on the planet. Good luck there.
"One place where the destructive missionaries met their match was Japan"
I once read that the Japanese don't understand irony. Yet under Tokugawa Ieyasu the Japanese crucified a lot of Christians.
Pretty sure christianity didn't do all that well in China either nor in any other country which already had Buddhism or Hinduism . There were a lot of Catholics in Vietnam at one stage , a souvenir of French colonisation. That and really nice bread.
It was fortunate for Japan that they eventually had the emperor Meiji , who prevented Japan being colonised. In Thailand, it was King MongKut. Thailand was the only SE Asian country not colonised by europeans.
The mind boggling arrogance of Christians who presumed beliefs superior to older and easily as sophisticated religions never ceases to amaze.***
I've always wanted to see if any studies have been done which suggest explanations for such apparently large scale human sacrifice in the Americas. I'm willing to bet there are pragmatic explanations. There usually are in religious beliefs and practices. Even if it's something as prosaic as social control.
Just before Meiji became emperor, Japan had an "Independence Day" moment when a fleet of American steam-powered ships entered a Japanese port and threatened to burn Edo (Tokyo) to the ground if the Japanese didn't open up their ports. The task of these military missionaries was to make the world safe for whaling. Their arrival was perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the tottering feudal government. Faced with overwhelming technological superiority, Japan was forced at gunpoint to open diplomatic relations. The first US ambassador was fittingly played in a movie by John Wayne.
Meiji sent a mission to America to see what made them so strong. He later commanded his government never to go to war with the US.
" He later commanded his government never to go to war with the US."
I didn't know that. Always thought he was pretty bright. I'm also aware that there were senior men in the Japanese military who were against the attack on Pearl Harbour. .
I guess some of the military (AND Hirohito, ,who was always culpable, imo) may have gotten a bit uppity. What with giving the weak Russians a bloody nose in 1905 and later their success against a supine China .---One could be forgiven for thinking there is indeed a god and that he has a wonderfully black sense of humour
If someone wants to give to those in need around the world without the strings of religion attached, Doctors without Borders and UNICEF appear, to me, to be some pretty safe choices, but of course, no organization is without critics.
@Homer: Doctors without Borders and UNICEF appear, to me, to be some pretty safe choices
Also Save the Children.
@Homer: Isn't it great that religion is dying in the USA. Soon there will be no more mindless fucks. Now that is something to smile about. Is there an organization that supports Empty Pew Syndrome?
I think it's great that people have the right to belong to whatever religion or belong to no religion and that religion and government are not bound together in the USA.
I'm glad that you are free to start an organization to support that syndrome if you wish.
@Homer Re: "I think it's great that people have the right to belong to whatever religion or belong to no religion and that religion and government are not bound together in the USA."
Ho-ly hell.... *jaw hitting floor*... In what fantasy la-la world are YOU living?.... *skeptical look*... NO WAY you can be THAT naive and clueless...
I absolutely agree it is great that people in the US are technically by law allowed to worship in whatever religion the choose. I proudly spent over seventeen years in the militery helping to protect those rights. However, try running for any public office while outwardly claiming to be an atheist or - better yet - maybe a Satanist. If you are lucky, the worst that will happen is maybe a few death threats and a gaggle of protesters outside your home. And you actually have the cajones to make the statement, "religion and government are not tied together"?... LMAO... Wake up, dude. Pull your head out of that fruity little haze and maybe take a peek at reality every now and then.
Not sure how I can help you with that one. I want people to vote for moderate candidates that work to try and balance all views vs the crappy partisan candidates we get. I haven't seen a real moderate make it out of primaries in my neck of the woods for decades.
People vote who they vote for. What do you propose be done to help your dire situation?
@Homer Re: "What do you propose be done to help your dire situation?"
MY dire situation??? Hate to disappoint, but MY situation is not dire at all. Matter of fact, compared to many other people during this pandemic turmoil, my situation is rather great. No help required. And you obviously missed the point of what I said. Please allow me to try again...
You made a statement saying our government is not tied in with religion. And according to our constitution, that is exactly the way it SHOULD be. Seperation of church and state. Sound familiar? Sadly, that is not the reality. And one of the primary reasons for that lack of seperation is because of that ancient book you claim helps you to "increase your fruit." And whether it is intentional ignorance, or whether you just simply cannot comprehend it, that book is used by way too many people in our government to justify bias, hatred, and bigotry toward whatever individuals/groups who do not think/believe/act the same as they do.
I am not a political person. I absolutely DESPISE politics. And despite the fact I was never a truly devout Christian, that damn book and the "teachings" within it maintained a torturous hold on me for most of my life due to my indoctrination as a child. As such, when - for example - there was the lobbying to remove prayer from schools and to remove the Ten Commandments from in front of courthouses several years ago, I was appalled at what was happening. "How DARE they try to do such things! What is WRONG with those godless cretins? This is AMERICA! We believe in GOD!" That is how I was raised. Never mind the fact I always had doubts about religion. Never mind the fact that the thought of going to church made me uncomfortable. Never mind the fact I thought praying was kinda pointless. None of that mattered. Because I had been conditioned my whole life to believe the bible (YOUR bible), and the "teachings" therein, was to be followed as "The Law of the Land." That is a thought that now makes me shudder with discomfort.
Keep in mind, I was a SKEPTIC about religion. I had always questioned it. Yet I STILL got upset when prayer and the ten commandments were challenged. Now, consider those people IN OFFICE who absolutely, wholeheartedly, without-a-doubt believe in the bible (in their own personal interpretations of it, that is) and use their positions to try to force others to follow that book the same as they do. That is called D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S. Sadly, I never saw that until AFTER I managed to escape from the brainwashing that plagued my mind for decades.
So, while I do defend that people should be allowed to worship (or not worship) as they choose, I DO NOT condone those in public offices trying to delegate how everybody else should believe/think. Keep their religious shit to themselves. And while you are picking and choosing all the comfy-feel-good-tooty-fruity parts of the bible that give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, you might want to pull your head out of your fruit basket now and then and face the reality that there are folks out there in charge who use that same book and follow it far more strictly. And given the opportunity, those same people would happily and joyously lay bloody waste to any (atheists, homosexuals, Satanists, etc.) who would not bow down to their precious book and the god therein. The VERY SAME book and the VERY SAME god/Jesus you claim that helps you "increase your fruit." So, you might want to consider retracting your statement that government and religion are not tied together. It makes you look even more foolish and delusional than you have already managed to do previously.