Most atheists are not white & other non-fairy tales

By Razib Khan | November 18, 2010 2:46 am

Xunzi
Xunzi

Over at Comment is Free Belief (where I am an occasional contributor) there is an interesting post up, The accidental exclusion of non-white atheists. Actually, I disagree with the thrust of the post pretty strongly. But here’s the important section:

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, PZ Myers, James Randi … if you’re a regular Cif belief reader, you’ll already have spotted the pattern – these are the names of arguably the most prominent, outspoken atheists and “sceptics” in the world. There’s something else you should notice – they are all white men. The atheist and sceptic movements are dominated by white men and I think this is a problem.

I was involved in an atheist organization in my younger years. The president was a Eurasian woman, and I was the vice president. The treasurer had a Muslim Arab father, so I suppose we didn’t fit this profile. But I think the generalization holds. But I don’t think it’s a problem really for the Richard Dawkins of the world. In fact, there isn’t even that big of a deficit when it comes to non-whites if you look at it from a world wide perspective. The World Values Survey asks people if they fall into the categories “Religious Person”, “Not a Religious Person”, or “Convinced Atheist.” Below are some bar plots from the 5th and 4th waves, take in the mid-2000s and around 2000 respectively.

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As you can see the most secular nations in the world are those of East Asia, in particular what are often termed “Confucian societies.” It is likely therefore that the majority of the world’s atheists are actually East Asian. So why no East Asian atheist movement? Because historically East Asian nations have not placed an exclusive institutional religious identity at the center of their elite political culture. This was one of the reasons that many 18th century Enlightenment philosophers exhibited a fair amount of Sinophilia.

Though I accept the arguments of scholars that Confucius would be defined as a theist today, the earliest teachings attributed to him tend to be strongly biased away from metaphysical speculation and toward a worldly consequentialism. The third great Confucian, after Mencius and Confucius himself, Xunzi, seems to have been a more explicitly materialist. Xunzi strikes me in some ways as the Thomas Hobbes of the classical Chinese sages.

In any case, the cultural and institutional Confucianism which was the dominant elite ideology in East Asia for nearly 2,000 years was not atheistic and secularist as such. Even Xunzi defended the necessity of rites and reverence for a well ordered society. The Chinese state subsidized and encouraged particular sects, and discouraged others. The key point is that religious movements were always subordinate to the elite culture, which itself tended to look more and more suspiciously upon manifestations of religious enthusiasm. With all due respect to Daoism the most prominent organized religion in East Asia has been Buddhism, and the suppression of the power of the Buddhist sangha in 9th century China, 14th century Korea, 16th Japan, and early modern Vietnam, all attest to the reality that when organized religion becomes, well, too organized, in Confucian societies it is brought to heel. In other words the process of the decoupling of church and state which arguably began in Protestant Europe with the secularization of church lands during the Reformation and came to fruition over the next few centuries has long been a feature of East Asian civilization in smaller less catastrophic doses. All the Emperors of China were their own Henry VIII, defenders and destroyers of the faith.*

With these facts under our belt, it is easier to understand that atheist propagandists from d’Holbach to Dawkins are products of a particular historical experience. The transformation of Christendom to the West, the counter-reaction on the part of organized Christianity, and the eruption of “New Atheism” in its own turn as a response to the rise of a muscular Christianity in a post-Christian age. Even those in the West who espouse multiculturalism and consider themselves identified with racial minority subcultures have a very difficult time conceptualizing any dynamic where the West is not the center or standard. Generally all conflicts and dynamics are assumed to be a combination of the West vs. something else.

ukreligionTo the left is data from the UK census on religion and ethnicity. Notice that the plural majority of Chinese in Britain have “No Religion.” Blacks differ whether they are of direct African origin, or from the Diaspora in the West Indies. It is among South Asians you see a strong definite identification with religion. This pattern is repeated internationally. What you’re seeing are deep rooted cultural patterns, a tendency to fuse religious and ethnic-national identities, in particular among South Asians. I will grant that there are differences of kind here. While it is common knowledge that Jawaharlal Nehru, the founder of modern India, was an agnostic, the personal lack of deep religious piety of the founder of modern Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is obfuscated by many modern Pakistanis (the fact even that he was from an Ismaili Shia background is also hidden).

All the Hemant Mehtas and Alorn Shahas will not change the structural parameters which make atheism, and irreligious attitudes in general, taboo, discouraged, or rare, among South Asians. India, unlike Pakistan or Bangladesh, has long had prominent irreligious politicians and movements, from the atheism of the Communist parties and the Dravidian movement, to individual politicians such as George Fernandes. And yet Indians remain a religious people by and large, with strong communal orientations.

I am not a role model!
I am not a role model!

In the near future British Asians (South Asians) seem likely to be insulating themselves from the broader dynamics in Western society toward secularization. They intermarry with other groups at very low rates, despite being less than 5% of the British population, and fragmented even amongst themselves. When aggressive secularists like Dawkins attack Islam in the same manner in which they attack Christianity, they’re accused of Islamophobia. In the USA mainstream liberals like Josh Marshall look skeptically upon the ‘odd confluence’ between Christian religious fundamentalists and New Atheists in their attitudes toward Islam. And it isn’t just Islam. In late 2004 a group of Sikhs in Britain rioted because of a blasphemous play. Here’s what went down:

With its depiction of rape and murder within a Sikh temple, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s drama was bound to upset critics who felt that its title Behzti – Dishonour – encapsulated the slur it cast on their faith. But few anticipated that a small-scale production by a young playwright could spark the violent confrontation that this weekend resulted in thousands of pounds worth of damage and clashes with riot police at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

This is not an atypical expression of “communal” outrage which occasionally flairs up in South Asia. Though in this case the outrage was directed against a heterodox member of the community.

The overall point I’m making is that we need to take cultural difference seriously. Just as East Asians are relatively secular because of their particular distinctive history, so South Asian culture and society has been shaped by its religious commitments in a very deep manner. Of course this sort of reflexive and explicit confessional outlook does not have to necessarily persist. To be French was to be Catholic until the emergence of a public non-Catholic element within French society during and after the Revolution. The prominence of Buddhism in Korean culture under the Silla and Goryeo gave way to marginalization under the Joseon. But these changes did not happen through better role models, rather, they were the outcome of an uprooting of the basic cultural presuppositions of the defining elites. The sort of multiculturalism which is currently being promoted in Britain right now arguably serves as a check on these sorts of transformations. Amartya Sen has argued so. The problem lies not with atheist organizations and Richard Dawkins, but a national elite which crystallized and solidifies specific parameters which define a recognized subculture in a multicultural order. I would argue that this is a case where the American model, where there is less state guiding of cultural hybridization and coexistence, gives more leeway for individual personal self-exploration and definition.

* This is not to say that East Asia is necessarily a haven for a critical rationalist perspective, what with the prominence of Chinese medicine, geomancy, Korean shamanism, and New Religious Movements in Japan.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Religion
MORE ABOUT: Atheism, Religion
  • http://richardprins.com Richard Prins

    Seems a bit W.E.I.R.D.

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  • Jenn

    I think western atheists often forget that Christianity is extremely influential in all forms of western society, and that the same privilege doesn’t hold true for other religions. I think criticism on non-western religion is best served by non-western atheists familiar with specific cultural influences because then such a discussion is easier to contextualize.

    I’m a Sri Lankan woman and an atheist (lapsed catholic) and I am also quite wary of how white and male the public face of atheism is. I am not a fan of Richard Dawkins at all; his books harbour xenophobic, racist and mysogynistic elements and the same critism holds even true for Christopher Hitchens. I think it is often true that women and people of colour who are atheists feel marginalised in atheist circles because there is a trend in white atheism to misguidedly tend to see racism and sexism (and other -isms) as rooted in religion rather than seeing religions as being absorbent of wider problems in society. This means they are less open to accepting criticism of their own problems with intolerance.

  • twl

    So 20% UK Chinese are Christian? Since Buddhism is ‘native’ to East Asia/NE India it’s interesting that in the UK Christianity has over-taken Buddhism as they must be recent converts away from Buddhism or ‘no religion’/atheism. Christianity is also rising in China – there are now up to 130 million Christians according to the PRC. Perhaps the majority of East Asians won’t remain atheist much longer and that something about the modern world is making them devout, specifically drawing them to Christianity, rather than any other religion, and away from ‘no religion’? I believe something similar is happening in South Korea.

  • http://mindofafreethinker.blogspot.com/ Lisa Bullock

    I think the reason most of the “big” names in atheism today are men is because men are still dominating in science. We need more women to go into the science field. I believe as time goes on and more and more women keep getting educated, and done so more than men, that we will find a lot more women speaking out. I for one just recently really found my voice on atheism even though I had always been a skeptic. It was not until I really started studying philosophy in college that I began to speak out.

  • jeet

    130 million Christians out of how many total mainland Chinese? In Taiwan, where missionaries have been much freer than in the mainland and for longer, the proportion of Christians hovers at ~5%. As for South Korea, the recent success of Christianity there has a lot to do with Christian aid during the Korean War.

  • bob sykes

    While I have only a passing, minimalist knowledge of Confucius, I was under the impression that he was a deist, not a theist.

    Atheism is an extreme intellectual position that is logically undefendable. It more a psychological/emotional property than the result of sustained reasoning. Of course, Christianity, Judaisn and Islam are the other poles and are reached by a parallel route.

    I believe (yeah, funny) that most people and philosophies have some degree of spiritualism in them. Why is a good question. Evolutionary psychology might have an answer.

    The current advance of Christianity among East Asians (and Africans) is an interesting phenomenon. South Koreans might identify Protestantism with capitalism.

  • VG

    Maybe it’s just my computer screen but I’m finding it difficult to differentiate between the various shades of blue and purple. For a moment I thought a significant number of Indians identified as Jewish!

  • Sandgroper

    #1 – Don’t bet on it, Chinese are famous for mixing and matching religious beliefs, and are also notably both pragmatic and superstitious – being baptised Catholic is useful, in large parts of East Asia the Catholics still run the best primary and secondary schools, but you have to do other stuff for “luck” and to keep the ghosts happy. The Buddhists have the least money and run the worst schools.

    Buddhism is not native to East Asia, it’s a Nepalese import. The majority of East Asians will always be Atheist in belief if not in ritual/practice, just because China dwarfs all other East Asian countries, and the Japanese don’t actually care, they are more interested in Japanese history and culture than motivated by religious belief.

    Honestly, in a country of 1.3 billion people, who gives a damn that there are 130 milion people who claim to be christian? It’s a drop in a bucket, and their idea of christianity is likely to be a long way away from yours. Don’t hold your breath.

    Koreans are totally different. Very weird. They keep inventing their own new christian sects. Chinese are absolutely not like that, they show robotic respect for the traditional and great suspicion of newly invented cultural stuff.

    I am biased, I am Chinese by marriage, but you can check everything I say from other sources, except that the tiny minority of Chinese christians are highly vocal and the vast majority of disbelievers couldn’t give a damn enough to talk about it. Check the Falun Gong numbers – tiny, but hugely vocal and publically dramatic, which is diametrically opposed to their espoused philosophy.

    And, BTW, PRC is olde worlde GOP-speak – the country now just calls itself China. Taiwan quit trying to pretend it was China a long time ago. They are Chinese pragmatists too. And the two are flat out trying to become good buddies, because they understand that there is no benefit in remaining apart and hostile. Thingz haz changed, fast. Time to catch up.

  • Shane

    Sandgroper, when you say “the two are flat out trying to become good buddies” you are speaking only to the political elites of the PRC and one side of Taiwan’s political spectrum- and this is chiefly justified by economic reasoning- not on any reunification or independence basis. Taiwanese people, by and large, have no desire to reunite. The rest either want formal independence (formal being the important word there) or to keep the status quo (probably because China has 1,500 intercontinental ballistic missiles pointed at the island, and are legally obliged to use them in the case of a declaration of independence).

    Meanwhile, the Chinese masses have no true knowledge of the situation in Taiwan nor the attitudes of their “compatriots”. The young ones can’t even fathom, comprehend or tolerate anything of the sort.

    Glad that’s sorted. :)

  • Sandgroper

    #2 – “In Taiwan, where missionaries have been much freer than in the mainland and for longer” – you must be joking.

  • http://mengbomin.wordpress.com/ Meng Bomin

    I have to say that I echo Sandgroper’s observation that the Chinese, while not being particularly theistic, are quite superstitious and do mix and match beliefs. I do not have his level of experience with the country, but I was quite surprised at the level of superstition I found when I went to China last year.

  • Longma

    Yeah I would not count on East Asia becoming more “religious”, especially not Christian in the near future. People have already hit on Korea and China. Japan has been exposed to Christianity for centuries, since the Portuguese, and today only about 2% of them are Christian. They have had Christian PM’s, still, most people are indifferent to religion, and those PMs have done Shinto ceremonies. LOL

  • Sandgroper

    #7 – you have the great good fortune to share with my wife the family name of China’s second greatest philosopher, despite having suspiciously red hair :)

    My own Chinese name in Cantonese is Ma Sek-yi, which is a very good and respectful name in terms of meaning, and which Razib will figure out pretty fast in terms of transliteration, given his amazing cognitive ability.

    Early, I was given the satirical but afffectionate English/Cantonese name “White Horse/baak ma”, given that I am a white man (ostensibly, despite some non-zero Aboriginal ancestry) and my Chinese surname means “horse”. Even a democratically elected member of the Legislative Council adressed me as “White Horse”. I didn’t hold it against her because she was my friend, and a beautiful person. This joke is compounded by the Cantonese expression “baak ma wong ji” which means “white horse prince”, which means the good guy riding the white horse always gets the girl, as in the western movies where the cowboy in the white hat riding the white horse is always the good guy, and I succeeded in marrying a beautiful young Chinese girl, after a looooong time trying. Cross culture is more difficult, but worth it, because …well, you figure it out.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    his books harbour xenophobic, racist and mysogynistic elements

    that’s bullshit. get over yourself. if you’re going to make accusations like that, justify them. otherwise, don’t make them.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    there are now up to 130 million Christians according to the PRC. Perhaps the majority of East Asians won’t remain atheist much longer and that something about the modern world is making them devout, specifically drawing them to Christianity, rather than any other religion, and away from ‘no religion’? I believe something similar is happening in South Korea.

    some of your numbers not correct. you should familiarize yourself with facts before you talk. though there’s something to the confessionalization of korea.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/05/modernization-religion-in-south-korea/

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan


    Atheism is an extreme intellectual position that is logically undefendable.

    don’t make a comment like that without backing it up again or i’ll ban you. you’re intellect doesn’t impress me enough that you can get away with that without investing your capital defending it.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Buddhism is not native to East Asia, it’s a Nepalese import.

    just to be clear, the most likely evidence points to buddhism in china arriving via what is today xinjiang from central asia (bactria, etc.). there are also other cases where it must have come via sea from south india, seeing as how some early worship sites are coastal. but saying buddhism is ‘nepalese’ is like saying christianity is ‘palestinian.’ true in fact but not really useful.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    two rules of thumb for this thread:

    – if you make a serious accusation like “richard dawkins is misogynistic” support it with evidence. i won’t tolerate that sort of thing because you feel like it’s true

    – if you enter into the record a number, google it to check your source. for example, the “130 million christians” is a “private figure” and from what i can gather spread around my evangelicals (it may be true, but only as a very, very, high bound, and other estimates don’t validate that). the ‘official’ number given by the PRC is very small (an underestimate too)

    http://www.christiantoday.com/article/over.23.million.christians.in.china.official.survey.shows/26488.htm

    independent surveys are in the middle, but confused by the fact that many chinese christians are highly heterodex in their beliefs (not too surprising given the history of this thing; e.g., taiping).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    not folllowing the first two rules will probably result in the non-publishment or deletion of a comment from now on. persistence of violation will result in banning. if people don’t contribute novel and interesting facts to this thread, i’ll just close it. i’m not interested in uniformed speculations. almost all of you know less than me on this topic, so be on your best behavior.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    UK Christianity has over-taken Buddhism as they must be recent converts away from Buddhism or ‘no religion’/atheism.

    east asian migrants tend to be

    1) religious assimilators

    2) disproportionately christian in the first place (selection bias)

    3) were never that buddhist to begin with

    #3 crops up because people analogize the position of buddhism in china to that of christianity in their own societies. but the analogy is weak (it does work for buddhism in thailand or cambodia though). western patterns of confessionalization are new to east asia, and most advanced in south korea, and even there christians seem to be topping out at the 30% range. the core sangha in many east asian nations is very small, though a much wider swath of society may participate at some point in buddhist rituals, or avail themselves of the services of a buddhist cleric. are more conventionally confessional form of buddhism has arisen in korea, singapore and taiwan through interaction with christians.

  • omar

    Razib, as you hinted in your own comments, there are more details involved than just nominal adherence to particular religions. In terms of those details, I think your description of South Asian religiosity needs some amendment:
    1. The apparent strong religious identification reflects a “recent” political history that has involved the elites using religion as their main identifier. First with the Muslim invaders from the Northwest (all of whom identified themselves as Muslims versus the local non-Muslim population) and then with the British relying on a religious classification of their subjects (a natural occurrence given their own cultural understanding of religion…remains of which attitude still inform our own tendency to regard Chinese Buddhists as analogous to, say French catholics as an identifiable community, which is misleading as you and others have pointed out).

    The view from the bottom up looks different. If anything, the great mass of Indians seems to have been closer to what you describe as the “East Asian” norm: they were pragmatic, eclectic and highly superstitious and their religions (always far more plural than the simple designation of “Hindu” would imply) were loosely organized. The religion of a typical North Indian village would include many different groups worshiping different gods, all loosely connected to each other in one great pantheon, but not to be confused with a modern Christian or Muslim community and ITS common religion. Even when the explicitly and self-consciously Muslim invaders took over, the local elite dealt with them or tried to deal with them by incorporating their religion into the existing melange…a process that worked both ways to some degree (never totally successfully, but not insignificantly), with Muslim rulers rapidly coming to employ multiples Hindu officials at the highest levels and with the poor population adopting a mishmash of Muslim and hindu practices with relative ease….a process that was always strongly resisted by “orthodox” Muslims but that nonetheless created at least one new religion (Sikhism) and multiple saints, shrines and poets who may be Hindu or Muslim but seem to share the same vaguely mystical, egalitarian and vedantic notions .

    2. Remains of this “east asian” model persist in the polymorphic religious landscape of modern India. The Muslim elite has always claimed a different viewpoint and the modernizing Hindu elite has been trying very hard to “Islamize” and/or “modernize” Hinduism for 200 years (arya samajis, Brahmos, Hindu nationalists of the RSS variety, etc) with some success, but in many ways this success is skin deep. The average Hindu in England may identify as “Hindu”, but what does that mean in terms of belief? If Hindus are very religious then they are different from the superstitious Chinese (most of whose “religion” consists of superstitions regarding auspicious occasions, astrology, Feng-shui, taboos and so on) only in having a more developed pantheon of gods and stories of gods and 1000 years of self-definition versus Muslims and then Christians.
    I am probably not putting this very well…i need more time and have to run, but I will try to develop this with some references. Right now, I am claiming this on the basis that even in recently rigidly Islamicized Pakistan, one can easily see that the folk culture was highly superstitious, but not confessional and exclusive…and people will give what they think is the appropriate answer to a question about religion, but the actual practice is pragmatic, eclectic and very much focused on rituals and traditions rather than confessional beliefs. The difference from China is that the folk traditions and beliefs have not seen the same incredibly violent interruption.
    I will try again soon..

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    If Hindus are very religious then they are different from the superstitious Chinese (most of whose “religion” consists of superstitions regarding auspicious occasions, astrology, Feng-shui, taboos and so on) only in having a more developed pantheon of gods and stories of gods and 1000 years of self-definition versus Muslims and then Christians.

    the difference is collective identity. i’m aware of the folk practices; illiterate bangladeshi peasants who are muslim and hindu pray at the tombs of on my great-grandfathers after all ;-) to become christian is not to lose one’s han identity. but leaving hinduism is a communal rupture. south asian identity, muslim, hindu and syrian christian, etc., has an association with a religious stream, and explicit apostasy disrupts the equilibrium. private disbelief or syncretism is a different thing. a genuinely irreligious segment persistent across generations has not emerged. the atheists in the DMK have grandchildren who go to hindu temples. nehru’s descendants identify as hindu, to the point where priyanka had her husband (who was raised xtian) go through a conversion ceremony (even though she herself is ‘ancestrally’ 1/4 hindu).

    a specific religious identity is not indubitably part of chinese identity. that is not so with many south asians. the main exception with chinese seems to be islam, which alienates han from many core aspects of their culture. in particular, the food, where pork is central. in china today a han who becomes muslims becomes hui, and no longer han. a han who becomes christian is a han christian. the same disjunction is apparent in southeast asia, where chinese who are theravada buddhist or christian remain chinese, but muslim chinese tend to assimilate to the local substrate quickly or become hui.

  • deadpost

    It’s interesting that East Asia has taken a different route to the relationship between “church and state” as the other civilizations. Do you think the heritable predisposition to a “faith instinct” that you mentioned many times could explain any of this? At first I was thought so, but then the astrology, geomancy, folk medicine and other superstitions that the Chinese practiced are probably just manifestations of that basic human drive (like agency detection etc.).

    What is interesting is that in the past I’ve read (I can’t remember the source) old scholar’s ideas that religions naturally, or are organically driven progress from a “primitively” animistic to a polytheistic, to a monotheistic outlook, as societies become more organized politically (ie. That worship of nature spirits and local gods becomes increasingly replaced by a global outlook). This progressive idea of cultural evolution is probably discredited, like the idea that written scripts naturally progress from “primitive” hieroglyphs to syllabic writing to alphabets, but it’s fascinating how East Asia seems to retain certain “earlier” cultural features (in the minds of West Eurasians), while developing organized societies in parallel.

  • twl

    Razib - if you enter into the record a number, google it to check your source. for example, the “130 million christians” is a “private figure” and from what i can gather spread around my evangelicals (it may be true, but only as a very, very, high bound, and other estimates don’t validate that). the ‘official’ number given by the PRC is very small (an underestimate too)

    I thought the 130 million figure was reasonable to float because it was reported by the PRC’s State Administration for Religious Affairs Director Ye Xiaowen.

    While PRC is not an unbiased source I would have thought PRC would be more biased in favour of reporting artificially low numbers rather than high numbers of religious people. In this case, either Ye Xiaowen was lying, was trying to give the impression of lots of Chinese Christians for some reason we can only guess, or he stated what he honestly thought was true.

    Either way, it’s interesting. As is 20% Chinese in UK that have converted to Christianity. If I had to wonder out loud, I’d say perhaps Christian family values appeal because the Chinese traditional ‘non-religion’ default state has been co-opted by liberal capitalism, which rubs against the grain of their less extrovert natures. Christianity is more introverted and insular than Western liberal atheism. Well, maybe evangelical Christianity isn’t introverted – I don’t know. Just speculating at this stage.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    As is 20% Chinese in UK that have converted to Christianity.

    a disproportionate number of british chinese hail from hong kong, and were christian before arriving in the UK.

    you need to set your shit filter higher if you think there is one number coming out of the PRC. follow the citations in wikipedia, there are a wide range of numbers. if you aren’t interested enough to do so, don’t comment on this issue again.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    This progressive idea of cultural evolution is probably discredited, like the idea that written scripts naturally progress from “primitive” hieroglyphs to syllabic writing to alphabets, but it’s fascinating how East Asia seems to retain certain “earlier” cultural features (in the minds of West Eurasians), while developing organized societies in parallel.

    well, it is discredited by some, but i think for PC reasons. it’s obvious that different societies have different types of religious organization based on complexity. but, i don’t think the lower types ever disappeared, they’re just folded into more complex systems. animism persists in ‘higher religions’ in the form of relics, amulets, and reverence of various objects. the east asian model is basically not to one one tight bundled vertically integrated monopoly, as occurred in christendom and the world of islam. india had a somewhat different model, but it never fully expressed itself independently because much of it became part of the world of islam circa 1000.

  • Ray

    Razib, How useful would you say the analogy is between modern India and Pagan Europe?

  • Matt B.

    I hadn’t known that anyone else thought of referring to gods as communal imaginary friends (CIFs).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Razib, How useful would you say the analogy is between modern India and Pagan Europe?

    ‘pagan europe’ is a semantic negation which covers too much ground. but, i think one can make analogies between india and the late roman empire just before the triump of christianity and its co-option of the imperial system. in fact, between constantine and theodosius when christianity was dominant, but not the exclusive, religion one can see similarities. the western aristocracy remained predominantly pagan for about three generations after the emperors became christian.

  • Krishnan

    Too many misleading generalizations and leap of faiths in the article (on the East Asian and South Asian religiosity). Many things that you ignore are the influence communists ruling, cultural revolution, geography (island vs. mainland), rate of modernisation and nuanced description of religion. I would think that the level of influence of superstitious belief would be the appropriate character to compare against atheism since symbols of outwardly religiosity can be controlled by rulers easily. In that scale, my opinion is that East Asian and South Asian societies were not very different from each other even 30 years ago.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i let krishnan’s comment through as a case study of stupid. e.g., In that scale, my opinion is that East Asian and South Asian societies were not very different from each other even 30 years ago. this is just plain dumb. but the tendency is for most people who have a non-western association to know their own culture/ancestral culture, and something of the west. the reality is that even as early as the 17th and 18th century chinese and japanese intellectuals were grappling with the confusing reality that european society was dominated by a highly organized supernatural system which struck them as rather ridiculous. krishnan is too ignorant to understand that his opinion is wrong. this is an unfortunate but common problem. stupid and/or ignorant people inflicting their inane thoughts upon the rest of us.

  • Ray

    Thanks Razib.

    So you’d pick 4th century Rome as the closest European analogy to modern India. Presumably the Mughal Era would be even closer, since the Muslim’s were actually in charge back then (I’m assuming you’re drawing the analogy between Roman Christianity and Indian Islam.)
    Any ideas why Hinduism held out so much better than Roman Paganism?

    Also interesting that religious demographics changed like crazy in the last century of the Roman empire even though you say about the presumably similar South Asia: “All the Hemant Mehtas and Alorn Shahas will not change the structural parameters which make atheism, and irreligious attitudes in general, taboo, discouraged, or rare, among South Asians. ” I guess in the case of Rome the change happened with the help of a totalitarian dictatorship. And the change was in the wrong direction anyway.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    So you’d pick 4th century Rome as the closest European analogy to modern India. Presumably the Mughal Era would be even closer, since the Muslim’s were actually in charge back then (I’m assuming you’re drawing the analogy between Roman Christianity and Indian Islam.)
    Any ideas why Hinduism held out so much better than Roman Paganism?

    the word ‘pagan’ is a negation. it doesn’t include things which necessarily share anything in common. hinduism is pagan because it isn’t abrahamic, but really it is a complex religion with a lot of philosophical and institutional robusticity. if roman state paganism had lasted longer it may have developed the same. as it is, christianity overlaid itself on the roman state, and evolved in its own way, which was very different from decentralized ‘primitive christianity.’ there is an argument that india’s non-muslim aspect persisted more robustly than iran’s because the former’s state religion was more dependent on the patrons at the center and commanding heights. in contrast, indian hinduism was distributed enough that the muslim elite couldn’t really decapitate it. too many heads (india also had more strategic depth, evidenced by intact medieval hindu temples in south india).

    I guess in the case of Rome the change happened with the help of a totalitarian dictatorship. And the change was in the wrong direction anyway.

    pre-modern gov. couldn’t really be totalitarian. didn’t have the means. see this book how it happened in part:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674016033//geneexpressio-20

  • Krishnann

    [*sigh* i apologize, as this must seem deeply unfair, but you are out of your depth. there can be no exchange of useful insight when you rely so much on supposition and speculation. i don’t want to set a bad precedent for other readers whose confidence exceeds their knowledge, so i’m redacting your comment. i would agree that this is “unfair” to you, but life is not fair. this weblog is focused on knowledge, not justice. best of luck -razib]

  • twl

    a disproportionate number of british chinese hail from hong kong, and were christian before arriving in the UK.

    Wikipedia – Christian

    Japan – 2%
    Taiwan 4.5% (majority of whom are Taiwanese aboriginal)
    Hong Kong – 8%
    Vietnam – 8%
    Singapore – 14%
    South Korea – 29% (most lived in the north before fleeing south after the war)

    I recognise there are a lot of estimates for China. Looking at these figures, however, the idea that 10% of Chinese citizens are Christian doesn’t sound completely crazy. A figure at Japan’s level of 2% would be 26 million. I think it’s unlikely to be at 2% in China because China’s culturally much more open than Japan, that’s the case today and historically. 14% is too high because that would be higher than any of the numbers we have as estimates. I’d go with 8%: 104 million is a realistic figure because it would be similar to Hong Kong and Vietnam.

    Many of the Mongols were Christian and took Christianity to China so the North of China has a longer history of Christianity than the south. Colonial influences in Hong Kong and missionaries to the southern and eastern coastal cities, therefore do not present the entire story of Chinese Christianity. Interestingly, South Korean Christianity was an indigenous movement from the beginning – as much as it can be for a religion then based in the West and assisted by Westerners translating and teaching. Christianity first spread among workers (textbook example of Christianity offering something to poor and oppressed) and Yi Sung-hun set up the first prayer house in the late 18th C. The immediate surge of Christians in South Korea after the Korean war came from mass migration of Christians from North to South, rather than Westerners converting Southerners.

    In East Asia, Christianity doesn’t have a state champion, and it has an association with exploitative Westerners, so its persistence and undoubted rise (although still at a low level) is definitely interesting. I’m unconvinced that there is anything in the East Asian hardware that keeps the majority irreligious and Chinese non-whites the backbone of atheism*. In this case it may be cultural, Christianity has had to start from scratch in a place where other powerful belief systems have monopoly. There are plenty of poor, oppressed peasants in China.

    *Or maybe Christianity is gaining at the expense of other religions rather than or more than it gains at the expense of atheism, so atheism will keep its relatively strong following. Don’t have any data on what the former beliefs of East Asian Christians were.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Looking at these figures, however, the idea that 10% of Chinese citizens are Christian doesn’t sound completely crazy

    let’s not get into arguments based on no disagreement. i wouldn’t say it’s completely crazy. you seemed to be presenting it as a plausible middle range value when your source even admitted it was a high bound.

    Many of the Mongols were Christian and took Christianity to China so the North of China has a longer history of Christianity than the south

    this is really irrelevant. christianity predates the mongols, nestorianism was present in xian in the 7th century. the mongols had no greater or less effect on christianity in china from what i know aside from giving more purchase to roman catholics because of their alan mercenaries and such. rather, they probably faciliated islam more because they brought so many central asians as part of their bureaucracy (the majority opinion seems to be that the hui date mostly to this period, not earlier). this would not be theoretically predicted, because as you note many mongols were christian, but at that time few were muslim.

    In East Asia, Christianity doesn’t have a state champion, and it has an association with exploitative Westerners, so its persistence and undoubted rise (although still at a low level) is definitely interesting.

    i can somewhat agree with this. but please note that the chiang family and lee teng hui were christian. until chen Shui-bian taiwan had not had a non-christian head of time to my knowledge. and from what i have heard the chiang’s somewhat privileged chrisitanity, not there’s a lot of debate how sincerely they were christians in the first place, especially kai-shek and his son. you know korea’s situation, so you must know that the recent protestant presidents of korea in the 1990s and the current one has been accused of favoritism toward christianity (the catholics and ex-catholics between not so much). additionally, hong kong’s christian church did receive some favoritism for a long time, something which abated in the years before transfer.

    i can agree with much of your argument. an independent case is singapore, and to a lesser extent malaysia. large chinese xtian minorities have developed there too. though in both cases it is produced a counter-response from the buddhist temples. you can look up the singaporean stuff on singstat; it shows a switch from daosim/folk religion among educated chinese to irreligiosity, christianity, and buddhism. some of the same occurred in taiwan too, in particular a shift from daoism to buddhism. in indonesia most of the chinese are christian now, while in thailand they are theravada buddhist.

    i think in china proper christianity has a lot of potential. though south korea probably gives us a window into the theoretical high bound outcome in a confucian society. in some ways taiwan is a worst case scenario, where christianity has been pretty stagnant since hte 70s. singapore is somewhere in the middle. though i am skeptical that there are 100 million christians in an orthodox sense, i’d give a 30% chance that there will be 100 million orthodox christians in china in the next generation. i think xtianity in china is at the beginning of the s-shaped growth curve.

  • Shane

    Sandgroper, #11, what are you talking about? Does China freely let missionaries roam its streets, trying to convert random strangers? No. But in Taiwan there are all sorts of religious people doing this. I’ve got into very heated discussions with random bike-riding Mormons and smiling Jehovah’s witnesses, both Western and Taiwanese, all over the country. They are totally free. Your comment is laughable.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/ Greg Laden

    Looks like a lot of interesting comments that I don’t have time to read, but addressing the OP: This does look like a classic case of paying attention to the US and not the world in developing patterns or making generalizations.

    Having said that, among my own compatriots, were I to characterize “atheists” they would be modally female, a high percentage non-heterosexual, and … this is interesting as I think about it … whiter than the overall US population but less white than the religious people I know who are mainly Jews and Christians.

    I think all this concern about whiteness is largely irrelevant, however. White people are pretty much done for anyway, medium and long term. They got lucky with the ozone layer coming back but they just don’t have the admixture for long term population survival, and brown people are born at a higher rate than white people can produce ammo. Or so it is said.

    :)

  • Sandgroper

    *on best behaviour*

    #38 Thanks Shane.

    Polite question – have you ever been to any part of China? Apart from Taiwan, I mean.

    Second polite question – name the current top guy in Taiwan and the platform he was elected on.

    #18 – Sorry, I meant Nepalese export.

  • Sandgroper

    Shane, in case it was not obvious to you, I was talking historically, not about bicycle-riding Mormons now.

    Missionaries entered China much earlier than Formosa, and were influential and tolerated because of their technical knowledge, e.g cannon manufacture. I’m talking Jesuits, not recent American cults. Check when Macau was settled by Portuguese vs when Formosa was settled by Dutch, then get back to me.

  • Ikram

    (Re: Omar, razib’s comments).

    Some of this is a rehash of the Muslim League / Jinnah arguments of the 40s. In India, “Muslim” is more a nationality than a religion. Even syncretists and athiests have to pick their religious team. As Jinnah did in the 30s (although only after his duaghter married a Parsi). You can be irreligious, but within a communal framework.

    I used to think this was a India-specific thing, but thinking about “Hui” as a nationality, not a religion, in China, and the way Muslim Cham segregate from Hindu Cham, I wonder if it is a Muslim-specific thing. On the other hand, Muslim African Americans don’t identify as a separate nationality from Christian African Americans, so practice varies.

  • antares

    Those first two “wave demographic” graphs?

    USE THE SAME AXIS SCALE. The way you have it is harder to read at best, and deceptive if we consider that most people don’t know or won’t bother to see what’s going on beyond the amount of blue on the page. This is particularly relevant in the thumbnails, where it makes it look like there was a massive uptake in the results between the two samples.

    Thanks!

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    A few observations:

    1. The high level of atheism among the Chinese is to a great extent a reflection of Chinese Communist ideology, which was expressly atheistic. A similar effect is seen in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, even though the government no longer has a policy of atheism.

    2. Immigrant community religious affiliation is frequently atypical of that of the source nation.

    In the U.S., Hispanic immigrants are far more likely to be Pentecostals than those back home; while African, Arab, Korean and South Asian immigrants are far more likely to be Christians than the people in the source countries, because in each of countries, Christian organizations provide a conduit and connection to the U.S.

    In the U.K. and other European countries in contrast, colonial and multinational business ties, rather than religious ones, drive a larger share of immigration. Also, in Europe, many immigrants from colonial countries, particularly Muslim and Hindu ones, were expressly secularists, in part since secularists were exiled or pressured to leave and in part out of commitment to communism or socialism as what seemed most relevant to the needs of their own country and because the left was more anti-colonialist than the right.

    3. Immigrant communities are more involved religiously, in part, because religious institutions are an oasis of homeland cultural preservation. In general, people are more religious when the religion is defending a threatened culture. This is one reason that Christian immigrant communities in the U.K. are more vibrant than the moribund Anglican church which represents a culture that is absolutely secure in the U.K. It explains why the Catholic church (which defended Irish culture from Protestant domination for centuries) is vibrant in Ireland and moribund in France and Brazil, where Catholicism is taken for granted and has not defended local culture. It explains why Evangelical churches which defend a minority Southern White culture are more vibrant than mainline white Protestant churches in the U.S. which are part of the establishment culture.

    4. Merely non-religious self-identifications are very different conceptually from expressly atheist or agnostic self-identifications. Among the Japanese, for example, many people who follow Shinto and Buddhist religious traditions to the same extent that an American or European “Christmas and Easter Christian” would observe Christian religious traditions would not identify as “religious” or belonging to a religion, while many Americans and Europeans would identify with the majority Christian denomination of their ancestors. Ditto many Chinese folk religionists.

    Lots of people who identify as non-religious in the United States believe in god, pray from time to time, and have ill formed but not questioned religious beliefs, despite not feeling an affiliation with a religious denomination. A common rubric is “spirtual but not religious.” Also, lots of non-religious people are truly secular, but merely by default and not as a result of having considered and rejected theism, so they have less to say about it (something you see in lots of people who grew up in secular as opposed to religious families).

    In contrast, most self-identified atheists and agnostics, including “New Atheists” came to their views through deliberate philosophical consideration and actively rejected a default religious choice. This carries both a convert’s fervor, and an agenda as opposed to apathy.

    5. Re: “In the USA mainstream liberals like Josh Marshall look skeptically upon the ‘odd confluence’ between Christian religious fundamentalists and New Atheists in their attitudes toward Islam.”

    There is another similar odd confluence between”New Atheists” and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both reject a great many vestigal and subtle religiously influenced cultural parts of American life (e.g. rejecting celebration of Christmas involving Santa Claus and Christmas Trees), the atheists because it is Christian and the JW’s because these are seen as pagan or Roman Catholic embelishments of the the faith of the early Christian Church.

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    “It’s interesting that East Asia has taken a different route to the relationship between “church and state” as the other civilizations.”

    Christianity, and in particular, monastic Christianity, happened to be in the right place at the right time to be the institution that preserved Western Civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire and was instrumental in the process of European state formation in the Middle Ages. If the Roman Empire had fallen in 100 AD, instead of a few hundred years later, it would probably be as obscure as Manicheism today and Delphic Temples or Platonist Stoic philosophers might have filled a similar role. Separation of church and state is quite recent among historically Christian countries — the French Revolution and the American Bill of Rights are really the first time that it appears in post-Roman European history, and in the rest of Europe has often been a 20th century phenomena.

    The polytheistic/Hindu layer of religious belief in South Asia and Europe also was integral to the Indo-European state formation process, and the Islamic empire’s surge had fusion of church and state as a key element of its governing agenda.

    Japan and China and Korea and the Mongol empire all had well established states before they were reached by modern religious sects such as Christians, Muslims or Buddhists or Indo-European polytheists. The leaders of each famously, at one time or the other, actually went so far as to interview representatives of different faiths to see what they were all about.

    In Japan, China and Korea, Confucianism has serves a lot of the moral consensus and instruction role that state religions once did in Europe. Japanese governments, for example, actively propagandize Confucian doctrine even now, China used to require Confucian scholarship for all bureaucrats which was an ideological as well as an intellectual test, and Korea has the largest number of self-identified Confucianists in the world, an identification that may have become necessary because of the large percentage of the population that was Christian there which made Confucianist ideas no longer simply “normal” or “nothing”.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    1. The high level of atheism among the Chinese is to a great extent a reflection of Chinese Communist ideology, which was expressly atheistic. A similar effect is seen in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, even though the government no longer has a policy of atheism

    just so you know, in the WVS wave 5, 18% of chinese are atheists, and 17% of taiwanese.

    Separation of church and state is quite recent among historically Christian countries — the French Revolution and the American Bill of Rights are really the first time that it appears in post-Roman European history, and in the rest of Europe has often been a 20th century phenomena.

    i don’t think that there was separation of ‘church and state’ in any pre-modern society. the shift from paganism to xtianity in 4th century rome was marked by a diversion of customary subsidies from the state to christian churches instead of pagan temples. the main issue with christianity and islam in particular isn’t that they mix church & state, it has been their history of monopolization of exclusive access and patronization from on high.

    Japan and China and Korea and the Mongol empire all had well established states before they were reached by modern religious sects such as Christians, Muslims or Buddhists or Indo-European polytheists.

    this is clearly false in all cases except china. mongol ethnogenesis occurred in the 13th century, and involved the absorption of christian groups (one of genghis khan’s daughter converted to christianity upon marriage to her tatar christian husband). the states which we understand as korea and japan emerged concurrently and just subsequent to the rise of buddhism. though you’re free to elaborate your chronology with explicit dates instead of asserting, perhaps you start the root of the modern korean state earlier than i do (i place it between 500-1000 in the transition between silla and goreyo). the japanese state i date to the time of the fujiwaras.

    In Japan, China and Korea,

    don’t forget vietnam! if you include japan, i think you need to include vietnam. unlike korea both have their non-confucian high culture element at tension with confucianism. but unlike japanese the vietnamese accepted civilian bureaucratic confucianism. arguably the japanese are more the liminal confucians than the vietnamese.

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  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    I would put Japanese and Korean state formation about 500 BCE to the early centuries CE. In Japan this corresponds to the infusion of East Asian and Northeast Asians into Jomon culture and the transition to rice cultivation. Admittedly, there was no single unified state in either of these places at that point, there were competing small states in each at first that had clout apart from a religious basis.

    The Mongols encountered Christians and members of other religions as they expanded out of NE Asia around the 13th century CE, but my perception is that this was pretty peripheral. Individuals converted, Genghis Khan inquired of them, but the expansion and formation of the structure that ruled in Mongol expansion had a solid enough basis of its own that it didn’t need and wasn’t profoundly influenced by these religions in its own functioning.

    I omit reference to Vietnam because I don’t know its history well enough to talk about it. Among the Japanese, it is hard to say that they are liminal confucians given the really pervasive and express role that Confucianism has in contemporary daily life there (see, e.g., T.R. Reid’s “Confucius Lives Next Door” account of his life in Japan).

    Pre-Medieval church and state relations in Europe and the Near East are pretty complex. Most of the Roman era and most of the time during the Jewish Kingdoms there was official state support for religion, but that support wasn’t limited to a particular cult. The Romans had many competing religious cults and the philosophy and politics had strong currents that were not firmly rooted in religious ideas. The Justinian Code (which was a digest of earlier Roman judicial decisions from the pagan era) doesn’t appeal to divine authority in its exposition of legal rules (in sharp contast to the legal system of the Goths, e.g., which was not organized on a rationalist basis and had trials by combat, etc.). Jewish Kings built non-Jewish temples for their wives. For a few generations from Constantine on, Roman religious policy was very similar to that of the U.S. First Amendment free exercise clause with an established Christian Church. The Hittites preserved and honored pre-Hittite religious practice as well as their own, just as the Semitic Akkadians preserved and respected pre-Akkadian Sumerian religious practice.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I would put Japanese and Korean state formation about 500 BCE to the early centuries CE. In Japan this corresponds to the infusion of East Asian and Northeast Asians into Jomon culture and the transition to rice cultivation. Admittedly, there was no single unified state in either of these places at that point, there were competing small states in each at first that had clout apart from a religious basis.

    i agree descriptively with this. i simply don’t think it is useful at all to say that he modern japanese or korean state has any correspondence to the tribal chiefdoms of the earlier periods. the modern japanese state definitely is rooted in the tokugawa. one could say its roots go back to the heinan-nara, if you want to push it (japan as a unitary state under the emperor in theory if not fact at least).

    The Mongols encountered Christians and members of other religions as they expanded out of NE Asia around the 13th century CE, but my perception is that this was pretty peripheral. Individuals converted, Genghis Khan inquired of them, but the expansion and formation of the structure that ruled in Mongol expansion had a solid enough basis of its own that it didn’t need and wasn’t profoundly influenced by these religions in its own functioning.

    hm. this is defensible, but i would deny your use of the word peripheral. several of the tribes which the mongols assimilated into what later became mongol were at least nominally christian by the time of the assimilation (naiman, kerait, some tatars). what i’m pointing to is that the mongol identity as we understand it emerged simultaneously with the rise of genghis khan. the analogy here would be the zulus. before the rise of shaka the zulu were simply a small tribe among many. after shaka and dingane the zulu identity absorbed many other groups who became zulu. the same happened with the ‘mongol’ identity, it absorbed many tribes in what we today call mongolia. some of these were christian. their christianity was loose enough that it dissipated soon enough, so that the mongols converted to lamaism were generally shamanistic. these mongols would have been the descendants of many tribes, not just the small mongol group around 1200.

    Among the Japanese, it is hard to say that they are liminal confucians given the really pervasive and express role that Confucianism has in contemporary daily life there (see, e.g., T.R. Reid’s “Confucius Lives Next Door” account of his life in Japan).

    no, it is not hard to say they are liminal. they are clearly liminal in relation to the chinese and koreans. classic confucianism, or at least the sort which emerged after the song restoration, privileges civilian over military power. this did not happen in japan, rather, the samurai were confucianized during the tokugawa period. they created a new synthetic version of confucianism which deviated sharply from the neo-confucian ‘orthodoxy’ with the koreans under the joseon perfected (the japanese also tended to deemphasize some of the extreme familialism of neo-confucianism because of the importance of bonds between lords and retainers/vassals). the liminality of the japanese then simply rests on the comparison with the vietnamese. one can debate the details, but since the vietnamese attempted to replicate many aspects of chinese civilian bureaucratic state i would give the nod to them on that score. though i think it might be plausible to argue that the median japanese was/is more confucian than the median vietnamese, but the vietnamese elite more thoroughly accepted the norms chinese high culture than the japanese did.

    Pre-Medieval church and state relations in Europe and the Near East are pretty complex. Most of the Roman era and most of the time during the Jewish Kingdoms there was official state support for religion, but that support wasn’t limited to a particular cult. The Romans had many competing religious cults and the philosophy and politics had strong currents that were not firmly rooted in religious ideas. The Justinian Code (which was a digest of earlier Roman judicial decisions from the pagan era) doesn’t appeal to divine authority in its exposition of legal rules (in sharp contast to the legal system of the Goths, e.g., which was not organized on a rationalist basis and had trials by combat, etc.). Jewish Kings built non-Jewish temples for their wives. For a few generations from Constantine on, Roman religious policy was very similar to that of the U.S. First Amendment free exercise clause with an established Christian Church. The Hittites preserved and honored pre-Hittite religious practice as well as their own, just as the Semitic Akkadians preserved and respected pre-Akkadian Sumerian religious practice.

    first, i know all of this, and alluded to it explicitly when i note that the distinction with xtian and islam is their monopolization (though i might dispute whether or not politics in rome was rooted in religious ideas, as like the chinese they often viewed that they were subject to divine favor). you don’t need to throw redundant facts into the discussion, so the crux is this portion: Constantine on, Roman religious policy was very similar to that of the U.S. First Amendment free exercise clause with an established Christian Church. i disagree with this strenuously

    1) the central state beginning with constantine was very deeply involved with disputes within early christianity. constantius ii patronized the arian faction at the expense of the athanasians. the rise and fall of patronage tracked clearly the political order at the highest summit.

    2) if you are making an analogy to the USA because many of these christian emperors before the late 4th century maintained the customary titles of being priests of ancient pagan cults, and continued to subsidize the traditional temples, i’m not sure if it works. they were not neutral, they simply could not deny the authority that institutional paganism retained among the cultural elite, especially the western aristocracy. unlike the american federal gov., the roman empire had two established streams of religion. a christian one which was developing into what we’d term orthodoxy, and an older pagan one which rested upon accumulated cultural capital. between the death of valentinian i and the death of theodosis i that capital was rapidly expended to the point where christianity managed to claim exclusive access to the elite power structure, and the state subsidies for and symbolic acknowledge of pagan institutions disappeared. organized elite paganism persisted for some generations through the support of conservative wealthy senators, but after 400 this class rapidly christianized, and by the late 5th century paganism was the purview of rustics and intellectual philosophers, with no broad based elite support.

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  • SUPER HAPPY FUN POSTER

    Yes, “Euro-Centrism” is rampant in most areas of academia and especially in the media. This needs to change.

  • Sarah

    Atheism is male dominated by shouty aggressive types. I am an ex Christian female who doesn’t wish to be controlled or have endless theological discussions anymore. Women who leave religion get it in the neck whereas men are free to leave no questions asked

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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