Eugenics is interestingly not only science's dirty little secret, but also that of religion.
The history of Eugenics today seems to be a bit of a hot potato that nobody wants to own, and some authors want to blame "liberal Christianity", but
the acceptance of racism in religion seems go much further than particular congregations that used the term.
Perhaps one can broadly speak about "Eugenics proper" from the second half of the 19th century to World War II, but some policies remained for a long
time after that, and perhaps people just stopped using the loaded label for racist policies.
I was brought to the point of Eugenics in religion by a letter to the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger
Here the famous local historian, Hermann Giliomee, replied to the theory that the influence of Nazi scientists on white South African anthropology
before World War II paved the way for apartheid.
Giliomee argues that some Transvaal anthropologists were indeed influenced by Nazi science, however they were heavily criticized and not very
This all seems to follow a debate that began earlier this month when "anthropometric" material was found in a Stellenbosh museum:
Although the British already laid a groundwork for grand apartheid, the main influence was religion and especially the template of segregation in the
southern United States.
Giliomee points out that when President Obama was born from a mixed marriage in 1961 at least twenty American states still had laws against mixed
Apartheid itself was often defended with the Bible, or at least seen as Biblically justified.
It was not simply the result of anthropology gone wrong.
In South Africa Christian opposition to apartheid came mainly from Anglican and Catholic clergymen (and notably Beyers Naudé, who went against his
Dutch Reformed establishment), although they weren't really mass movements, and most complied with the state.
US-styled Christian fundamentalism didn't produce a single anti-apartheid activist.
In fact, both locally and in the US they supported, or were indifferent to apartheid in the 1980s.
Although, some of the Christian fundamentalist activists here now say they never supported apartheid, they were just against the Marxism of the
so-called liberation movements (a debatable claim).
The relationship between Eugenics and religion is complex, and a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.
As in science there was also religious opposition to Eugenics and racism in religion.
However, it is clearly incorrect to view Eugenics only as the product of Social Darwinism and secular attempts at science.
For some clergy it also reinforced the world-view of an ordered creation that should be kept intact.
As the now disused verse of the lovely English hymn All things bright and beautiful
goes: "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at the
gate, God made them high and lowly, He ordered their estate".
Neither religion or science can be blamed as such (but neither can entirely deflect blame), because it seemed the whole superstructure accepted such
ideas as pretty mainstream and natural, and they also flowed through literature and film.
Even the South African Communist Party was at first racist, and their slogan before 1924 was "Workers unite for a white South Africa!"
Conversely African nationalists (like the PAC) split from the ANC in 1959 when they allowed the membership of whites and Asians.
edit on 14-6-2013 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)