Religious scepticism and colonial attitudes

I am a sceptical Muslim. I deeply believe in our underlying religious message, but do not take many of the stories in the Qur’an literally. I am, however, reasonably spiritual. You may not care about my specific views, but the point I am making is bigger than me. As a result of my religious scepticism, I am often accused of having what’s called a “colonial mentality”.

This might mean that religious sceptics are allegedly affected by secular atheism as a western ideological export. However, the United States is a characteristically religious country. Some religious sceptics may be influenced by some other western doctrines as well as by bigoted attitudes towards religion and religious governance. However, not all western attitudes are bigoted, and not all religious sceptics are influenced by western attitudes towards religion.

If the accusation is that religious sceptics are influenced by a common colonial mentality, there have been many colonial conquests made precisely on the basis of religious expansionism.





I therefore believe that it is difficult to assert that there is some form of causal relationship between colonial attitudes in general and religious scepticism. The assumption risks eliminating any form of conversation and mutual learning experience that inquires into the real reasons why many people may find themselves to be religious sceptics.

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Religious colonialism

In the Christian world, the Latin Empire and the Crusaders of the 11th to 13th centuries, respectively, are textbook examples of religious, colonial entities.

In the Muslim world, many people consider the Islamic conquests of North Africa and the Iberian peninsula to be examples of religious colonial expansionism.

French colonialism in North Africa is another example of religious ideology and a particular form of French colonialism intimately intertwining.

I, myself, have Moroccan heritage. During my doctoral research on French colonialism in Morocco, I learned that one of the ideological motives for Charles de Gaulle establishing the so-called “protectorate” in Morocco was the desire to impose Christian attitudes in the country.

Charles de Gaulle had what I believe to be an ungrounded opinion that Christianity is superior to Islam in both morality and civility.

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Irreligious colonialism

Of course, not all colonisers hold religious views. Take the Soviet Union expanding its territory across eastern Europe.

The Soviet Union had been mobilised by an autocrat form of an atheistic, marxist worldview that believed in the complete deconstruction of all forms of hierarchy, including religious hierarchy (with exception of the communist ruler, of course).

Under the communist regime, religious institutions were seen as divisive, classist distractions from social productivity and full productive potential. In Chechnya and Dagestan, historical Russian expansionism led to the suppression of various Islamic institutions in favour of centralised, secular control under the Russian state.

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Conclusion

Therefore, it is difficult to identify a causal relationship between general colonial attitudes and religious scepticism. There are varying examples of colonialism having been catalysed by both religious attitudes and irreligious attitudes.

When it comes to a common, collective or “meta” colonial attitude, there are other variables that at least potentially contribute to the common colonial mentality. These include economic interests, human psychology and even evolutionary nature (whether or not the adherent acknowledges these phenomena).

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