Grasping at straws

Giles Fraser is both wrong and confused.

In a recent paper for the journal Intelligence, the notorious Professor Richard Lynn has argued that intelligent people are “less likely to believe in God”…Dr David King…said: “We find Richard Lynn’s claims that some human beings are inherently superior to others repugnant.” The same thought applies to women with blond hair, to people with darker skin, or to those of us with religious belief.

No it does not. Sex, hair colour, and skin colour are all genetically determined physical differences. Religious belief is not. The two categories are not comparable. This is not, obviously, to claim that people ‘with religious belief’ are inherently inferior to others, though Giles Fraser wants to try to trick us into thinking it is. It is merely to point out that the same thought does not apply to Fraser’s mixed bag of people.

[W]hat’s really nasty here – and it’s a part of a growing phenomenon – is the way religion is being used as a subtle code for race. Belief in God is alive and well in Africa and in the Middle East and declining in western Europe. Writing about the intelligence of religious believers has, for some, become a roundabout way of commenting on the intelligence of those with darker skins whilst seeking to avoid the charge of racism.

Really? And how many is ‘some’? A few hundred?

Actually it looks to me as if it’s the other way around – as if Giles Fraser has spotted a handy and self-flattering way of warding off criticism of ‘faith’ as a way of thinking. He’s noticed that there’s a lot of belief in god in the third world and not so much in Europe (though he failed to mention the US, which of course doesn’t fit this simple-minded pattern) and realizes this presents an opportunity to wrap himself in the anti-racist flag. So wrap he does.

The BNP, for example, has started using religion as a category of racial designation so as to deflect charges of racism. For instance, they seek to defend something called “Christian Britain”. But what they really mean is “no Muslims” – and that really means “no Asians”. The fact that these categories are not in any way equivalent does not detract from the message the BNP is sending by using them in the way they do.

And the fact that your categories – people with darker skin and people with religious belief – are also not in any way equivalent doesn’t seem to have slowed you down much, either. In any case, if the BNP is defending Christian Britain, it’s not claiming that people without religious belief are inherently superior, is it – so what do you mean ‘for example’? For example of what? Not what you were talking about, at any rate.

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