Science, reason, and superstition - 1: Religion and geopolitics

C. K. Raju

A popular idea in 19th c. Europe was that of the war between science and religion. The expectation was that science would soon finish off religion. This expectation was belied. In more recent times there has been a resurgence of religion. For example, much of Africa has recently been Christianised, despite the fact that the church championed slavery of blacks[1] (“curse of Kam”) for centuries, and supported apartheid.

In the post-Cold-War world, US military strategists like Huntington stressed the importance of religion to achieve world-dominance. Hence, Huntington[2] adopted Toynbee’s[3] religious-centric classification of “civilizations” as the core of US geopolitical strategy. The West now pushed to reclaim the hegemony of the colonial heyday, which was possible only with the “soft power” of religion, adapted to purposes of the state, and cannot be achieved by the hard power of nuclear weaponry alone. (I use the term “West” in a sense similar to that used by Toynbee and Huntington, and as defined in the glossary of my book.[4]) Most of the policies advocated by Huntington, such as control of immigrants, to keep the civilization “pure”, are exactly those being pursued by Trump today: they are not his personal idiosyncrasies. That is, religion has come to the centre-stage of geopolitics, and Islamophobia, for example, is just one manifestation of that, though most people have failed to connect the dots and see the larger picture or its remedy in decolonisation.

Universalism is critical to this strategy. As Huntington (p. 66) put it:

“The concept of a universal civilization is a distinctive product of Western civilization. In the nineteenth century the idea of "the white man's burden" helped justify the extension of Western political and economic domination over non-Western societies. At the end of the twentieth century the concept of a universal civilization helps justify Western cultural dominance of other societies and the need for those societies to ape Western practices and institutions. Universalism is the ideology of the West for confrontations with non-Western cultures.”
This universalism should not be confounded with globalisation. It cannot be achieved if, say,  Christianity is globalised, and other religions eliminated through genocide, as happened in North and South America or Australia. But science and reason are widely BELIEVED to be universal.  Therefore, it is important to understand not only the state-church nexus, but the nexus of the church with science and reason. No one in the West ever spoke about that latter nexus. To the contrary, many colonially educated people still believe that science and reason are the cure for superstition. Hence, this widespread but naive belief requires careful reconsideration.

What exactly do we mean by “science”and “reason”?  And how exactly do we know that they are “universal”.

I regard this seemingly abstruse theoretical discussion  as important at this juncture because of the following.  For most people, “science” and “reason”, in practice, mean uncritical subordination to Western authority. To reiterate, it was this self-subordination, rather than any military might or advanced technology, which was responsible for the success of colonial hegemony, a hegemony which largely continues even after the supposed end of colonialism.

But, today, the spectre of economic recession, and ethnic tensions threatens the possible disintegration of the West. This is a likely outcome of Covid mismanagement in the US, and much of Europe. The weakening of the West presents a great opportunity for the colonised to shake off the yoke of Western dominance. Accordingly, it is not enough merely to react to the tactical use of Covid by governments as an excuse to tighten the screws on labour and dish out large doles to business. One needs an alternative vision, a long-term strategy that can bring about positive changes in global geopolitics by overthrowing Western hegemony, and hence all its puppet dictators (instead of fighting each one individually at great cost).  The likely decline of the West affords an opportunity to decolonise and move towards a just world order.  At least one should try. Marxists, who have been unduly dismissive of “religion”, need to rethink, given that Marx himself was a victim of not only the false Western history of mathematics,[5] particularly calculus,[6] but also of the superstitions built into Western mathematics.

To reiterate, the success of colonisation was not due to military power or advanced technology. It took Europeans 250 years after Vasco to win a major military victory, in 1757, that too when India was plunged into chaos. The revolt of 1857 showed how fragile colonial rule was, and how easily it could be overthrown. Colonial rule was stabilised by soft power, as Huntington correctly understood. The colonised mind was captured through the sustained indoctrination that colonial education enables, using a system of education designed for that express purpose of indoctrination by the church (including higher education, such as universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or Paris,[7] all set up by the church).

Almost two centuries ago, Macaulay, in his infamous minute, dangled the carrot of “science” to promote Wester education in the name of “science”, never mentioning the church origins of that education.[8] Surprisingly, people, too, have simply ignored the fact that it was the church which brought “science” education to India. And the fact is that, even today, the best undergraduate science colleges in India (such as St. Stephen’s college, Delhi, or St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai, or Madras Christian College etc.) are church institutions. But the indoctrinated colonised mind has persistently ignored this manifest empirical fact.

If we do take this simple fact into account, a crucial common-sense question arises: what did the church hope to gain by bringing “science” to the colonised? Obviously, the church knew what advocates of science do not: that this Western “science” is only selectively against superstition, and would help the church, in the long run, not harm it. As a trivial example, the very names of these elite science colleges, prefixed by St., involves a terrible superstition: someone is declared a saint only if s/he performs two miracles AFTER death.  However, our rationalist and elite are very comfortable with this superstition: they never once publicly objected to this superstition, not even when the nun Teresa was declared a saint. Instead, most regarded it as a sort of national honour, and our politicians rushed to attend the beatification ritual! So, the fact remains: the colonised acquire a selective attitude towards superstition.

(To be continued)


1. Josiah Priest, Bible Defence of Slavery: To Which Is Added a Faithful Exposition of That System of Pseudo Philanthropy, Or Fanaticism, Modern Abolitionism ... and Proposing a Plan of National Colonization (W.S. Brown, 1851).
2.Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Viking, New Delhi, 1997).
3. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (Oxford University Press, 1957).
4. C. K. Raju, The Eleven Pictures of Time: The Physics, Philosophy and Politics of Time Beliefs (Sage, 2003).
5.(trans.) Pradip Bakshi, Karl Marx: Mathematical Manuscripts, (Kolkata: Vishvakos Parisad, 1994).
6. C. K. Raju, Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: The Nature of Mathematical Proof and the Transmission of the Calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE (Pearson Longman, 2007).
7. trans Dana C. Munro, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, No. 3, The Medieval Student, vol. II: No. 3 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1897).
8. C. K. Raju, “Education and Counter-Revolution,” Frontier Weekly 46), no. 7, Aug 25-31 (2013),

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Jun 7, 2020

Prof. C. K. Raju

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