Dinesh D’Souza was born in Mumbai but came to America at 17. He quickly established himself as an astute and intelligent spokesman for conservative politics in his adopted homeland. In his 2003 book What’s So Great About America he elucidates what makes the USA the most successful society and country thus far in history. In an engaging manner D’Souza articulates very well how America contrasts with Third World nations such as the country of his birth. What many may criticise as nit-picking are actually very important areas which make the quality of life in developed nations such as America such an attraction for immigrants such as himself: consumer choice, emphasis on achievement and work rather than birth or origins, coming to terms with past wrongs such as racism and slavery. In this book
D’Souza takes on the ideas which made his 1995 work End of Racism so controversial. Since that book he has been accused of racism towards African-Americans because he described the pathology in black culture which was in many ways the antithesis and inversion of the American Dream, notably glorification of crime and the politics of envy and dependence. End of Racism was dangerously close to using eugenic arguments to bolster ideas of black inferiority. In What’s So Great About America, D’Souza appears to have absolved himself of this. Yet at the same time the book ends with an emptiness, a need for a spirituality to fill what has become a hollow vacuum.
No surprise then that his next book does just that. Called What’s So Great About Christianity it places our conservative friend firmly in the camp of America ’s Religious Right. This offering is actually quite a disappointment after reading his 2003 and 1995 publications. Even if one did not agree with the aforementioned books they at least tackled the stagnant corrosive atmosphere of multiculturalism and political correctness which has all but stifled free debate. In 1995 D’Souza’s explanation of black pathology unsurprisingly attracted vitriolic hostility and accusations of racism by what in America are termed ‘liberals’. Yet he explained that these pathologies are actually found in wider American society and are not inherently black. Indeed with the urban riots in England during August 2011 it would not be inaccurate to call D’Souza prophetic in his claims.
That only makes the disillusion in reading that book that much more depressing. While it was always going to be a tall order in countering rationalism, atheism and secularism, D’Souza relies on some very flimsy arguments to try and prove his case. To say that societies are becoming more religious does not prove religion is any more correct than secularism. Nor does it prove anything on that score to argue that reproductive demographics of the religious outweigh those who have no faith. D’Souza takes some of this book’s ideas in a series of entertaining debates with Christopher Hitchens. He espouses that ideas of morality and laws governing the universe came into force from Christianity. Yet modern scientific developments actually happened in spite of Christianity not because of it. He plays down both the persecution of Galileo and the crimes committed by the Inquisition. His main defence of the latter is that crimes by ‘atheist’ regimes such as Stalin and Mao were infinitely greater. But then as Bertrand Russell wrote what is communism other than a Christian heresy; and he had the dubious fortune of witnessing the Bolsheviks first hand after which a declining post-1918 Britain looked like paradise in comparison.
D’Souza however now has new targets as he moves beyond even the Christian tinged conservatism of politics to seek new allies against ‘liberalism’. In 2007 he wrote Closing of the Conservative Mind in which he said that American conservatives should try and understand Islamic radicals and how angry they were at the moral degeneracy spread in their own lands. They, or at least ‘traditional Muslims’, would be key allies with conservatives such as himself against moral degeneracy caused by the American Left. He even said that Sayyid Qutb, spiritual father of Egypt ’s Muslim Brotherhood had become increasingly relevant with his moral denunciations of a depraved America . Conversely he condemns Robert Spencer, even labelling him an Islamophobe in a debate about Islam on March 1, 2007 at the Conservative Political Action Committee. Yet what of D’Souza’s own ‘phobia’? On 7 December 2008 he spoke at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco where he fulminated against the Hindu caste system, claiming that the Portuguese Catholics who converted his Brahman Hindu ancestors found the job very easy. Christianity offered the low caste Hindus an equality they could not hope to get in their ancestral faith. Indeed Islam provided the same benefits.
It was so easy that the Portuguese did not even need to use coercion. He explains away their “stern” tactics by saying that the missionaries had “precepts” of “universal brotherhood” irrespective of race and social position. He is “glad that the stern Inquisitors came” because it had given him his “core values” and also helped India to develop, modernise and take its place in the world economy. Here D’Souza anti-Hindu hatred is laid bare. It always existed in somewhat latent form. In both End of Racism and What’s So Great About America, he castigated caste and even pushed the racist idea of an Aryan invasion of India . Now while this can be excused as D’Souza, highly educated as he is, being ignorant of wider arguments and merely resonating existing ideas which he has picked up, the fundamentalist Christian arguments he uses are nothing short of the same raw tribal prejudice found with hatecore groups such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide and D’Souza very own late mentor, Jerry Falwell. D’Souza published a fawning sycophantic biography of Falwell in 1984, one of the leading lights of America ’s Religious Right who at the time was supporting apartheid because South Africa was in the forefront of defending Christian civilisation in Africa .
This support for oppression of blacks was nothing new to Rev. Falwell, who in 1958 delivered a sermon titled Segregation and Integration: Which? Falwell and many other white Christian leaders endorsed segregation for blacks. Now the current myth is that the rise of the Religious Right had its origins in the opposition to abortion. But the truth is that abortion was not even a major issue for the evangelist “right”. However race was. Abortion was only a later addition to the fundamentalist arsenal of Falwell’s Moral Majority. Falwell went as far in stating that the desegregation decision handed down by the landwark 1954 case of Brown v Board of Education demonstrated that the Supreme Court was not listening to god. Falwell’s opposition to racial equality was so blatant that in 1964, he told a local newspaper that the Civil Rights Act had been misnamed:
“It should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights.”
His Old Time Gospel Hour TV program hosted prominent segregationists like governors Lester Maddox of Georgia and George Wallace of Alabama . In 1967 Falwell founded Lynchburg Christian Academy , described by Lynchburg News as “a private school for white students”.
No surprise then that in his praise for Christianity D’Souza leaves out such inconvenient facts. He omits the theological basis for apartheid in South Africa ’s Dutch Reformed Church just as he overlooks the support for slavery and racial segregation by the Southern Baptists. While he is right to highlight the crimes of regimes such as the Nazis and Bolsheviks which claimed to be atheists, his downplaying of the crimes of Christianity especially that of the Inquisition is nothing short of academic dishonesty. Historical records do not show that Hindus flocked to Christianity because the Portuguese in Goa proved how they treated everyone equal. On the contrary violent tactics were applied notably by ‘Saint’ Francis Xavier, a violent psychopath who glorified in destroying infidel and heathen shrines.
Goa had been taken for Portugal by Afonso de Albuquerque for Portugal in 1510, and became the seat of the Portuguese viceroys in Asia twenty years later. Despite its cosmopolitan character, on 30 June 1540, an order was given to destroy all Hindu temples in Goa , and in 1542 the property of those temples transferred to Christian religious orders. The ‘saint’ was instrumental in introducing the Goa Inquisition in 1560 against converted Hindus who were seen as a threat to the pure faith. In the first hundred years, the Inquisition burnt at stake 57 alive and 64 in effigy. Others sentenced to various punishments totalled 4,046, and the last auto da fe (burning alive of the heretic) was held in Goa as late as 7 February 1773. The Inquisition was set as a tribunal, headed by a judge, sent to Goa from Portugal , answerable to no one except to Lisbon and handed down punishments as he saw fit. The palace where the Inquisition was conducted was known as the Big House and the proceedings were always conducted behind closed shutters and closed doors.
According to the Indo-Portuguese historian Teotonio R. de Souza, “the screams of agony of the victims (men, women, and children) could be heard in the streets, in the stillness of the night, as they were brutally interrogated, flogged, and slowly dismembered in front of their relatives.” “Eyelids were sliced off and extremities were amputated carefully, a person could remain conscious even though the only thing that remained was his torso and head.” From 1567 Hindu ceremonies were banned , 300 temples were destroyed and forcible conversion to Christianity intensified. From 1684 even the local language of Konkani was banned. While at the time it aroused the horror of Voltaire, the very same crimes against Hindus attract praise from that true Son of the Inquisition, Dinesh D’Souza.
Even the ‘soft’ tactics were hardly exemplary. In the seventeenth century Robert Di Nobili disguised himself as a Brahman in order to hoodwink Hindus. D’Souza assertion that Hindus flocked to a Christian faith offering equality is noting more than a well-worn myth embellished with the very Marxist ideas which he claims to be against.
If Christianity as espoused by the Portuguese was so good then how does he explain that country’s long involvement in the slave trade? Portugal was also the longest surviving European colonial power. Under Salazar the staunchly Catholic and clerical fascist ‘ New State ’ offered nothing but racism and oppression for millions of blacks it ruled in Africa .
Where was the equality when all Africans could hope for was aspiration to honorary white status as rootless ‘assimilados’ (blacks who spoke Portuguese, were Catholic and disowned their African heritage including non-assimilated relations)? The idea that India has become an economic power today because of the Christianity introduced by the Portuguese is as laughable as it is insulting. Goa was known as a sleep backwater right up until 1962, when annexed by India . Does D’Souza think it was an economic powerhouse? Portuguese colonies in Africa were the most oppressive on the continent.
Millions of blacks in Angola , Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea were enslaved under various systems of forced labour fully supported by the Catholic Church. If Christianity is supposedly the reason for India ’s modernisation and development how come predominantly non-Christian Singapore , Malaysia , Taiwan , Japan and Hong Kong pulled ahead as Asian tiger economies? Why is the Philippines, mostly Christian and staunchly Catholic since it was conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century, such a stagnant country whose main income is from exporting nursing staff, remittances from expatriates working under oppressive conditions in the Gulf states, and from sex tourism (mostly underage boys and girls from desperately poor Filipino families)? Does D’Souza think that the Filipinos should be thankful to the Inquisition, Church and Christianity for at last giving them this much?
In What’s So Great About Christianity D’Souza tries to defend the Inquisition’s persecution of converted Jews by saying that Torquemada was of Jewish origin and many of the denunciations were by other Jews. That hardly helps his case. In fulminating against the Hindu caste system D’Souza betrays yet more intellectual dishonesty. Modern anti-Semitism was a result of Christianity. Why did the Nazis single out Jews? They were hardly unique in this respect. Without the scriptural hatred of Jews as killers of Christ there would have been no anti-Semitism and no Holocaust. If there was ever a system of uncompromising untouchability and caste this was it. Confined to ghettoes and excluded from many professions Jews were the pariahs of Christian Europe. This prejudice was as much inherited by the Christian offshoots of communism and Nazism as much as the new society which grew up in America, the latter having such delightful Christian activists as the Ku Klux Klan. Anti-Semitism is the elephant in the china shop which D’Souza is desperate to ignore. It is simply not true that conversion to Christianity brought equality.
Pagans such as the ancient Greeks and Romans did not have the universal hatred of the Jews which Christianity introduced in its theological war unto death, in which to love Christ was equated with hating Jews. The very fact that the word ‘Jew’ retains negative connotation in western languages is a direct result of the Christian heritage.
Hatred of Jews comes from Paul in Thessalonians who blames them for killing Christ, while “Jew” is used as a pejorative term, blaming the entire people as spawn of Satan, and for committing deicide under Jewish law. Church fathers including St. John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine castigated the Jews as monstrous, evil, and spiritually blind. Even baptism was no solution. Justin the Martyr said that god gave Jews the Law of Moses because they were inherently sinful. Jerome said that all Jews were Judas, innately evil having betrayed Jesus for financial gain. John Chrysostom said Jews were guilty of deicide for killing Christ. As such they had no chance of atonement for this heinous sin, citing Jeremiah 13:23 about how the Ethiopian could not change his black skin nor the leopard change his spots. Augustine said Jewish evil was in parentibus (from their parents) and hence the stigma to them was attached forever as they had the mark of Cain.
The Catholic Church became actively involved in championing the idea that Jews were racially inferior. Spain passed estatutos de limpeiza de sangre (statutes of blood purity) by which Jewish ancestry was disqualified from holding office in the Church. In 1547 the Archbishop of Toledo banned anyone with Jewish blood from receiving charitable assistance, a law which ratified by Pope Paul IV. It was a model readily used by other organs of the Catholic Church in Spain and indeed civil administration where proof of no Jewish blood was required for holding high office in society. Various monastic orders excluded people of Jewish descent who were in fact Christians, the conversos.
Theologians said that Jewish traits persisted even after conversion to Christianity. Popes Pius V, Sixtus V and Clement VIII and King Philip II of Spain sanctioned these racist laws which marginalised conversos as untouchables for having Jewish mala sangre (impure blood) as opposed to ‘authentic’ Christians who had limpieza de sangre (pureness of blood). In 1588 and 1600 respectively, Sixtus V and Clement VIII approved a Portuguese law that forbade men from Jewish background being ordained as priests. Jesuits banned Jews from entering the order in 1608, an order which remained in effect until 1948. One had to prove Gentile blood going back at least five generations. Other Catholic orders had enacted similar measures. The parallels with later Nazi race laws are obvious, the main difference being that in defining who was a Jew, the Nazis were actually more liberal than these Catholic orders. This explains why the Catholic Church was eager to help Nazi war criminals escape justice as they recognised kindred spirits.
And it was not just the Catholics of course. Jews topped the list of enemies by Martin Luther. No surprise then how at the Nuremberg trials, Julius Streicher, editor of Der Sturmer, said that if he was being tried then so should Luther. His Reformation endowed German Protestantism with an array of anti-Jewish myths and fantasies which the Nazis could later build upon. Luther’s diatribes were racist in claiming that Jews were of the devil and hence actually could not be converted to follow Christ, as he admitted in Jews and Their Lies and a sermon on 25 September 1539:
“I cannot convert the Jews. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not succeed in doing it. But I can stop up their mouths so that they will have to lie on the ground.”
He expressed his anti-Semitism in the most obscene language: the synagogue was a whore and an evil slut while Jewish scriptures were swine excrement. Jews should not even look at the Christian Bible since they were so unclean and evil that they drank and ate the urine and excreta of Judas. Any Christian who treated the Jews humanely would be condemned to hellfire. For the Nazis, Martin Luther was an ideal to live up to.
In this context it is easy to understand why D’Souza extends a hand of friendship to the votaries of Islam, going so far as to condemn Robert Spencer just so that he can look more moderate. By contradicting his very account of why the Crusades happened, D’Souza says that the Mughal empire in northern India could have killed millions of Hindus but did not. Indeed he claims no Muslim empire ever did anything like this. How then does he explain accounts of mass conversions and slave raiding which led to the extermination of Christianity in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Maghreb ? This continued into modern times with the genocide of Armenians and Assyrians by the Ottoman empire .
Why did the Zaroastrians flee Iran to India ? Is he aware of contemporary accounts which speak of the utter devastation left by Mahmud of Ghazni in northern India ? In fact so many Hindus were enslaved that their descendants made their way to Europe to become that continent’s very own untouchable caste, treated as impure by both society and Church: the Roma or Gypsies, who also ended up in the Nazi death camps after years of being vilified in Christian theology and in some cases enslaved by the Church itself..
Would D’Souza like to pay a visit to the museum at Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar where he can see Sikh martyrs to the faith being sawn in half, beheaded, cut piece by piece, having scalp removed or bricked up alive for refusing to convert to Islam by the very Mughal rulers for which he acts as an apologist. It was hundreds of years of devastation caused by the Mughal rulers in India , with forcible conversion of Hindus as integral as rapacious taxation, which allowed the British to annex the subcontinent so easily.
For 800 years Hindus had resisted through rebellion and warfare across India against the violent Islamic imperialism of the Mughals and others till the final collapse of the Mughal empire which D’Souza seems to deliberately ignore in this myth of a peaceful India he envisages. Now on his website and in What’s So Great About America he writes ‘Two Cheers for Colonialism’ in which he explains the British legacy of democracy. Well as Kwasi Kwarteng wrote only this year in Ghosts of Empire, the British imperial enterprise was of hierarchy and pragmatism, not to spread freedom and democracy.
These were accidental, although welcome, by-products, in India at least. So it looks as if D’Souza is now so in love with colonialism that he is even defending the Mughals. After all what could he care for a mass of idol-worshipping heathens that were the innocent victims of such monsters of cruelty as Francis Xavier and Aurangzeb? But then as D’Souza moves to seek new elements to his religious fundamentalist axis he finds the Hindus as new scapegoats to vent his anger, replacing a role which the Jews had played for 2000 years in his Holy Church. In this he betrays not only his evident intelligence but also the very American ideals he claimed have inspired him and which he has been defending.
It is a sad epitaph indeed that D’Souza has become the very thing he hated, a diametric opposite to his democratic and conservative ideals by introducing a venomous viper pit combining Third World demagoguery with revamped medieval European Christian prejudice and dogma. Perhaps if he understood the wider culture into which he was born he would not have started on this dishonest route. But that after all is what he is keen to escape in the apocalyptic, millenarian and eschatological dystopia which he sees all around him with the help of well-funded right-wing think-tanks and institutes, which are as keen to denigrate and destroy Hinduism as they are to prevent millions of decent, honest and hard-working Americans from having access to basic health care.
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