Religion, race and colonialism

The Daily Guardian

I had ended the previous piece on the note that the relationship between the European colonizer’s religion and the evangelical nature of his colonization merited scrutiny. Fortunately, there is some scholarly literature on the subject. A reading of the literature on colonialism reveals that the story of European colonialism may be traced to what has been referred to as “the Age of Discovery” in the fifteenth century when Christopher Columbus set out in 1492 to “discover” the “New World”, namely the non-Christian world. There is consensus among scholars of coloniality/decoloniality that Columbus’s voyage marked the beginning of European colonization and heralded a new chapter in European history which led to emergence of new conceptions of time, space and subjectivity that had implications for that continent and most importantly, for “others”. Scholars agree that the Age of Discovery was the predecessor to and led to the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment/Reason, which included milestones such as the Treaty of Westphalia and the Industrial Revolution.

The use of “The” for each of these essentially European milestones by Europeans and the rest is significant for it demonstrates the universalization of this history as the history of humanity, in particular its “modern” history. The period between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries has been credited with the birth of “modernity” and several “modern” concepts and ideas which, not only Europe, but the entire world, including postcolonial societies, take for granted today and proudly base their discourse on. Such modern ideas have significantly affected and altered conceptions of religion, language, political organization of societies, the nature of State, its relationship with religion and secularism, conceptions of law and human rights, humanism, treatment of genders, science, treatment of nature and notions of development and the like. The European position on each of these essential facets of life was introduced and universalized in all societies which formed part of the colonizing Empires, after replacing indigenous worldviews, which has engendered a debate around the interpretation of Columbus’s voyage.

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