The history of America’s treatment of the “poor and huddled masses” tells a very different story than the one we’re often accustomed to hearing, one of hostility and exclusion toward outsiders who looked to America to live up to its promise. Contrary to popular belief, the poor and huddled masses were never welcome in America.
On this episode, we discuss America’s dark history of demonizing and excluding immigrants, and how the current xenophobia and racism exhibited by the Trump administration toward Mexican and Muslim immigrants and refugees is only the latest chapter in a long series of immigrant panics. Included in our survey is the anti-Catholic conspiracy theories of the nineteenth century, the discrimination and harassment experienced by German-Americans during WWI, the mass internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and the unfounded fear of Jewish immigrants and refugees from Nazi Germany. We also discuss why the concept of race has no validity in science and use statistics and evidence to debunk present-day fears of Muslim “terrorists.”
Joining me as my special guest for this uncomfortable but hugely relevant and important discussion is Robert E. Bartholomew, one of the two authors of the book “American Intolerance: Our Dark History of Demonizing Immigrants” (Prometheus Books, 2018). Bartholomew is an American-born medical sociologist, journalist, and human rights advocate who currently serves as a history instructor at Botany College, in Auckland, New Zealand. He has written 15 books and published more than 60 articles in a number of professional journals. According to his website, Dr. Bartholomew “has written on an array of topics ranging from human social and cultural diversity, to mass hysteria, social delusions, moral panics, fads, collective behavior, the history of tabloid journalism, history of the paranormal, popular myths and folklore.”
Robert E. Bartholomew’s website: https://robertebartholomew.com/.
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The opening clip is an excerpt from the audiobook “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, courtesy of Hachette Audio. Text Copyright 2007 by Christopher Hitchens. Audio production copyright 2007, Hachette Audio. Used with permission.
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In this episode, we are doubting the historical existence of a man you may have heard about: Jesus of Nazareth. Ever since critical biblical scholarship began in the eighteenth century, largely a product of the Enlightenment, the consensus among mainstream historians and religious scholars has been that a man named Jesus did historically exist in Palestine and was crucified by the Romans in the first decades of the Common Era. Although these biblical critics did doubt and challenge the reality of the New Testament’s portrait of Jesus as a miracle worker and divinely appointed savior, they did think – or, more precisely, assume – that there was a real man named Jesus upon whom theological legends were later based. But there has always been another school of thought. The mythicists argued that not only was the Christ of faith a theological fantasy, but the Jesus of history was also a fiction. Jesus, said the mythicist scholars, never even existed historically.
“The strange thing about Dillahunty’s reflections is that he’s actually much closer to Peterson than would have appeared in Pangburn’s video. As I have written, Peterson thinks religion has evolved by Darwinian mechanisms, religious myths provide for us the grammar of stories, and, because they rely on competence hierarchies, these stories set the background evolutionary setting to which we’ve adapted as a species, and the conceptual grounds from which our concepts of the individual derived. There is nothing supernaturalist about this position and, in fact, it’s a denial of special revelation, miracles, and divine inspiration altogether, at least, if these concepts are employed at all, they’re stripped of their traditional content.”
“I think the secular humanist movement would be better off, especially in its relation to religious people and its understanding of religion and religious belief, if it sidestepped the question of the existence of God and asked what it means to say that God exists and what it means to believe or have faith in God. It seems to me that this change of emphasis must be granted purely out of the principles of charity and skepticism; the principle of charity because to arrive at a position about religion and religious belief, we have to engage with the best religious thinkers who do ask these questions; and from the principles of skepticism because we have to be skeptical of our own assumptions and ideas about what religion and religious belief are.”
“As social media continues to shape our discourses by selecting for epigrams over nuanced discussion, Bradbury asks us if we will become like Mildred, whose words are like those “heard once in a nursery at a friend’s house, a two-year-old child building word patterns, talking jargon, making pretty sounds in the air,” or whether we will become like the talking, depthless faces of anchors operating distraction machines like Fox News or CNN: “the gibbering pack of tree apes that said nothing, nothing, nothing and said it loud, loud, loud.” May we find the words that wrestle and struggle with the challenges of life, without strangling or flattening them, and, consequently, diminishing the possibility for genuine human flourishing.”
“As a thinker, he sits firmly within the philosophical traditions spurred by Nietzsche, William James, and Jung. And as an influence, he’s a cultural force that we will not soon forget. Why tell the truth in our age of group-think and Twitter epigrams? Well, it’s our only hope for survival, and the only way for the hero, who speaks a freeing word that organizes chaos into novel order, to emerge.”