The curse of race prejudice
Rethinking race at the turn of thecentury
in Race in a Godless World
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This chapter presents the clearest examples of arguments made against racism that were rooted in an atheist perspective. Environmentalist ideas that stressed the importance of social circumstances – not biology – for forming character offered ways to attack racial determinism. Atheists and freethinkers also drew upon the Darwinian perspective that showed that all of humanity was one and rejected notions of timeless racial essences. Many atheists challenged “race prejudice” as emotional and irrational and therefore contradictory to the atheist worldview, which prided itself on the use of dispassionate reason. The culmination of the chapter is a discussion of the 1911 Universal Races Congress, held in London. Atheists and other freethinkers played a crucial role as organizers of the congress and speakers against ideas of scientific racism. The central point of the chapter is to show how an atheist worldview could offer the tools of science and reason as a way to critique ideas of racial prejudice and racial determinism.

Race in a Godless World

Atheism, Race, and Civilization, 1850–1914


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