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The Missionary’s Swastika: Racism as an Evangelical Weapon

“. . . We reject most strongly the simplistic historical
interpretations, which date back to the eighteenth century, that continue to be imposed on
South Asian culture history. These still prevailing interpretations are significantly
diminished by European ethnocentrism, colonialism, racism, and antisemitism. Surely, as
South Asian studies approaches the twenty-first century, it is time to describe emerging
data objectively rather than perpetuate interpretations without regard to the data
archaeologists have worked so hard to reveal.”

”’ Of the various theories of history that have over the years been
discredited for lack of evidence, ill-founded or baseless assumptions, or have been simply
undermined by superior scholarship, few have been dismantled quite so thoroughly as Aryan
Race Theory. Yet, as historian James Schaffer notes above, few other discredited theories
have so stubbornly and inexplicably retained credence among the public, the media, and
even some academic circles, in spite of direct evidence to the contrary.’ Aryan race
theory is a fabrication, evolved into a myth, that survives today as an unexamined

”’ And few other spurious “truths” have been so insidious —
or so destructive. Responsible for subjugation of millions of Indians under British rule,
Aryan Race Theory continued its wretched legacy well into the twentieth century, mutating
into the horrific pseudo-science that rationalized Hitler’s Final Solution, and lingering
in the bloody ethnic convulsions of modern Sri Lanka, Rwanda, and other troubled areas of
the post-colonial world.”

”’ Far from being merely an academic exercise, though, Aryan Race
Theory is in fact the brainchild of Christian evangelist-scholars, fashioned and tempered
in the nineteenth century as a weapon for European expansionism in India.
‘ Promulgated to generations of Indian children in British-created schools, it
created, like so many other Western creeds and dogmas, social divisions where none had
hitherto existed, resulting in jealousy, mistrust, and suspicion among communities where
peaceful coexistence had been the norm. This theory, which posits the invasion of ancient
India by a white-skinned race (the “Aryans”) who conquer an indigenous,
dark-skinned population, therefore worked ingeniously with the British divide-and-conquer
strategy for rule in India.’ The theory and its variants continue to be used today by
the Vatican and other Christian enterprises in their campaign to “harvest”
tribals and other vulnerable communities of Hindus. For these spiritual imperialists,
spurious racial theories still hold their divide-and-conquer appeal.’

”’ The roots of the theory reach back much further than the
pseudo-scholarship of European missionaries, however.’ As early as 1312 CE, the
Ecumenical Council of Vienna declared that “the Holy Church should have an
abundant number of Catholics well versed in the languages, especially in those of the
infidels, so as to be able to instruct them in the sacred doctrine.”
This not only defined the early Church’s strategy for evangelizing
the “infidels,” but also established the very study of language, and the
linguistic and philological scholarship that would emerge in later centuries, as tools
of evangelism.
Thus, when the university (as with society’s other institutions) was
recruited into the national effort of empire-building, its agents — many of them pious
Christians and nationalists, trained in a predominantly parochial (Catholic, Anglican,
etc.) academic system — enthusiastically pursued knowledge not for the sake of truth, but
for the sake of Christianity.

”’ Throughout its history, Christianity has never been above the
endorsement of fabricated “truths” in order to spread its creed throughout the
globe.’ So, it is not surprising that when the Boden Chair for Oriental Studies was
established in Oxford University in 1832, Colonel Boden, who bequeathed 25,000 pounds (a
generous sum for that time) to establish that chair, stated explicitly that the aim of
study of Sanskrit literature was not for the sake of knowledge, but to “enable his
countrymen to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion
It was the Boden chair which later emerged as the academic epicenter of Aryan Race Theory.

”’ In fact, it was an Oxford Professor of Sanskrit who vigorously
propagated the notion of the Aryan race. Fredrich Max Muller, a staunch German nationalist
and Christian missionary, was Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford’ labored for years
translating the Vedas into English. Muller would comment unequivocally regarding the
motives of his life’s work,’

“. . . [t]his edition of mine and translation of Vedas will hereafter tell to a
very great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that
country. It is the root of their religion and to show them as to what their root is, I
feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that sprang from it during the last 3000

Muller’s objective, it is seen, was not to make the achievements of Hindu civilization
accessible to his European fellows, but to expose them to the scrutiny of his fellow
evangelists, so that they may become better in deconstructing them.’

”’ In 1851 Muller wrote his first article in English wherein he used
the word “Aryan” for the first time in the sense of a race. Max Muller’s good
friend and fellow Indologist Paul then popularized the word “Aryan” in France.
Soon many Christian scholars were seized upon by the theory of Aryan race. In 1859 Swiss
linguist Adolph Pictet wrote that the Aryan race was the

“. . . one destined by Providence to reign one day supreme over the entire
earth . . . They were the race of Aryans. . . . The religion of Christ became the torch of
humanity. The genius of Greece adapted it. The power of Rome propagated it. Germanic
energy gave it new strength. The whole race of the European Aryans came to be the main
instrument of God’s plan for the destiny of mankind”.

Wrote Ernest Renan, the French historian of religion in 1860, “[t]he Semites
are incapable of doing that which is essential. Let us remain Germans and Celts; let us
keep our eternal gospel Christianity . .. . After the Semitic race declined, the Aryan
race alone was left to lead the march of human destiny.”
[4] The notion of “Aryan” had
become, in a few short years, the emblem of European manifest destiny over the world, a
signet coined in the language of scholarship which gave Europeans a racial and religious
mantle of superiority.

”’ Not all scholars of the time accepted Muller’s ideas, however. In
1861, after Muller gave three lectures titled “Science of Languages” in which he
justified his theory with quotes from Vedas, American historian Louis B. Synder noted that

“Max Muller repeatedly hammered away at the idea that the terms Indo-European
and Indo-Germanic must be replaced by Aryan because the people who lived in India and who
spoke the Sanskrit language called themselves Arya. This primitive Aryan language
indicated that there was an
Aryan race, the common ancestors of Germans, Celts,
Romans, Slavs, Greeks, Persians, and Hindus.”

Synder then went on to remark that “all attempts to correlate the Aryan
language to Aryan race were not only unsuccessful but also absurd”.
[5]‘ Even at that time many
academics opposed the Aryan invasion theory. Noted scholars such as Jacoby, Hillebrant and
Winternitz strongly opposed the racial theory, noting that Indians themselves had had no
idea about any distinct Aryan racial identity in their own literature.’

”’ Why, then, was a theory that had no grounding in fact so readily
accepted and promoted in the Western academic circles and imposed on Indians? Because the
theory of the Aryan race and its invasion of India were formulated, and then vigorously
promulgated, by Christian missionaries.’ As W. W. Hunter, another well-known
Indologist of missionary persuasion, candidly admitted, their “scholarship is
warmed with the holy flame of Christian zeal.”
[6]‘ As an example, some elements of the theory are
clearly attributable to Biblical scripture. For instance, ideas like the existence of an
Aryan proto-language were associated with and inspired by the Biblical myth of’ the
tower of Babel.’ Even the date of creation of the Vedas was fixed by Max Muller to
tailor-fit a Biblical creation time scale. [7]‘ Clearly, those members of the academic establishment who
promoted the theory had vested political and religious interests in mind, and the
propaganda of religious and racial superiority sanctified by Aryan Race Theory served
those interests well. This marriage of racial superiority and the “holy flame of
Christian zeal” would ensure the future development of the ugly racist theories that
would culminate in Europe’s concentration camps and final solutions.

”’ The primary political motive of nineteenth-century Britain was, of
course, expansion of its empire, and the theory of Aryan race provided a veneer of
benevolence that justified colonial rule in India. Protestant missionary John Wilson,
President of the Asiatic Society of Bombay from 1836 to 1846, wanted the Indian population
to be divided into Aryan and non-Aryan groups so that special target groups like tribals
could be easily identified by the missionaries for conversion. In 1856 Wilson delivered a
lecture titled “India 3000 years ago,” in which he preached the Aryan invasion
of India and the theory of Aryan race as historical facts.’ Wilson declared, “[w]hat
has taken place since the commencement of the British rule in India is only a reunion, to
a certain extent, of the members of the same family.”‘
Naturally, this happy
reunion had now brought India into contact “with the most enlightened and
philanthropic nation in the world.”

”’ The racist “scholarship” conducted by the missionaries
also helped to diminish any of the pride Indians had developed for their own heritage. Max
Muller in his address to the International Congress of Orientalists openly remarked that,
thanks to the work of the missionary-scholars, “a more intelligent appreciation
had taken the place of the extravagant admiration of the work of their old poets.”
[9]‘ In other words, Indians’
appreciation of their own epic literature was to be cut down to size by an application of
‘ “proper” critical scrutiny, righteously applied by Muller and his
Christo-centric cohorts.

”’ British cultural “re-education” of the Indian populace was
accomplished through imposition of a colonial educational system. To do this the
indigenous system of education had to first be eradicated. By the first half of the
nineteenth century, the colonial rulers along with their missionaries had already
destroyed the vast network of indigenous schools which for generations had proven more
efficient and effective than the contemporary British educational system. Parliamentarian
Keir Hardie observed, based on the strength of official documents and the reports of
missionaries in the field, that prior to British occupation of India, in Bengal alone
there had been 80,000 native schools, meaning one school for every 400 of the population.
This would change radically once colonization was underway.’Ludlow, in his History
of British India,
says, “[i]n every Hindoo village which has retained its
original form all children were able to read, write and cipher, but where we have swept
away the village system as in Bengal there the village school has also disappeared.”

”’ The 1823 report of the British Collector of Bellary, A. D. Campbell,
is telling.’ He first lauds the indigenous education system, saying:

“The economy with which children are taught to write in the native schools and
the system by which the more advanced scholars are taught to educate the less advanced and
at the same time to confirm their own knowledge is certainly admirable and well deserved
the imitation it has received in England,”

but he then goes on to remark, “[o]f nearly a million souls not 7000 are now at
The decimation of the Indian education system thus created a
vacuum that then had to be filled. Into that vacuum, eager and waiting, went the
missionaries, who swiftly set up their own church-sponsored schools and taught Indian
children their own literature and history according to the gospel of Max Muller.’

”’ It is by now a well-established fact that education was a means to
Christianize and “domesticate” the native population and render it loyal to the
British empire. Thomas Macaulay, member of the Supreme Council of India and instrumental
in destroying the indigenous educational system and in introducing English language
education in India, remarked in his now famous Minute of 1835, “. . . the
dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary
nor scientific information,”
and thus were not worthy of preservation.
‘ However, Macaulay’s interest was not educational, but decidedly religious.’ In
a letter to his father he proclaimed, “It is my firm belief that, if our plans of
education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable
classes in Bengal thirty years hence.”

Macaulay’s boastful predictions, fortunately, would not come to
pass. But as the eighteenth century came to a close, Aryan Race Theory had been taught to
millions of Indian children in schools operated by the Macaulay-Missionary axis. The
damage was done.’ The effect of indoctrinating generations of young Indians with a
fabricated, racist interpretation of their history was the division of Indian society into
“Aryan” and “non-Aryan” communities, polarizing North and South India.
In South India, Anglican Bishop R. Caldwell began promoting
the idea that South Indians were descendents of a non-Aryan “race,” called
Dravidians, who were racially different and culturally superior to the Aryans from the
North.’ Soon many South Indians had accepted these theories, and their new alienation
from the Hindi-speaking (“Aryan”) North lead to deep political division.
Dravidian political parties were formed which, in opposition to the “Aryan”
mainstream, were decidedly pro-British. These parties passed resolutions demanding, among
other things, that the British should not leave India, even as Indian nationalists were
fighting for their country’s freedom.*

”’ After independence, racial theory continued to be used by the Church
as a ploy to further balkanize the Indian populace. As late as the 1950s and 1960s, high
Church officials continued to publicly assert that Dravidian Race Theory was a “time
bomb” planted by the Church to destroy Hinduism.’ Though Macaulay’s predictions
failed, zealous proselytizers still nurse their bigoted ambitions to eradicate

”’ Today, insurgency and terrorism in Northeast India continue to be
enflamed by the divisive propaganda of Christian missionaries.’ In neighboring Sri
Lanka, the violent ethic conflict can also be directly traced to the promulgation of
racial theories by Christian missionaries among the Sinhalese and Tamils, who had
previously lived together in relative peace. Ana Pararaja Singham, secretary of the
Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations, remarked while discussing the ethnic
conflict in the island,’

“. . . While legends and myths of the [founding of Sri Lanka] formed the basis
of Sinhala nationalism, the present nationalism is also due to the considerable influence
wielded by Europeans throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This dealt with racial
concepts such as “Aryan”. The notion that the Sinhalese were an Aryan people was
not a Mahavamsa inspired myth, but an opinion attributable to European linguists who
classified the languages spoken by the Sinhala and Tamil people into two distinct

The racial polarization of Sri Lanka began as early as 1856, when Robert Caldwell, in
his A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian South Indian Family of Languages , argued
that there was “no direct affinity between the Sinhalese and Tamil
Max Muller, meanwhile, weighed in with his Lectures on the
Science of Language (1861),
in which he declared that after “careful and
minute comparison”
he was led to “class the idioms spoken in Iceland and
Ceylon as cognate dialects of the Aryan family of languages”.
Though contrary
views were expressed by other scholars, Muller’s Aryan Race Theory was lent support by a
number of prominent European scholars, and the theory therefore held sway.”

”” Kamalika Pieris , a Sinhalese intellectual, agrees.’ In
his article, “Ethnic conflict and Tamil Separatism,” he examines the origin of
the conflict and traces it to the race theories proposed by the missionary-scholars:

There developed the notion of an “Aryan race” consisting of anybody who
spoke an Aryan language, the Dravidian race consisting of anybody who spoke a Dravidian
language, and the Jews who spoke neither. Max Muller, the German linguist spoke of the
‘Aryan Race’ in 1888. Earlier Robert Caldwell had spoken of Dravidian languages
in 1856. The Portuguese and the Dutch brought into Sri Lanka the prejudices available in
their countries. Notably the Christian antagonism to Islam and other “heathen”
religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. But the concept of “race” was introduced
to the country during the British period, in the 19th century. The British labelled the
Sinhala community as “Sinhalese race” and “Tamil race” in 1833 or
1871. 1833 saw the first communal representation in the Legislative Council and 1871 was
the year of the first British Census of Ceylon.

A century later, the fruits of Aryan Race Theory would
be clearly seen in Sri Lanka, with devastating results. One of the first Sri Lankans to
realize the enormous political gain to be reaped through exploiting the Mahavamsa mindset
was S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who, ironically, was a member of the elitist Christian
Bandaranaike-Obeyasekera clan. At the general election of 1956, Bandaranaike
bulldozed his way into political power by successfully marshalling popular Sinhala support
on a chauvinistic platform.”
‘ The polarization of the Tamil and Sinhalese communities would eventually lead to
the civil war which ravages the island to this day.

”’ It is not only the Indian Subcontinent where Christian evangelists
have used dubious pseudo-science to foment racial division.’ Missionaries
have concocted numerous versions of the Aryan Racial Theory, tailored to the history and
circumstances found in various ex-colonial “target” populations. For example,
commenting on the recent Hutu-Tutsi conflicts, the French anthropologist Jean-Pierre
Langellier reveals:

“The idea that the Hutus and the Tutsis were physically
different was first aired in the 1860s by the British explorer John Speke. The history of
Rwanda (like that of much of Africa) has been distorted by missionaries, academics and
colonial administrators. They made the Tutsis out to be a superior race, which had
conquered the region and enslaved the Hutus. Missionaries taught the Hutus that historical
fallacy, which was the result of racist European concepts being applied to an African
reality. At the end of the fifties, the Hutus used that discourse to react against the

The horrific ethnic cleansing that occurred in Rwanda in the early 90s, then, can
be directly attributed to a mindset of racial superiority engendered by Christian


Racial theories and pseudo-science continue to be vigorously
employed today by the Vatican and other Western evangelist enterprises in their ongoing
campaign to harvest souls for Christianity.’ But it is not only in the remote corners
of the Third World where the unexamined “truths” of Max Muller and his
missionary-scholar contemporaries are still used as weapons of propaganda.’ Aryan
Race Theory is alive and well in the United States.”

”’ Take, for instance, white supremacist David Duke, who in one of his
recent books speaks of the hordes of Aryans pouring into ancient India:’

“Aryans, or Indo-Europeans (Caucasians) created the great Indian, or Hindu
civilization. Aryans swept over the Himalayas to the Indian subcontinent and conquered the
aboriginal people. (. . .) The word Aryan has an etymological origin in the word Arya from
Sanskrit, meaning noble. The word also has been associated with gold, the noble metal, and
denoted the golden-skinned invaders (as compared to the brown-skinned aboriginals) from
the West. (. . .) The conquering race initiated a caste system to preserve their status
and their racial identity. The Hindu word for caste is Varna, which directly translated
into English means color.”

Never mind that Duke is only regurgitating a spurious and discredited interpretation of
history.’ The lies of Aryan Race Theory are as useful for white supremacists today as
they were for the Christian missionaries a century ago in their campaign not only to
convert the infidels but also to justify the colonization of “heathen


1. James Schaffer (Case Western University)
concluding his article, “Migration, Philology and South Asian Archaeology,” in
Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia: Evidence, Interpretation and History, edited by
J. Bronkhorst and M. Deshpande’ (University of Michigan Press, 1998). [back]
2. The Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Fredrich
Max Muller, vol I,
edited by his wife (London: Longmans, 1902), 328. [back]
3. Adolphe Pictet in Essai de paleontologie
linguistique (1859),
quoted by Michael Danino in his The Invasion That Never Was
(1996). [back]
4. Ernest Renan, L’Avenir religieux des societes
modernes (1860),
quoted by Michael Danino op. cit. [back]
5. Louis B. Synder, The Idea of Nationalism: Its
Meaning and History
(New York: Von Nostrand, 1962) [back]
6. See “Genesis of the Aryan race Theory and its
Application to Indian History” by Devendranath Swarup, published in Manthan –
Journal of Deendayal Research Institute
(New Delhi, April-September 1994). [back]
7. N. S. Rajaram, Aryan Invasion of India, The Myth
and the Truth
(Voice of India, 1993). [back]
8. Sri Aurobindo, “The Origins of Aryan
Speech,” The Secret of the Veda, p. 554. [back]
9. Quoted in Arun Shourie’s Missionaries in India –
Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas
(New Delhi: ASA, 1994), 149.[back]

10. The article can be found at .
11. Ana Pararasasingam, “Peace with Justice.” Paper presented at proceedings
of the International Conference on the Conflict in Sri Lanka, Canberra, Australia, 1996. [back]
12. Quoted by N. S. Rajaram in his book, The
Politics of History
(New Delhi: Voice of India, 1995). [back]
13. David Duke, My Awakening (Mandeville, LA:
Free Speech Press, 1999), 517-518 . [back]


*As more and more secular scholars studied
these racist theories they started questioning the integrity of Max Muller. During the
1880s Muller began refuting his own racist interpretation of the Vedas. The damage,
however, had already been done. [back]

Further Reading

Missionaries in India – Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas by Arun Shourie (New
Delhi: ASA, 1994).

An excellent book written by a famous Indian intellectual who examines the methods used
by missionaries in spreading Christianity in India; how they aided and in turn were aided
by the British; how they destroyed the vast existing network of indigenous vernacular
language schools to introduce their own schools; how they then used their educational
institutions to indoctrinate the students with Christianity, and how the same mindset
continues to this day in India. A must read for anyone who wants to understand what
Christianity actually stands for in India.

“The Missionary’s Swastika: Racism as an Evangelical Weapon” is copyright
© 2001 by Aravindan Neelakandan.S..

The electronic version is copyright © 2001 Internet Infidels
with the written permission of Aravindan Neelakandan.S..


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