The False Arguments Arising from Elitism

Social - Intellectual & Educational

Religious, Racist & Sexist

Ideologies, sets of ideas and values, stand or fall on the quality and intellectual coherence of the ideas and values themselves, and not on the qualities of those who support and promote,, refute and oppose them. Nor do ideas depend upon the quality of expression, the educational, social or celebrity status of their proponents or detractors..

Because education and academe have been monopolised by power elites to inculcate and promote sectarian beliefs, education has been subverted so that it cannot be trusted to be independent. And the effect this has  been magnified over time  by the extent to which it has influenced the means of spreading ideas through the traditional media. Only with the Internet are we beginning to see a flowering of freethought and freedom of expression.


Ideas should not be judged by the intelligence, education, personality or characteristics of the proponents, but on the evidence - their own consistency, coherence, worth and practicability.

Political ideologies such as Marxism, socialism, fascism or liberalism; religious beliefs such as Christianity, Islam Spiritualism, or Paganism, or atheist philosophies, secularism or humanism must be judged on their merits. The characters and tactics of their proponents are but a distraction and a diversion.

Examples of this can be seen by looking at the people who support and have supported these ideologies & values - the great figures whose names are bandied about in the propaganda wars between them. There are political, religious and philosophical figures - leaders, statesmen and tyrants whose opinions are put forward to 'prove' or refute the validity of the widest range of ideologies. These people share the entire range of human characteristics. Every ideology has its intellectual 'giants; and supporters who have outstanding talents, intellect, education, ability, writing style etc.

One of the greatest fallacies that leads us astray in considering the relative merits of ideas, is the temptation to use the human attributes, and not just the relevant expertise of the supporters of a cause, in judging the soundness and value of that cause.

Examples in the area of politics are characters as diverse as Karl Marx, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Nelson Mandela and Adolph Hitler. In religion there are the saints, clerics & icons and individuals such as Erasmus, Martin Luther, John & Charles Wesley & the Dali Lama. In the realms of philosophy there has been a continuous stream of great thinkers, Aristotle and Plato and their predecessors Greece and Rome, the philosophers of the Middle Ages and the enlightenment, Lock, Hulme and Descarte though the later figures such as Kant and Neitzer to Bertrand Russell and John Paul Sartre to today's contenders who may be considered 'great' in the future.

As can be seen from this, men (and I will return to this) of the highest intellectual ability have and do espouse ideologies as diverse as communism and nazism; fanatical religious sects and cults, spiritualism, fanaticism and the more benign manifestations of belief; and philosophical ideas such as supernaturalism, existentialism, dialectical materialism, modern rationalism (empiricism) and humanism.


It must be glaringly obvious from the above that almost all of the 'great figures', leaders and thinkers that we know of were men. This simply reflects the way women were systematically excluded from public life and relegated to domesticity and servicing the needs of men. Kept out of education by the religions that controlled the systems and institutions.

It must also be evident  by now, at the beginning of the 21st Century, even to the most hidebound misogynist, that women are not inferior to men in any way, least of all intellectually. So where did these ideas of female inferiority, and intellectual weakness come from, and how did they attain such universal acceptance, and how was it accomplished?

Partly no doubt from the legacy of the early advantages of physical strength and the disadvantages of childbearing and child care but more because of the deliberate exclusion of women from almost all areas of public life and decision making by excluding them from education by the desire of men to continue to assert their superiority. This was accomplished by the collusion of the male dominated, monotheistic religions with the other male elites - government and military. The role of religion was clear, Christianity, Islam and Judaism and other religions sects and cults, asserted their control through their control of education. They owned and controlled the institutions, decided who was taught, what they were taught (or not taught) and by whom they were taught. And as in many countries today, since all the jobs and decision making is done by people so schooled in the controlling ethos, it becomes a self-perpetuating system.

It was a system in which women were totally excluded not only from education, but through that, from the professions, administration and government. And we still have substantial remnants of these systems today, in the West, the Old World - Asia, the Middle East and South America and in the developing world. And where religion is strongest, so is the suppression of women's rights.


Those who have control of education - its infrastructure, the selection of students and teachers, what is taught and what is left out – can and do shape education and through education they shape society. What is taught, inculcates, knowledge, facts and information, but attitudes and ethos that over time become deeply embedded into the culture. It does this through the professions, administration and government and importantly the media, print and publishing.  Control of ‘promotion’ and ‘censorship’ are powerful tools in any society.

The ownership and control of the means of education meant the permeation of society with the attitudes and prejudices of Christianity.  The ‘inferiority’ of women, the cruelty to women who transgressed their ideas on women’s place, the harsh punitive attitudes and hositility to dissenters of all kinds, and attitudes towards the welfare of the poor, children, all reinforced the political and military elites of the past. The results can be seen in the harshness and squalor  of Victorian London  as described by Henry Mayhew [5]

Although considerable resources are still spent on Theology Departments in universities and colleges, the overt control of higher education has been wrested from the religions. But Christian attitudes, including elitism, inculcated over centuries, are still very much in evidence in our society and therefore also reflected in our education system. Added to which, once entrenched, it is difficult to see those who benefit from it, and the status it bestows, challenging it!

Elitism has worked in combination with other forms of suppression and censorship throughout the ages — punishment, social pressure, linguistic, and political suppression —it has been used to discriminate against the expression of religious and political dissent.

The effect of this tradition of elitism is far reaching, built as it is on an ingrained and in some ways understandable idea that to be intelligent and educated  is better than not. Naturally, for any human progress, intelligence, education and the ability to use that it, is of great value. But  they are not the only important and valuable human attributes. They have attained a position and emphasis of overarching importance, which have turned them in some respects away from serving human needs and progress and in some cases actually acted as a brake on human inventiveness. Not a point of view you may have heard expressed!

There is also confusion between education and intelligence, and while educated people are considered intelligent even when they are not, intelligent people are often dismissed if they do not have the educational credentials so valued by academics and society. There is also no recognition that without an ability to make use of one’s education or intelligence, these qualities are of limited value. So while intelligence and education are both important they are not the same, and no more important than  some other human characteristics, such as good judgment, integrity and creativity.

For example too many educated people have decided that writing style and the ability to spell are more important than the ideas being expressed. Academics in particular will turn away ideas, opinions that cannot be referenced, leading to the nonsensical assumption that if ideas have not been said or published before, they do not deserve consideration!

In the Appendix to the 1998 reprint of Shelley’s, ‘The Necessity of Atheism’ (for which he was sent down from Oxford), Nicolas Walter writes, "It is impossible to establish an authoritative text of ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. The manuscript and proofs (if any) disappeared, and the printing of the original sixteen-page octavo edition was so eccentric that some correction of the spelling, punctuation and even wording is needed to make sense of it;" It is perhaps just as well that the editor did not decide it was not worth printing!

In many fields particularly publishing, those in positions as ‘gatekeepers’ can enforce their own  narrow limits. From suitably impressive educational qualifications, and being good at climbing the academic or professional ladder, capable but not necessarily inspired, they are in a position to censor at will. Those people who were, or are, able to maintain creativity, or come to it later in their careers, are often too focused on their own careers to be able to stand back and see what others are doing, saying or writing. How many valuable insights, inventions and discoveries have been lost because of the self-interest of established academics or editors  in positions of power? Examples of those who were eventually successful are John Harrison, the inventor of the ships clock and Michael Faraday responsible for the crucial discoveries of electricity and magnetism, and many of those who struggled in medicine to bring about  innovation, against the stultifying elitism of establishment figures, who were set on maintaining the status quo. Even Albert Einstein needed considerable persistence to get his work accepted.

From 'The Role of Religion in Education' by A Shaw ISBN 0-9550671-1-1          (Details available on


There are also many examples of people who have at different times of their lives used their individual abilities to espouse totally contradictory views, such as Malcolm Muggeridge and Annie Bessant. Those who convert from one extreme belief to its opposite. There appear to be few of these people, probably because they are not remembered because their very inconsistency has prevented subsequent proponents of an ideology from using them in support of their cause.

In the annals of our own infant secularist movement, we have a prime example of the main themes of this paper - the cult of personality on ideology, on feminism, socialism secularism and superstition.

Anne Bessant, was a woman of intelligence and education, young and attractive, from a wealthy middle class devoutly religious family, she was feted for the diversity of her interests, intellect, education, effectiveness & achievements in the fields in which she was active. She influenced and was influenced by many of the prominent men of the progressive movements, Sir Edwin Lutchens, G.B Shaw, Willian Morris, Gandi, and Charles Bradlaugh, and was frenetically active in the early emergence of Left/Liberal politics and secularism in Britain and India.

She was one of the few women to achieve iconic status in the newly emerging world of secularism, women’s rights, and the improvement in working conditions for men and women workers of the 19th & 20th Century. She lent her talents, intellect and drive  to further women's rights - to be educated,  to vote, to have control over their own fertility with contraception and abortion and she campaigned for  rights for both men and women workers, in the coal mines which employed women and children, the East End Matchgirls and Trade Unionists.

In later life however she took up Theosophy and spiritualism and devoted her talents and enthusiasm with equal fervour to indulging her belief in that particular expression of superstition. She took on all manner of weird beliefs and promoted charlatans and tricksters.

So what does this have to say about Annie Bessant? What does it say about human talent and intelligence? What does it say about Education? And what does it say about ideology?

It says that Annie Bessant was an intelligent woman of her time, in a particular social strata. Earlier she would not have been able to do what she did because of greater social restrictions and lack of education or opportunity. Much later she would not have had the advantage of the 'novelty' of being a women active in public life, and would most likely have been told to 'sit down and shut up' and been denigrated as a 'lippy lefty feminist' with all the renewed confidence of modern sexism born of media prejudice against feminism.

It says about human talent, that it is infinitely variable, but is only of value relative to what one does with it. Education, intellect, talent and ambition do not of themselves confirm or deny the veracity of a set of ideas and values.

Education (depending upon how you define it) is not just a value in itself, but a tool that can be used, like human attributes for a range of purposes - good or bad, and only in conjunction with other attributes and human judgement.

On ideology and values, it says that they are not dependent on the education, inteligence  or human characteristics of those who support or oppose them.