The Naming Of America

Happy Fourth of July! Native American Netroots provides some perspective on the meaning of ‘America’:

America was named on April 25, 1507 after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci made at least two voyages across the Atlantic… [the] first voyage was in 1499 when he sailed with Alonso de Hojeda.

While Columbus might be characterized as a religious fanatic who could hardly speak or write without invoking the Christian God and dwelling fervently on his personal relationship with this God, Vespucci almost never referred to God. Religion was never very high on the scale of values to which Vespucci had been exposed. While he undoubtedly learned a little about the Christian God as a child, he seems to have forgotten all of this by the time he was an adult.

Unlike Columbus, Vespucci never waged war on the natives, nor did he found any colonies. He never commanded a fleet or even led an expedition. Like Columbus, however, he was deeply mired in the slave trade and profited from it.

Under Spanish law, slavery was viewed as unnatural which meant that only people who had forfeited their human rights through unnatural acts such as sodomy, incest, or cannibalism could be enslaved. Columbus, Vespucci, and other early Europeans quickly learned that there was no fast and easy wealth to be gained from the Americas, except for slavery. Thus it was important for them to describe the people of the area as engaging in unnatural acts so that they could then be enslaved, transported to Europe, and sold at a good profit.

All of the early European explorers, including Vespucci, were amazed by the people they encountered. First, they were shocked by the nudity, or what they perceived as nudity. In addition, the people seemed to have no shame in exposing genitalia and female breasts. This raised important Christian theological issues: if these people were exempt from original sin, then were they really human? If they were human, if they had souls, then their lack of shame at their nudity challenged the idea of original sin, an idea upon which much of Christian morality had been based.

Since they had no laws, and thus no knowledge of “natural law,” this meant that they could be slaves. From the European perspective, the natives lived according to nature in the manner of wild animals. The Europeans “knew” that rational people enjoyed the right of lordship over them by divine license.

15 Comments on "The Naming Of America"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Jul 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

    Christianity, nothing but good for the world since 300 a.d. 

    Civilization, same story, even longer.

    • it would be hard to find a record of a civilization
      that has been more destructive worldwide, than Western civilization
      much of that destruction was incited and condoned by its religion

      we should pause at the 4th of July season
      to remember the thousands of cultures and millions of people
      that have been extirpated in the name of Jesus and Manifest Destiny

      • Anarchy Pony | Jul 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm |


      • And our world population is still larger than it’s ever been.

        We can’t really complain on that front.

        • well, we can complain about it
          but nature will sort out population issues as she sees fit
          however 7 billion people can’t be feasibly sustained
          without some radical changes in resource use

          true, humans are living at a peak moment
          but that peak cannot be sustained indefinitely

          but my point was that
          Western Civilization has been a plague upon the Earth
          not only extirpating civilizations and peoples
          but ultimately leading humanity to the brink of extinction
          through a religious-economic-military-bankster civilization system

    • DeepCough | Jul 5, 2012 at 1:40 am |

      Hey, now wait just a minute, don’t you remember history class? Westerners weren’t just out for “God and Glory” on the American continent: they were out for gold, too.

  2. Mind At Play | Jul 5, 2012 at 3:13 am |

    The concuest and control of nature is as inherent to the scientific and technological program (not necesarily to science and technology) as to religion, the idea of control and lordship over nature has been the driving force behind colonialism not religion as such, although in a mixed up mind that can not discern between religious sentiment and power of will and the urge to control, they easily become entangled and create a dangerous mix.

    Religion arises in the right hemisphere which perceives wholeness and connectedness and is basically a relational experience, the experience is then processed by the left hemisphere to be broken down and looked at in a disconnected (objective) fashion, the same processes that works to categorise nature “scientifically”, this is where religion becomes a tool for power (the left hemisphere is very much concerned with power and will) and often gets perverted (the left hemisphere lies whenever it cannot understand something). So the part of us that plunders, rapes and enslave people is the part that tries to understand the world mechanically and in a reductionist way. The information is supposed to be sent back to the right hemisphere to be reintegrated and made whole again but when that is not the case and the view of the world gets stuck in the left hemisphere bad things happen (the psychopath has right hemisphere deficiencies and relays more on the left hemi). Religion in itself is not an issue when it is mature and has been fully processed but unfinished processing is a big problem whether it takes place in the mind of conquistadors, scientists or businesspeople. Getting caught up in antagonizing religion in itself will take the focus of the real problems I think. Although I understand that in a country with so much leftbrained “religion” it is hard not to mix religion and the will to power up.

    Lack of bilateral thinking is the problem, among religious and atheist alike.

    Recomended reading to start to understand these matters is The Master and his Emissary; The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist.

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