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Religious information

Part 2: Prejudice of Americans towards various
religions: 1937 to the present time

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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Summary:

These data indicate that, on average:

bulletAmericans are generally prejudiced against non-Judeo-Christian religions.
bulletChurchgoers are more prejudiced than are Non-Christians.

bulletBorn-again Christians are more prejudiced than the average churchgoer.
bulletThere is a gradual lessening of prejudice in the country.

bulletPrejudice against Blacks, Catholics, Jews, and Women (at least as presidential candidates), has been essentially wiped out in recent years.

bulletPrejudice against homosexuals has dropped significantly in the past two decades, but remains high.

bulletPrejudice against Atheists has dropped slightly, but remains extremely high.

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Our opinion about the future of religious peace in North America:

Many conservative Christians believe that the world is in its last days -- the world-as-we-know-it is about to come to an end. They anticipate that the first sign of this transition will be the arrival of Jesus Christ in the sky, and the rapture of all born-again Christians to be with Jesus. In 1999, when this essay was originally written, many conservative Christians expected that the rapture was imminent; they anticipated it in their very near future -- perhaps at the start of the year 2000. We were concerned that if none of these events happened, that the resultant mass disappointment might fuel a backlash against believers in minority religions.

There was a very common belief during the 19th century that Jesus' return was being delayed until after most of the world was converted to Christianity. Some Christians still follow that belief. We feared that Atheists, other secularists, and followers of non-Christian religions might be blamed for three delays: of Jesus' return, the rapture, and Armageddon. This blame could quickly evolve into hatred and violence.

As it turned out, we were pleasantly surprised. Since 2000-JAN-1, end time events did not come to pass. People expecting Jesus' return seem to have adjusted to the disappointment without a lot of distress. Conservative religious leaders still refer to the world being in its last days, but few are predicting exact times for the end events.

We remain concerned about the long-term future of religious peace in North America. A recent study shows that Christianity is in decline in the U.S. The percentage of American adults who identify themselves as Christian has dropped from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001, and to 76.0% in 2008. Meanwhile, the percentage of persons who don't consider themselves to be affiliated with any organized religion is rapidly growing. Some non-Christian religions are also growing quickly. The number of Wiccans, for example, was doubling every 30 months.

We are not certain that such a transition can be attained peacefully without active programs by governments and by the main religious groups to promote respect among their membership for followers of other religions. What is needed are programs to teach one of the corollaries of the Golden Rule: that we are to treat all persons with respect -- even those who hold beliefs different from ourselves. It is not important whether we accept the beliefs of others as valid, or reject them as false. What is important is that we not attack, discriminate against or oppress these "others."

Without such pro-active programs, we expect that there will be growing frictions, mainly between the followers of the dominant religion -- Christianity -- and persons who either identify themselves as non-believers in any organized religion, or as followers of minority religions.

These tensions could be exploited by some political leaders. This happened in the break-away areas of the former Yugoslavia, where long-standing religious frictions were manipulated by a small number of political and religious leaders, and used to fuel atrocities, crimes against humanity and genocide. No part of the world is immune from these tendencies

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A possible cure:

Most organized religions tend to teach that their beliefs alone are true, and that other religions are, to various degrees, wrong. Some even teach that other religions are Satanic in nature. These beliefs can lead to prejudice against other faith groups, which can degenerate into violence and oppression. However, all major religions also teach an Ethic of Reciprocity. This is the Golden Rule in Christianity. They teach the importance of treating others as you would be wished to be treated in return. One implication of such an ethic is that others should be granted religious freedom -- they should be allowed to freely follow their own, different, spiritual paths as a fundamental human right without experiencing oppression, discrimination and attacks. 

If religious groups were to lay greater stress on the Ethic of Reciprocity contained within their religious texts, then religious prejudice should decrease markedly. Churches could include such secular documents as the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, etc. in their tolerance classes. Without such a pro-active program, some of their followers may fall back on some of the intolerant passages in their own religious texts for guidance.

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Do these poll results indicate religious bigotry and intolerance?

Religious prejudice is not as simple as racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia. Other factors are involved when we consider religion:

bulletMany born-again Christians believe that the normal destination for people after death are the torture pits of Hell; only the small minority of humans who are born-again will attain heaven. Any faith group that does not motivate people to repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior -- i.e. to be "saved" -- would, in their view, have a negative impact on its members, and thus on society as a whole. So, empathic concern for followers of other religions may contribute greatly to the low opinion that born-again Christians have of other faiths. Christian churchgoers' dim view of other religions may be largely based on their belief about salvation, and concern for the fate of those who are not born-again, and not simple religious intolerance.

bulletOn this web site, we define religious intolerance as taking action against a person or group who follows a different faith. Actions might take many forms: discrimination, ridicule, oppression, advocating restrictions on human rights, economic attack, physical attack, etc. In some areas of the world, it involves imprisonment, assassination, torture, and mass murder -- occasionally genocide. Without such action, then it is our opinion that no religious intolerance has occurred. A negative view of another religion is not religious intolerance. It merely has the potential to develop into intolerance at some time in the future. Although prejudice is high against some minority religions in North America, there is relatively little overt action which has been taken. Three major exceptions are:

bulletVandalism and threats against Jewish synagogues and cemeteries by anti-semites and neo-Nazis.

bulletVandalism and threats against Islamic mosques.

bulletThe promotion of discrimination against Wiccans and other Neopagans by political leaders in the U.S. 

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Related essays:

bulletHow Christians view other religions

bulletHow Roman Catholics view other denominations and religions

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Christian history, belief... > Polls > here

 Home page > Religious info. > Basic info. > Polls > here

 Home page > Religious hatred > here

 Home page > Religious info. > Basic info. > Polls > here

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Copyright 1999 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-8
Latest update: 2011-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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