Part 2: Prejudice of Americans
religions: 1937 to the present time
These data indicate that, on average:
|Americans are generally prejudiced against non-Judeo-Christian
|Churchgoers are more prejudiced than are Non-Christians.|
|Born-again Christians are more prejudiced than the average
|There is a gradual lessening of prejudice in the country.|
|Prejudice against Blacks, Catholics, Jews, and Women (at
least as presidential candidates), has been essentially wiped out in
|Prejudice against homosexuals has dropped significantly in the past
two decades, but remains high.|
|Prejudice against Atheists has dropped slightly, but remains
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,
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."
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.
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.
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:
|Many born-again Christians believe that the normal destination for
people after death are the torture pits of
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
about salvation, and concern for the fate of those who are not
born-again, and not simple religious intolerance.|
|On 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:
|Vandalism and threats against Jewish synagogues and cemeteries
by anti-semites and neo-Nazis.|
|Vandalism and threats against Islamic mosques.|
|The promotion of discrimination against Wiccans and other
Neopagans by political leaders in the U.S. |
Copyright © 1999 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-DEC-8
Latest update: 2011-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson