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An essay by Swain and Eric Wodening

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The following essay was written by Swain and Eric Wodening. Used by permission.

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Bigotry, the intolerance, fear, and hatred of those different from ourselves is still a far too common occurrence in the world today. Bigotry is almost universally considered wrong because it robs others of their rights as human beings through discrimination and persecution. Here in the United States when we think of bigotry, we tend to think of it in terms of ethnicity, and surely bigotry against those not of European origin is still the most common form of bigotry to be found in the United States. Bigotry can take other forms however, and one can be bigoted against others because of their religion, culture, and sex as well as their ethnicity.

Indeed, religious bigotry may well have been the most common form of bigotry for much of Europe's history. Most of us are familiar with the persecution of Christians in ancient Rome, in which they were fed to the lions in the Coliseum and even blamed for the burning of Rome. During the Middle Ages the Jews were persecuted to no end, not just because they were another ethnic group, but another religion as well. Religious bigotry still exists in the world today and one need look no further than Bosnia. In so far as ethnicity goes, there are often few physical differences between a Serb and a Bosnian and they pretty much speak the same language. They share a common origin and one would not be able tell the difference from a Serb and a Bosnian on the street outside of the mode of dress. The only real difference is religion, and due to religious bigotry they are willing to kill each other. The same is true of Ireland, Palestine, and even the United States. One need not be of a minority race to be a victim of religious bigotry.

There are more subtle means of persecution than physical violence resulting from religious bigotry. These involve character assassination and harassment of members of religious minorities and the people that associate with them. Often members of religious minorities find themselves in the position of the outsider and are refused jobs and even mocked or laughed at. They are often excluded from social functions or community gatherings. They may be falsely accused of crimes or framed for crimes they did not commit. Sometimes, religious bigotry will be cloaked with false accusations that members of minority religions are lazy or insane or an undesirable element. The most common form of persecution is to accuse the minority religious group of being a cult or Satanic. Early Christians were accused of sacrificing babies, cannibalism, and one piece of ancient Roman graffiti shows Christ with a donkey head. No one would accuse Christianity of such things now.

Bigotry of any kind seems to stem from the same source. Sociologists early in the 20th century developed the theory of the authoritarian personality. An authoritarian personality has strong feelings of inadequacy, dependency, and hostility, particularly toward those in authority, even though they may be in a position of authority. Because of these feelings of worthlessness, they tend to displace this anger and hate towards themselves onto another group. The bigot is simply transferring their own sense of low self esteem and their own self hatred to another racial, cultural, or religious group. The bigot will stereotype, lie, about and persecute that group no matter what the truth. They will even go so far as to accuse the persecuted of being the persecutor or fabricate instances of persecution.

Such reasoning is not reasoning at all, esp. when it goes against the teachings of most religions. Nearly all religions teach "love thy neighbor," and that it is wrong to harm others. Most religions have some form of sin be it in the form of transgression against god or karma.

In a multi-religious nation like the United States where the practice of the religion of one's choice is protected by the Constitution, there is no reason for any kind of religious bigotry. Christianity, Wicca, Islam, Bahai Faith, Theodish Belief, Shinto...generally all wish to achieve the same means, the enlightenment of the soul and the well being of Mankind. These ends can be achieved all the so much easier if there is mutual cooperation and not the constant variations of the Jihad, the Crusades, the Holocaust. Perhaps the best way is to practice what most religions teach, be kind to your fellow man.

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