Religiously motivated fear, hatred,
A new English
word: "Religism," which means
bigotry towards other religions/belief systems
Bigotry takes many forms:
Bigotry is a serious, chronic problem throughout the world. It is a form of
dualism that divides the entire human race into two groups: "us" and "them," or "good people" and "the other."
This often results in the rejection or denigration of every member -- sight unseen -- of an
entire group because of a single factor: their age, body shape or weight, caste,
skin color, gender, national origin, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation,
etc. It is sometimes expressed as a desire or action to deprive an entire group of individuals of fundamental human rights, like freedom of religious expression, or freedom to marry.
The English language has words for these types of bigotry.
Ageism refers to bigotry based on age. The elderly are most
Colorism (colourism in Canada) refers to bias within the African American community in favor of light-skinned individuals.
Weight stigma (a.k.a.weightism, weight
bias, or weight-based discrimination) refers to bigotry based on a
person's weight or body shape. Overweight, obese, and underweight individuals
are most commonly victimized.
Xenophobia refers to bigotry based on a persons nationality, birth
location, or birth culture. Victims differ from country to country. In the
U.S. it is largely seen in discrimination against Hispanics; in Europe, it is
seen in maltreatment of Roma (a.k.a. Gypsies).
Unfortunately, the English language does not have a widely accepted single word to refer
to bigotry or intolerance based on religion. Yet, in our opinion, religious bigotry and religious intolerance are the
most important impediments to world peace. If the human race is wiped off
the face of the earth later in the present century, the root cause will probably be
religious bigotry triggering World War III.
The most common form of religism in North
America is in the form of discrimination against non-Christians, up to
and including the promotion of genocide against them. According to FBI
hate-crime statistics, during 2010 -- the most recent data available at the time this essay was updated -- there were 1,322 reported hate crimes motivated by religious bias committed against 1,552 victims. Of these 1,322 incidents:
48 incidents against persons of multiple religions
41 anti-Protestant incidents
5 incidents against Atheists, Agnostic, etc. 1,2 (We are not entirely certain what the "etc." refers to; perhaps some combination of freethinkers, Humanists, religious skeptics, and secularists.)
The critical word here is "reported." We suspect
that only a small percentage of incidences actually are reported and enter the
FBI data base. As an example, about 10% of the U.S. population has either a homosexual or bisexual population. Among these approximately 30 million people, by the time they reach adulthood, more than 40% have been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. Yet the number of reported homophobic events across the U.S. is measured in the thousands.
We recommend a new word:
We recommend the use of a new word, "religism," to describe religious bigotry.
It involves any attitude, action or institutional structure that treats an individual or group of individuals
negatively because of their
religion or lack of religion. We suggest the definition:
Religism: "the expression of fear towards, hatred
towards, or discrimination against, persons
of a specific religion affiliation, usually a minority faith."
This is a word that is not currently found in printed dictionaries, because
they tend to lag public usage of new words by about a generation.
From time to time, we see the word "racist" used as a substitute for "religism,"
particularly with relation to religious bigotry directed against Muslims. But it
seriously misses the
mark. Such hatred is unrelated to race.
We first suggested the word "relism" back in the late 1990s, because its
sound closely parallels "racism" and "sexism." However, a visitor to this
website quickly suggested "religism" because "relism" can be easily confused with
Religism seems to be catching on. A Google search for the word returned
54 hits on 2006-MAY-07,
120 on 2008-OCT-20,
321 on 2009-APR-21, and
469 on 2009-JUL-12.
1,340 on 2010-JAN-09.
3,150 on 2011-APR-23.
7,190 on 2011-NOV-29
6,100 on 2012-OCT-10. A curious drop. That year, a YouTube video appeared: "What is Religism?"
Sometime before the end of 2014, Webster's Dictionary defined 'Religism' as "animosity, intolerance, conflict, oppression or bigotry towards religions or belief systems."
3,450 on 2015-JAN-15.
2,870 on 2015-MAY-15.
3,050 on 2018-MAY-18. It looks as if the word is barely hanging on as a new English word. However, Wikipedia, the Urban Dictionary and this essay on ReligiousTolerance.org discuss it. So, it might survive.