THE NATURE OF RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY.
An essay by Swain and Eric Wodening
The following essay was written by Swain and Eric Wodening.
Used by permission.
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
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.