Religiously motivated fear, hatred,
animosity, intolerance, conflict, oppression, etc.

A new English word: "Religism," which means
bigotry towards other religions/belief systems

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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.

Examples are:

bullet Ageism refers to bigotry based on age. The elderly are most commonly victimized.

bullet Colorism (colourism in Canada) refers to bias within the African American community in favor of light-skinned individuals.

bullet Homophobia refers to bigotry based on sexual orientation. Victims are generally gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

bullet Racism refers to bigotry based on a person's race or skin color. In North America, most victims are black or biracial.

bullet Sexism refers to bigotry based on a person's gender. Victims are mostly women or intersexual persons, although males are sometimes oppressed.

bullet Transphobia refers to bigotry based on a person's gender identity. Victims are generally transgender persons or transsexuals.

bullet 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.

bullet 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:

  • 887 were anti-Jewish incidents
  • 160 were anti-Islamic incidents
  • 123 incidents against persons of other religions
  • 58 anti-Catholic 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 "realism."

Religism seems to be catching on. A Google search for the word returned about:

bullet 54 hits on 2006-MAY-07,

bullet 120 on 2008-OCT-20,

bullet 321 on 2009-APR-21, and

bullet 469 on 2009-JUL-12.

bullet 1,340 on 2010-JAN-09.

bullet 3,150 on 2011-APR-23.

bullet 7,190 on 2011-NOV-29

bullet 6,100 on 2012-OCT-10. A curious drop. That year, a YouTube video appeared: "What is Religism?"
bullet Sometime before the end of 2014, Webster's Dictionary defined 'Religism' as "animosity, intolerance, conflict, oppression or bigotry towards religions or belief systems."
bullet 3,450 on 2015-JAN-15.

bullet 2,870 on 2015-MAY-15.
bullet 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 discuss it. So, it might survive.

See also a listing of some definitions of
"Religism" on various Internet websites.


  1. "Hate Crimes Remain Steady; 2010 FBI Report Released," FBI, 2011-NOV-14, at:  As of 2012-OCT, the 2010 data is the most recent available.
  2. "2010 Hate Crime Statistics: Table 1. Incidents, Offenses, Victims, and Known Offenders by Bias Motivation," FBI, at:

Copyright 2009 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on: 2009-JUL-12
Last update: 2018-MAY-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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