Saturday, February 5, 2011 Login

Religion & Racism

The Most Segregated Hour In America? (Prof. James C. Klagge)

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., once said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” How much have things changed?

The Multiracial Congregations Project led by Michael Emerson, a Rice University sociologist, defines a multiracial congregation as one where no one racial group is more than 80% of the congregation. Using that standard, Emerson has found that only 8% of all Christian congregations in the U.S. are racially mixed to a significant degree: 2-3% of mainline Protestant congregations, 8% of other Protestant congregations, and 20% of Catholic parishes….

It remains an open question whether American Christians will achieve the diverse community of which Dr. King dreamed in which God’s children-black and white-will join hands and sing together in church.

Racism Is Linked To Religious Dogmatism (John Shook/Center for Inquiry; Feb 16)

Religious people can be racist, and that’s not news. But are they more likely to be racist than non-religious people? A new study now confirms this hypothesis.

The February issue of Personality and Social Psychology Review has published a meta-analysis of 55 independent studies conducted in the United States which considers surveys of over 20,000 mostly Christian participants. Religious congregations generally express more prejudiced views towards other races. Furthermore, the more devout the community, the greater the racism.

We also read this additional fascinating conclusion from the authors’ summary: “The authors failed to find that racial tolerance arises from humanitarian values, consistent with the idea that religious humanitarianism is largely expressed to in-group members. Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant.”

Is this a surprising result? Humanistic values, such as equal dignity and rights for all humanity, are often professed by many Christian denominations. But does this preaching make any difference to their members’ actual prejudices? Apparently not!

This study finds that a denomination’s demand for devout allegiance to its Christian creed overrides any humanistic message. By demanding such devotion to one specific and dogmatic Christianity, a denomination only encourages its members to view outsiders as less worthy.

— Let’s read that conclusion again: “Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant.” Why would religious agnostics be more humanistic and less racist?

Religious agnostics would be people who combine a religious/spiritual attitude in living life with a humble admission that they don’t know if their approach is the only right way. Religious agnostics are pluralistic — they have no problem admiring how different people can enjoy different religious paths. And it is precisely this lack of dogmatism which permits humanistic values to shine through. Religious exclusivism defeats humanistic universalism, but religious pluralism enhances humanistic universalism.

The message to humanists? It’s not enough to ask religious people to be more humanistic. Humanists must ask for less dogmatism across the board — if Christians would be more humanistic, they must surrender their conviction that their way is the only way….

To learn much more about the connection between religion and irrational prejudice and intolerance, see the entries I posted on March 10, 2009 and Oct 8, 2002.

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Originally posted at: Atheist Under Ur Bed

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