A New Timely Study Links Religion and Racism, Duh.
A meta-analytic review of past research evaluated the link betweenreligiosity and racism in the United States since the CivilRights Act. Religious racism partly reflects intergroup dynamics.That is, a strong religious in-group identity was associatedwith derogation of racial out-groups. Other races might be treatedas out-groups because religion is practiced largely within race,because training in a religious in-group identity promotes generalethnocentrism, and because different others appear to be incompetition for resources. In addition, religious racism istied to basic life values of social conformity and respect fortradition. In support, individuals who were religious for reasonsof conformity and tradition expressed racism that declined inrecent years with the decreased societal acceptance of overtracial discrimination. The authors failed to find that racialtolerance arises from humanitarian values, consistent with theidea that religious humanitarianism is largely expressed toin-group members. Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant.Science and Religion Today, where I found the study, asks the question "Are Devoutly Religious Congregations More Racist?" and answers:
Apparently so, according to Wendy Wood, a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California. Wood and her colleagues looked at 55 studies over the last 45 years involving more than 20,000 people (mostly Christians) and found a strong correlation between religious beliefs and racism. The studies show there’s significantly less racism among people who don’t have strong religious beliefs, while highly devout religious communities exhibit more prejudice against people of other races (with seminaries showing the highest degree of racism). The researchers found barely any difference between the amount of racism among religious fundamentalists and more moderate Christians. “Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant,” they write in their paper.
We shouldn’t be shocked, Wood explains:
Religious groups distinguish between believers and nonbelievers and moral people and immoral ones. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the strongly religious people in our research, who were mostly white Christians, discriminated against others who were different from them—blacks and minorities.
She also points out that people who are religious because they value tradition and social convention were especially likely to be racist, noting:
The effect stays significant even in recent years. For people who are religious for conservative reasons, they have become less racist in recent years as racism has become less socially acceptable. But even they are still significantly racist, just that the effect has reduced in magnitude.