A New Timely Study Links Religion and Racism, Duh.
Wendy Wood of USC conducted an analytical study of existing research into the link between religion and racism. Here findings are both expected and shocking.
One can only ask what the implications are for other discriminatory opinions in the US such as anti-reproductive rights and anti-social services. And, at risk of running out these implications too far, what this study says about the Tea Party-furcated Republican party, committed to "no"-ing our nation's way to a complete stalemate under our current black-led administration.
A meta-analytic review of past research evaluated the link between religiosity and racism in the United States since the Civil Rights Act. Religious racism partly reflects intergroup dynamics. That is, a strong religious in-group identity was associated with derogation of racial out-groups. Other races might be treated as out-groups because religion is practiced largely within race, because training in a religious in-group identity promotes general ethnocentrism, and because different others appear to be incompetition for resources. In addition, religious racism is tied to basic life values of social conformity and respect for tradition. In support, individuals who were religious for reasons of conformity and tradition expressed racism that declined in recent years with the decreased societal acceptance of overt racial discrimination. 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.
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.