Are Devoutly Religious Congregations More Racist?

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.

Category: Findings


37 Responses

  1. Fester60613 says:

    Having come from a devout southern baptist background I am not at all surprised at these findings. My atheist friends are far less prejudiced. Ironical that the followers of Jesus fail epically in this regard.

  2. Question says:


    How do you explain Hitler, Mao and Stalin. All athesists and killed millions of their own people.

  3. Kathleen says:

    People need to understand the difference between religion and a relationship with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was not white. When one truly follows his teachings one is not a white racist because he was not a racist.

    Now how about looking at racism in the hundreds of Christian and Catholic charities and hospitals, food banks, orphanages, and homeless shelters.

  4. Jesse says:

    In the USA, I believe that people choose where they want to worship. Since there are 200 million whites and 100 million non whites you’ll visibly see more whites in places of worship. From my observations, many Blacks have preferred to worship with their own and non-English speakers prefer to worship where their native language is spoken.

  5. hollywoodron says:

    this must be absolute proof that we rid ourselves of christianity! the 1st international institution to ever ban slavery. though atheists have been around for 1000s of years and never cared to ban slavery.
    & yes i’m glad the professor was able to pick 55 ‘studies’ to find this out, as opposed to the other 1000s upon 1000s of studies! phoooh, thanks for the genius!
    i like how christianity states ‘kill the other races’ and ‘kill blacks n minorities’ cuz blacks n minorities are all atheists or something. thank god!

  6. M says:

    I would bet that the results are highly dependent on how you define both “racism” and “highly devout”/”strong religious beliefs.” I wonder what sort of data was used for such an indication as both of the above terms are highly subjective and manifest in various ways. Too bad I can’t access the whole article to find out.

  7. Abram says:

    It would be interesting to know whether devoutly religious black congregations could also be racists.

  8. R says:

    What a piece of crap bigoted study. And look at the stupid reporting that does not even take issue with the bigotry of the study. And why is the study itself bigoted? Because there are a presumed unexplained set of values that are purported to be “norm” and racist free. Any study not forthrightly explaining what standards are used and what the test target samples are taken from isn’t worth the paper cost for cleaning oneself after defecating.

  9. […] Science and Religion Today, where I found the study, asks the question “Are Devoutly Religious Congregations More Racist?” and answers: […]

  10. Sara Burke says:

    Deeply religious Christians are color blind…we see others not through the lens of color but as children of God born of sin but redeemed equally by our Savior Jesus. This study is yet another way to fractionalize us.

  11. bobbie says:

    yep,devoutly religious are so racist that we try to stop abortions of all races. ever hear of margaret sanger? planned parenthood still thinks like her and guess what race they target?

  12. Dean W. Johnson says:

    It doesn’t matter what race you are, you are taught them/us dicotomies. Yes, blacks display intollerance of gay marriage and don’t see the irony. The KKK was endorsed and supported by many churches.

    BTW, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were not atheists.

  13. One has to be racist themselves to call someone else racist. racism is a subjective term, where I might believe a person to be a racist they may very well not be based upon someone else’s criteria. It is to easy to point fingers at any one or group and single them out for SOB, SON OBAMA which I think this study is doing, racism needs a fall guy and the Christians have always been in the cross hairs of SOB’s rifle, let us face it why else would a dark skinned white man be playing a race card and trying to fool people into thinking he is a light skinned black man, the truth is in a DNA TEST!

  14. Richard Fontaine says:

    I would like to suggest that what this professor is doing is done every day in hundreds of so called institutions of higher learning throughout the United States. If you think this type of self serving slander of Christians is dispicable then I suggest all of us start using our rights as consumers to demand that if we are being asked to pay $35,000/year for these private colleges to slander our culture they should at least hire honest and unbiased instructors to educate our children. This type of PROGRESSIVE/DEMOCRAT propaganda is what goes on every day in all too many classrooms all across America. If you are offended do something about it. Take your children out of these colleges and get involved in understanding what you and your children are paying for in their education. You might well be shocked. Send a PROGRESSIVE Democrat to the unemployment line today. It is what they do best.

  15. proudatheist says:

    This is pretty…not shocking. Every white supremacist I’ve known (and I know a lot, living in a largely southern, Republican town) always talks about how holy they are and how much better they are than people of other races, religions and sexual preferences.

    I think racism and religion go together because fear and ignorance go together.

  16. Ernest says:

    Yep, Black Liberation Theology is as racist as you can get.

  17. DennisR says:

    How did the good doctor define “racism” and “discrimination”? Without knowing that, this study is bogus.

  18. Jack de Lowe says:

    I find a great deal of double talk in the results.
    And this is coming from an observant Jewish USC graduate!
    Without the support of Christian Zionists, Israel would not have the support in Congress that it has.
    I don’t know if this changes anything with regard to the black/white divide, but it certainly blows a hole in this ‘theory’ regarding ‘minorities.’

  19. kristi says:

    If you believe this study.. you need your head examined.

  20. Valerie Jane says:

    Which studies did they pick? Was there a demographic involved? Did they separate the races in order to obtain the answer they want? Since the report itself does not say “white” or “black” how do we know there was a balanced grouping? (Wood even states it was imbalanced in her explanation) Was their some sort of control group? Where the studies picked primarily from the decades ago, how many were recent studies? What were the questions asked? Were the same questions asked through the years? Was there any statistical sampling done? Who defined the sampling?

    Seriously – this is the worst study I have ever seen and I’ve seen, analyzed and studied many.

  21. howrylo says:

    Really? So is this article racist because it singles out a sect of the culture? It also defines a certain people based on colour, religion, and the like…you see where this kind of thinking goes down hill and cannot stand in a rational argument? From the authors own words: “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”…wow really? Hmmm, who sounds racist? Just cut the crap everyone, if you cannot go out without your “feelings” being hurt (awww)just stay home till you grow up and can take it like an adult

  22. Luke says:

    You don’t choose to “believe” findings. Results are results. the only real debate is over interpretations. This study reflects the consensus of 50 years of research consisting of hundreds of studies including different methodolgies from surveys to experiments with behavioral observations. More devoutly religious people are more racist than non-religious people. Get over it. Its a fact. If this review isn’t enough to convince you (not that that would be possible apparently using standards of evidence) find a psychology of religion textbook and look it up. Or better yet, read some of these comments on this threat. Let’s just say it once again: More devoutly religious people are more racist.

  23. AnotherProudAetheist says:

    I think Christians are the most prejudiced, unaccepting, holier-than-thou,narrow-minded people I have ever come across. Their attitude to now fairly normal things like abortion, homosexuals and immorality is ridiculous. Yes, you follow Jesus’ teachings, but that was thousands of years ago! Things have changed! Now, men and women have rights to choose their sexual preferences, and if they want this baby or not. You don’t *have* to follow a strict code of morals anymore, you can do what you like! And it doesn’t matter who or what you worship, we’re all equal.
    America has a huge majority of Christians, who supposedly are true Christians. Yet they have racial problems between Black Americans and White Americans, who are mostly Christians. If they were true Christians, they would put aside their differences and accept them.

  24. Roger A. Sawtelle says:

    BTW Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al were atheists. Atheism is the professed belief of scientific Marxism. While their monstrous crimes against humanity do not in themselves mean that all atheists are evil, it should give give them something to think about instead of trying to gloss over this simple fact of history as Dawkins and the website sited above do.

    This is especially true since some atheists claims the misdeeds of some Christians a reason for unbelief, even while saying that true Christians do not behave badly. There is no reason for true atheists not to behave badly.

    Hitler was clearly an egomaniac. His crimes against the Jews were not religiously inspired, but inspired by his racist ideology that included superiority over all “non-Aryan” peoples.

    When faced with defeat Hitler turned against the nation and people who had followed and supported him, rather than admit his responsibility for the disaster that he inflicted on Germany and the world.

  25. Zeke says:

    Luke, don’t be so dense. One cannot follow Christ’s teachings and be a racist. It is logically impossible. As a social psychologist who has done several research projects I would need to know their methods in detail, how they defined their terms (i.e. “devout”, “religous”, etc.) To be sure, there are those who claim to be “religious” or “Christian”, but pay little attention to Christ’s teachings. If the researchers’ definition of “religious” is simply being willing to claim the title, then their study is worthless. They need to properly define and explain the criteria they are using before conclusions can be drawn.

  26. Gregory Laux says:

    This woman and her colleagues should be fired for educational misconduct. They claim to analyze data that is mostly from one viewpoint, mostly Christians, and then they draw conclusions based upon their own personal biases and prejudices of Christians. The data being analyzed was garbage data and so the conclusions these supposed educated professors reached is also garbage. It just shows how the baby boomer generation produced lots of politically motivated scumbags who have little academic ability and no moral sense of honesty.

  27. meekness says:

    not all religious people are prejudiced it depends on an individuals religious orientation i.e. what religion means to you and how you follow your religion, do you question it or no?? people who are more devout and onformist towards their religion are the ones who are more likely to be prejdiced that those who are not .

  28. Jessica says:

    Hitler wasn’t an atheist. He was Catholic, and referenced God in some of his speeches.

  29. theOneWithoutASecond says:

    lol what a joke of a study. The only problems with this study is that it’s based off America only (one of the most religious countries) and that it’s based off data from nearly 50 years ago when racism was more acceptable in society.

    In modern times the most racist countries are the countries with the highest atheist populations like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, etc….

    People just have to realize that basically all atheists are racists, except for non-white atheists and atheists living in areas with high Theist populations.

  30. Denis says:

    A study is a study. I wish there were more data to collect so there will be no biased views.
    Of course there will be pros and cons against this study. But I’m supporting it just for the sake of knowing what’s the truth behind the world’s history. Maybe differentiation is good. Maybe it’s actually necessary. And maybe, acknowledging it gives us strength as a society.

  31. Nan Cas says:

    “…Religion has caused more damage and harm than all the world’s wars, and in many cases was responsible for the wars. It is religion that brought about the crusades (Christian and Arab), slaughtering millions of women, children, the elderly, and others. It was religion that speared the Thirty Years War and led to the deaths of thousands during the Saint Bartholemew Day Massacre in France, the hanging of Catholics in Germany (with Martin Luther invoking the German nobility to “kill in darkness and in day light … the German peasants”, to the fires at Smithfield both under the Roman Catholic Queen Mary and the Protestant King Edward. Tabulated carefully, religion has cost over 65% of all those who died in battle, with the government of the USA actually buying weapons and weapon accessories with religious (Christian) messages, and the draconian US Air Force Academy requiring all recruits and students to attend Christian evangelical indoctrination classes while prohibiting nonevangelicals and secularists from presenting their perspectives. The military of the USA, like that of the UK, is among the chief protagonists of religious violence and deceit..”

  32. itsnobody says:

    It’s time for me to debunk this study to teach the fools.

    Here’s some flaws in the study:
    – Almost everyone who participated in the study were Christians meaning that it would be mathematically impossible for the majority of people who participated within the study to be non-Christian racists….it’s just like someone getting a group made up of 100% atheists then saying within this group of made up of 100% atheists all the people who were racist in that group were atheists…lol

    Why don’t they conduct a study on racism where most of the participants are white atheists and only about 0.5% are Christian then?

    I know why it’s because the study was designed to make religion appear bad. Just more distorted propaganda

    – Correlation is not causation…so this could just be coincidence…it’s just like someone saying “people who murder drink water” is equivalent to “drinking water causes you to murder”

    – The study says “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” indicating that the actual cause of racism is simply social acceptance and tradition, not religion

    So the causation is not religion it’s social acceptance and tradition

    So this study is basically saying “there are religious people who happen to be racist” not that “religion causes you to be racist”

    – On the other hand there is a causal link between believing that blacks are genetically less intelligent and believing in evolution and that the brain is the mind like liberal atheists Richard Dawkins, Richard Lynn, and James D. Watson have pointed out

    – The study uses a flawed methodology for measuring racism…the study doesn’t measure people who actually racially discriminate it uses “Literature” as it’s method and measures supposed “racist attitudes”

    There can be many people who racially discriminate who claim not to have racist attitudes and vice-versa, so this methodology is quite useless

    – Most of the data in the study was taken from nearly 50 years ago or earlier when racism acceptable in society…in modern day atheist countries like Sweden they have the same attitudes as people in the 1960s and prior, see

    – In modern times the most racist countries are the countries with the highest atheist populations like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, etc….

    Anyone who objectively reads the study will find it to be very weak considering the methods used, sample, and reasons given.

    In the end this study is pure anti-religious propaganda…

  33. itsnobody says:

    People have to realize what’s happening to society before atheists/racists finally take over.

    I predict that by 2060 once the liberal atheist population is very high most of the world will be Nazi/Nationalist specifically because of the atheist population.

    According to liberal atheists Martin Luther King Jr. was just another dumb delusional creationist reverend trying to spread creationist propaganda like “all men are created equal”.

    The most celebrated liberal atheist biologist of all time – James D. Watson debunked this creationist claim in October 2007:
    “there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but people who have to deal with black employees find this not true” – Liberal atheist, James D. Watson, October 2007

    “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa because all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really” – Liberal atheist, James D. Watson, October 2007

    Richard Lynn, the same liberal atheist who claims that atheists have higher IQs has spoken on how admixtures lower the IQ.

    Nazis/atheists can finally rejoice now that in modern times people are giving up on the creationist delusion!

    Basically 100% of white atheists are racist. Atheists are inherently hateful people, the most disgusting form of life, the lowest possible form of existence.

    In Sweden, the most celebrated liberal atheist country, basically everyone either is a Nazi or personally knows a Nazi.

    The US has a 0.7% atheist population according to the 2008 AIRS report and Tom Metzger the founder of the Neo-Nazi group White Aryan Resistance is an atheist.

    Just imagine what things will be like once the atheist population in the US goes up to 10-15%. Then it will be common to hear people say that the holocaust was a hoax and nationalism will be popular.

    There is no mainstream form of Christianity that accepts White Nationalism that’s why lots of atheists/Nationalists say “Christ-insanity comes from the Joo’s texts”.

    People just have to realize that atheists are the most racist people, the lowest possible form of life before it’s too late.

    Hopefully I can encourage enough people to view all atheists as a whole as subhuman beings since atheists intentionally refuse to criticize racism in general.

  34. asian christian says:

    I am an Asian Christian. I went to a White Church for a number of years. Many White Christians believe in charity, helping others in need, etc. BUT THEY DO NOT BELIEVE IN RACIAL EQUALITY! White Christians got that idea from the Bible. My White Christian friend told me there is NO racial equality. He referred to the Book of Timothy in the Bible to tell me that Asians (referring to me) are slaves and have to obey the white masters.

  35. esther says:

    This is a study and sometimes people reading the study do not like the results, but it is still a legitimate study. If you don’t like the study you should conduct your own and publish it just like the professor did.

  36. Peter F says:

    The bible is very xenophobic. It was written at a time where Israel had much to fear from other races in terms of being invaded. It therefore has the potential to incite feelings of fear and racism when read out of its original context.

  37. Ara Philips says:

    I have been living in Georgia from the age of fourteen and I got a chance to travel to Tennessee and Alabama. They are all the same. Its such a shame how the these people think they are devout Christians. They are disgrace to Christ!

Leave a Reply