Feb 11, 2010
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.