Researchers from Duke, USC and Augsburg College have published a study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review that finds the more tightly fundamentalist a person is, the greater the likelihood that person is racist. From the online journal, Miller-McCune.com:
In a new study drawing on nearly a half century of data, a team of researchers report that religious adherents in the United States — especially fundamentalist Christians — are more inclined than agnostics to harbor racist attitudes toward blacks and other minorities.
This “religion-racism paradox,” as University of Southern California social psychologist Wendy Wood explains it, is deeply embedded in organized religion which, by its very nature, encourages people to accept one fundamental belief system as superior to all others. The required value judgment creates a kind of us-versus-them conflict, in which members of a religious group develop ethnocentric attitudes toward anyone perceived as different. The study, “Why Don’t We Practice What We Preach? A Meta-Analytic Review of Religious Racism,” appeared in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.
“Religion creates a very strong sense of a moral right and wrong within the group,” says Wood. “When you do that, members of the group will be more likely to derogate anyone who is not part of it.” And because religion in America is practiced largely along segregated lines (just 12 percent of U.S. congregations report even a moderate level of diversity, one study shows) that derogation, and the sense of superiority that drives such diminishment of others, can extend beyond religious differences to race, class and ethnicity.
Compounding the effect, the study’s authors explain, are similarities in the moral makeup of people drawn to religion and of people who exhibit racist attitudes and behavior. Previous studies have shown that religious adherents are more likely than agnostics and atheists to rate conservative “life values” as the most important principles underlying their belief systems.