Tuesday, December 18, 2007

People for the Ethical Treatment of People

A new study by Ralph Pyle, a sociologist from Michigan State University, regarding religious attitudes towards tolerance and prejudice, presented at this month's joint meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association in Tampa, FL, yielded some interesting results. As reported by David Briggs of the Cleveland Plain Dealer,
Pyle measured nearly 3,000 responses from General Social Survey data from 1998-2004 on several issues such as openness to racial intermarriage and racially mixed neighborhoods and ranked religious groups on a scale of anti-black and anti-immigrant attitudes.

He found that moderate Protestants held the strongest anti-black attitudes. The next most prejudiced group? Liberal Protestants. As expected, black Protestants were the least prejudiced against blacks. But they were the most prejudiced against immigrants. Conservative Protestants were the second most prejudiced group against immigrants. Jews, Catholics and other religious groups showed less prejudice to both groups, being particularly open to immigrants. People who go to church regularly were less likely to be prejudiced, Pyle said. Noteworthy were people with no religious affiliation who were much less likely to be prejudiced than individuals showing modest levels of commitment to their faith, those who attend services monthly or less.

So let’s get this straight. Moderate and liberal Protestants were the most prejudiced, followed by conservative Protestants. Catholics and Jews, were less prejudiced followed by non-religionists who were “much less likely” than the rest to be prejudiced, even less likely than devout church-goers. Empirical data thus show that religion is no bellwether for ethical treatment towards our fellow human beings. In other words, secular humanism, which is the conscious expression of these attitudes of tolerance and lack of prejudice, trumps religion in its supposed moral superiority.

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