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Religion, Racism and Democracy

Religion,Racism and Democracy

Whenhe extolled the religious freedom in schools, President Bill Clintonintensified the debates that were already ongoing on the position ofreligion in the life of the Americans. The modern society provides acomfortable platform to focus on the role which spiritual forces hasplayed in shaping the welfare of the country. Paul Johnson, ahistorian, asserts that America is one of the most religiouscountries from history (Duriez, 2012). He claims that the firstAmerican Christians were too anxious to explain their practices andreasons behind them. He goes on to describe the American settlers asthe ancient Israelites. The settlers saw themselves as the dynamicmessengers of the divine word of God. He argues that about a half ofthe Americans population today attends Sunday service. He does notfind any other nation that he can equate to using this index ofreligious practice more so in a densely populated region. Prayershold a central position in the American religious activities. Theypray more than they go to worship places. Several surveys have shownthat over 90 percent of the American population prays regularly, 78percent pray at least once weekly while 57 percent hold daily prayers(Duriez, 2012). Ironically, 20 percent of the 13 percent that callsthemselves atheists hold daily prayers. It is, therefore, essentialfor the policymakers when looking at the grave social problems facingAmerica, like racism and equality they should turn to the findingsin the field of social sciences on the consequences that result fromthe religious practices.


Inthe United States of America more than average religious people areracists. This fact has been known for years, and it remains ironicalsince the mainstream religious sects have been unanimous in the callfor racial forbearance. The questions on whether religion causesracism or whether racists are drawn to religious doctrines havecontinued to raise contentious arguments.

  1. How Subconscious Religious Prods Intensification of Racism

WadeRowatt and his colleagues tried to find out if a person could becomea racist when they were subtly told about religious matters (Duriez,2012). The team gave several students tasks with religiously embeddedcues. The primary objective was to prime their oblivion with thoughtswithin the religion line.

Fromthere, the students were asked random questions on their racialattitudes. Even though they did not come out openly to accept racism,their levels of racism conversion did increase. Historically,religiously primed individuals had a high tendency of dislikingAfrican-Americans than their counterparts. The studies clearlydepicted that religion triggered the thoughts of racists. The abilityof worship to increase the trend of benevolence towards individualsthat were coreligionists and increased hostility to outsiders hasalso been used as the obvious explanation of religion and racism.

  1. Conformity to Religion Linked to Racial Attitudes

Thisaspect has been pinned to the results of recent studies analyzed incomparison to past experiences (Duriez, 2012). The studies focused onthe correlation between different dimensions of religious practicesand racism. These studies entirely focused on the American context.From the analysis, it was evident that there was no correlationbetween the racial thoughts and the liberal aspect of religion.

Theyconfirmed that extrinsic religiosity played a central role innurturing the racial attitude. The studies asserted that mostreligious views centered on the aspect of social conformity andstatus. Fortunately, the strength of the correlation is reducingbecause racism ideologies are becoming socially unacceptable and theconnection between extrinsic religiosity and racial discrimination isbeing faced out.

  1. The Impact of Religious Fundamentalists on Racism

Anotherlarge dimension that religion has powerfully shaped racism is theidea of fundamentalism. Individuals who take this perspective areoften right-wing authoritarians (Duriez, 2012). They are alwaysobedient to the authority, hostile to the outsiders and conventional.This move has been used as the main bridge between religion andracism.

Religiousfundamentalism has promoted several world view facets that emphasizethe aspects of right-wing authoritarianism. They believe thatknowledge is made up of simple truths that can be right or wrong. Thefacts are ever unchanging and are passed down from one generation toanother by authoritative bodies that are not subject to questioning.It is therefore argued that the fact that religious fundamentalismcan lead to right-wing authoritarianism, it is plausible they can belinked to racism.

Religionand Democracy

Currently,Americans have totally lost sight on how religion has shapeddemocracy. However, most people have not forgotten the relevancy ofreligious concepts on democratic ideologies. The ongoing debatesfocus on the modern outlook of religion as a private entity ratherthan the traditional one which was for the good of the public.Unfortunately, they are more concerned about the liberty at apersonal level and the contribution of groups on carrying out theirreligious ideologies. The debates do little on reminding us of theunifying role of religion in the social sector, and the set of knownbeliefs that are necessary for the maintenance of the free lifestyle.

Tocqueville,in his book, Democracyin America,asserts that the contemporary American democracy laid the foundationof Christian’s impact on the Civilization of the European world ingeneral and the Puritanism’s effect on the American culture inparticular (Duriez, 2012). The connection cannot be said to beaccidental in any way. Equality and freedom in the field of politicscan only be achieved on a stable moral foundation that can only besupplied by religion. Besides, religion is not only essential for theemergence of democracy, but it also ensures its preservation.Democracy enhances intellectual and morals that at times can have adeadly effect on a person’s freedom. Cases of the tyranny of themajority, individualistic, materialistic, and democratic despotismhave been corrected and checked using religious doctrines.

  1. The Emergence of American Democracy and Christianity

Equalityprogress has from time immemorial been influenced by the forces ofChristianity on the social institutions. The first move happened whenthe clergy was introduced in the dictatorial societies. Thecommunities were initially separated between the hereditary royalfamilies and the large masses that unquestionably obeyed (Duriez,2012). Tocqueville notes that the clergy opened the leadership ranksto everyone and equality gradually found its way to the nuclear armsof the government through the church. These changes resulted to thosewho had initially served as serfs to be used as priests and finallytake seats beside members of the royal family.

Intellectually,he adds that the teachings of Christianity emphasize on religiousequality that to some point bring in the concept of politicalequality too. In fact, the central teachings of Christianity allegethat all men equal before the eyes of the Lord (Duriez, 2012). Onthis ground, Christians are willing to see and will struggle toensure that everybody is equal before the law.

Theidea of self-governance in America thrived on the experimental groundthat was laid by the English Puritanism. The American free picturecan be drawn from a particular point of departure. This point wasbrought in by the northern settlers. The major ideas of these statesgradually spread to the neighboring regions before they were taken upby their whole confederation. The primary driving force behind theimmigration of the New Settlers was religion. The fact that they camein to brave the hard conditions of the American wilderness is a clearindicator that they were not interested in improving their materialconditions. The sacrifice was entirely to satisfy their intellectualneeds and sell their ideas in the new lands. They wanted to establisha Christian community. They wanted to create Puritan communities andlive in America praying to God in a free environment. Puritanismblended well democratic and republican ideologies. The pilgrimsimmigrated so as to establish a religious community, though theirbeliefs made sure that the society was to be governed by the consentof the subjects. Their churches were under democratic governance.They escaped the supremacy of the pope and were not ready to submitthemselves to any absolute authority.


TheAmerican religious concept has undergone several changes today. Infact, the level of religiosity is not the same way that it used tobe. This transformation implies that the aspects of racism anddemocracy have taken another face. However, even though the changesare there, it remains evident that religion has played a central rolein shaping the racial and the democratic ideologies in the UnitedStates of America.


Duriez,B. (2012). The relation between religion, Racism and Democracy: therole of post-critical beliefs. MentalHealth, Religion &amp Culture,3(1),85-102.