The reproduction of religious-based stereotypes in America
Posted: 07 March 2007 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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[size=18:51939ff865][b:51939ff865]The reproduction of religious-based stereotypes in America[/b:51939ff865][/size:51939ff865]

Atheists are America╠s most distrusted minority.  Religious diversity tolerance does not extend to non-religious, an attitude that makes America dissimilar to industrial European nations, where secularity and atheism have flourished.  A national survey of 2,000 households from the University of Minnesota found that ¤Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in ╬sharing their vision of American society.Ë Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.  The study, led by Penny Edgell will appear in the April issue of the American Sociological Review (Atheists Are Distrusted ASA NEWS, May 3, 2006). 

Edgell argues that today╠s atheists play the role of Catholics, Jews and communists in the past, that is, one of providing for a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society.  Religion is seen as a core value, and Edgell affirms that many responses associate atheism with criminal behavior, rampant materialism and cultural elitism.  This is interpreted by Edgell as ¤a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.Ë 

Acceptance or rejection of atheists is correlated with a variety of factors besides religiosity.  The survey provides evidence of correlation to ¤one╠s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation█with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts.Ë  In view of these findings, the secular humanism of Paul Kurtz and the Center for Inquiry Transnational, with its strong commitment to planetary ethics, as well as the tradition of respectful scientist who are also atheists, disprove the false claims and stereotypes dominant in America today.

The anti-communist American rhetoric during the Cold War, linked communism to atheism and with few exceptions, was not challenged in the United States.  American foreign and national discourse was not challenged by the vast majority of the population and its Christian churches.  A demonized vision of Marxism was stereotyped that identified the humanistic philosophy and anthropology of Marx and the Christian vision of a Liberation Theology with concrete Maoists and Stalinist societies. 

By contrast, in other regions of the world, particularly in Latin America, where capitalism failed to establish Agrarian Reforms and inclusive social programs for the majority of its population, Marxism became popular reading and the Liberation Theology gained widely acceptance among the poor and the academia.  Liberation Theology was defended by Bishops and theologians throughout Latin America and the peace laureate Brazilian Cardinal Helder Camara.  John Paul II, at the 1978 Puebla Conference, condemned this theology, feared because it empowered believers against the hierarchy, proclaiming that the people were the Church of God.

American╠s trust of religion may also be partially explained by its long history of separation of church and state.  In Latin America, where the Catholic Church has played a strong official role and gain material benefits though its concordatos, people have learned to view the clergy as supporters of repressive governments. In this context, atheist and free thinkers are not repudiated by the society at large, and among the educated, atheists represent a needed breed of critical thinkers and innovators.  This is my hypothesis, since most Latin American studies deal with economics, poverty, malnutrition, family planning, AIDS, politics, health and education.  Among the myriad of problems, religion takes a backstage. 


Hi!  My name is Argelia Tejada Segor, Argie for short.