The Negative Spiral of Religious Intolerance

Jonathan E. Cook and Michael H. Pasek: Regardless of their religion, people who experienced more religious threat felt a lower sense of belonging in the U.S. in general, or in their workplace or school. Research shows that a sense of belonging is critical for positive mental and physical health and for motivation and success, so this effect of religious prejudice can be quite detrimental to people’s well-being. Participants who reported more religious threat were also more likely to hide their religion from others at work or school. Although hiding an important aspect of yourself can protect against personal experiences of prejudice or discrimination, it can be stressful and prevent people from forming trusting relationships with others outside their group. These findings highlight how experiencing religious prejudice may negatively influence individual well-being and interpersonal relationships. We also found that, in general, people who experienced more religious threat expressed more prejudice toward other groups and more favoritism toward their own groups. This finding is interesting, in part, because it highlights how groups that feel targeted because of their religion can become perpetrators of prejudice themselves. It may be human nature to denigrate groups that we perceive reject us, but doing so can create a spiral of increasing religious prejudice.

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