Others can take aim at the methodology and conclusions, but a study published by Baylor University researchers finds that “Priming Christian Religious Concepts Increases Racial Prejudice” (PDF).
They subliminally primed one group of students with neutral words like “butter” and “hammer” and another group of students with Christian words like “gospel” and “heaven,” each of which flashed on a computer screen for half a second while the students were performing a task. Then the researchers tested the students attitudes toward blacks.
And the Christian-primed group had an increased level of racism.
So why does it do that? The researchers don’t know. They admit (as I do) that this doesn’t mean all (or most or even a large minority of) Christians are racist. Obviously, some of our greatest civil rights leaders were in part motivated by their faith. To me, the study just suggests that Christian thinking can lead to an us vs. them mentality.
Researchers offer some possible explanations for why these Christian terms have such negative effects. They can cue fundamentalism or political conservatism, which can isolate “out-groups,” or echo the notion of the Protestant work ethic, which has been connected with anti-Black attitudes, the study said.
If their research is accurate, I imagine the same results would be found of Christian-primed attitudes toward gays, lesbians, atheists, people of other religions, Democrats, and pro-choicers.
As one commenter put it:
Absolutely shocking! I can understand Christianity… being associated with war, genocide, torture, corruption, and greed. But racism? Shocking!
What do you think? Is the study flawed? Does it make sense?