Why Were We More Bigoted When We Were More Religious?
A few more words on that Gallup poll that says Americans are becoming more liberal on social issues …
I was on Bill O’Reilly’s show recently and he said the reason we’re moving to the left on social issues is because Americans have become less religious – and when that happens, he opined, we become more tolerant of all sorts of things, both good and bad (gay rights on one side, I would argue, having babies out of wedlock on the other side. Gallup found that we’re more “morally accepting” of both today than we were in 2001).
Bill said that his parents’ generation was “much more religious” than we are today. I agreed.
But, I said, when we were more religious as a nation we were also more bigoted as a nation –bigotry aimed at all sorts of groups.
Like it or not, that’s a fact. America may have been more religious 50 years ago but there were also more bigots among us 50 years ago.
I very clearly stated that, “I’m not laying the bigotry on religion.” This didn’t stop Allan, who saw the program, from writing to me and saying, “You imply that the two [bigotry and religion] go hand in hand which I find to be not only shallow thinking but personally offensive.”
I wrote back to Allan and suggested he heard only what he wanted to hear since I said “I’m not laying the bigotry on religion.”
I simply thought it was an interesting question, one I’d like to throw out to all of you: Why were we Americans more intolerant of blacks, and Jews and Hispanics and Asians and gays at the same time we professed to be more religious (than today)? Why did we bar blacks from eating at lunch counters in places where just about everyone went to church on Sunday? Why did people who claimed to be God-fearing Christians keep Jews out of certain professions -- and, of course, out of their country clubs?
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we have been less bigoted when we were more religious?
Or is the unspeakable possible: that religion somehow encourages intolerance – even as the Bible tells us to accept and even love everyone? Is it possible that there is a link – even though I did not make one on The Factor – between adherence to religious principles and bigotry toward all sorts of people who are not like … us?
If not, why were we more bigoted 50 years ago when we were more religious? Why have we become more tolerant while becoming less religious?
Are these two ideas -- about bigotry and religion -- two ships passing in the night. Do the two concepts have nothing to do with each other. Is all this nothing more than a coincidence.
Since this is a smart crowd, I welcome your thoughts.