Is Religion the Problem? Investigating the Mitigation of Out-Group Bias in Interfaith Groups



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This paper investigates the relationship between a person?s level of religiosity, their ability to tolerate outsiders to their faith and their level of openness-to-experience (a big five personality trait). This relationship is of interest because religious individuals are often intolerant to outsiders of their faith and prejudicial interactions between religious groups have negative implications globally. Openness may mitigate these types of prejudicial reactions due to its characteristic high level of comfort with new situations and ideas.

The study focuses on an interfaith organization called Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Area (IMGH) as its sample population. This was a good choice as these individuals willingly display behaviors that tolerate religious outsiders. In order to test if openness was mitigating religious prejudice in these individuals the IMGH sample must score high on both measures of religiosity and tolerance. Once it has been established that these individuals are religious and tolerant to other religions they were then tested to determine their score on openness. Once a baseline was established for the sample a correlational analysis was run to establish if there was a statistically significant correlation between openness, tolerance and religiosity. To show that openness is the mitigating factor there would need to be no correlation between tolerance and religiosity alone.

While this study found high values of religiosity, openness and tolerance in the IMGH sample there was no statistically significant evidence that openness was responsible for mitigating religious prejudice in this interfaith group. While the hypothesis was disproven a correlation was seen between the most fundamental individuals in the group and measures of external control of prejudice. Accordingly, interfaith group fundamental individuals were able to interact positively with religious out-group members as long as there was a perceived external pressure from the IMGH group to do so. While the results of this study were largely inconclusive it has shown that there are many reasons that individuals may behave tolerantly in interfaith organizations.