dan bloom Is faithism as dangerous as racism? Columnist seeks input

Danny Bloom

If racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination, then faithism is the belief that belief in different gods or Gods justifies spiritualism discrimination in terms of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, among other religious beliefs. In the modern English language, the term “racism” is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. I am using “faithism” here as a pejorative epithet.

Just as racism is applied to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature (i.e. which harms particular groups of people), so too can faithism by used to justify claims of religious superiority by recourse to fathists’ holy books and scriptures. And while racism is popularly associated with various activities that are illegal or commonly considered harmful, such as extremism, hatred, xenophobia, separatism, racial supremacy, mass murder (for the purpose of genocide), genocide denial, vigilantism (hate crimes, terrorism), so too can faithism be associated with similar activities that are illegal or commonly harmful.

Racism is not always a pernicious practice. Sometimes it was practiced with benign and benevolent intentions and even with religious blessings. In the same way, faithism is not always a pernicious practice. While harmful (but not illegal), faithism is often practiced with the best of noble intentions and as part of a religious command from elders in one’s faith community.

According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term ”racial discrimination” and ”ethnicity discrimination’.” At this point in human history, the U.N. has not tackled the issues of faithism that impact peoples around the world, but the global body is slowly moving in that direction.

In politics, racism is commonly located on the far right due to the far right’s common association with nativism, racism, and xenophobia. However, racism has occurred in progressive politics such as the historical concept of the so-called ”White Man’s Burden” espoused by the British writer Rudyard Kipling that claimed that whites had a moral obligation to bring civilization to allegedly barbaric “savage” non-white societies that were deemed as backward in comparison to white societies. In addition, benevolent and liberal men such as John
Stuart Mill once denounced Hindu civilization in India as a backwards feudal society and said that Europeans were superior in terms of development of civilization to Hindus, thus legitimizing the right of the British to imperial rule in India.

In much the same way, faithism has been used by those on the far right to belittle and discriminate against faith communities that didn’t share the same belief in selected gods or Gods. In some tragic instances of history, such beliefs led to murder, pogroms and mass genocide in such places as Germany in the 1940s and Africa in the late 20the Century and early 21st Century.

But faithism is not always malevolent. Sometimes it is the result of poor education or little misunderstandings based on mis-interpreted or mis-translated scriptural passages.

Does faithism exist today? Sure. Does it exist in America? Sure. Does it exist in the rest of the world? For sure. Does it impact you at all? Tell me.

Does faithism cause harm today to minority faith communities around the world that do not benefit from media backing and sponsorship? Sure it does. Tell me what you know.

Bloom writes for San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted at dan.bloom@sdjewishworld.com

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