Does antisemitism in the US correlate with (non-)religiosity?

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Historically, Christianity was one of the driving forces behind antisemitism. I have recently read a claim that nowadays in the US, the absence of (Christian) religious views actually allows antisemitism to grow; so Christianity would actually be a sort of protection against antisemitic views.

Have there been studies on the effect of (Christian) religiosity on antisemitism in the US in the late 20th or 21st century? For example comparisons of the rate of antisemitism among atheists, moderate Christians, evangelicals, etc?

tim

Posted 2019-02-14T17:48:59.097

Reputation: 28 226

Define antisemitism. Given that the Israeli lobby has now included any criticism against Israel as antisemitism the word has lost meaning. Which might actually end up being a good thing as Arabs are semitic people too, so the word didn't make sense to begin with. – dan-klasson – 2019-02-21T14:44:32.160

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@dan-klasson What's the "Israeli lobby"? Anyway, for the purpose of this question, you can use the working definition of the IHRA or equivalent. Criticism of Israel is not per-se antisemitic, but when antisemitic tropes are used when criticizing Israel, it is not magically not antisemitism. And we all know that Arabs are semitic too, but that's irrelevant. Do you not think that there should be a word to describe the pervasive hatred against Jews?

– tim – 2019-02-21T15:00:39.920

Well recently there was the Ilhan Omar controversy. Where she was attacked on all fronts for just criticizing Israel. Well since there's Islamophobia, Judiophobia would make more sense in my opinion. But the main point about my comment is that zionists are using antisemitism as an excuse to oppress and carry out ethnic cleansing in Israel. And anybody that criticizes that are labeled antisemitic. – dan-klasson – 2019-02-21T15:13:10.870

1@dan-klasson She used antisemitic tropes in her tweet (and calling it criticism of Israel seems like a stretch). She acknowledged and apologized for this. And yes, "criticizing" not actually existing "ethnic cleansing" in Israel is antisemitic. Anyway, it doesn't seem like this comment thread will result in improving the question. I'm not really interested in a discussion where one side tries to deny the existence of antisemitism, and this seems to be going off-topic. – tim – 2019-02-21T15:22:11.017

Please do share what in her tweet that was an "antisemitic trope" in your opinion. To me you sound just like an echo of what they are saying. I wish this was offtopic, because you should be able to discuss real antisemitism without zionists bringing the Palestine conflict into it. But we are both out of luck. – dan-klasson – 2019-02-21T15:27:22.217

2@dan-klasson - Step 1 for not being thought to be anti-Semitic: stop using the word "Zionists." – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-21T20:57:37.887

@Obie2.0 There you go. You call Jewish extremists Zionists and you're an antisemite. You just prove my point of how the word has lost meaning. – dan-klasson – 2019-02-22T07:11:22.380

Answers

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Probably not very much, with the caveat that religiousity is not a single dimension, nor is prejudice.

The best survey I'm aware of was done by Pew. It assessed how positively or negatively Americans felt toward various religious groups.

Atheists and agnostics, on average, gave a slightly less warm rating of Jews than did Christians. This might be a significant difference, but the effect size is small: 68 degrees for Protestants versus 63 for religiously unaffiliated.

As such, there might be a slight correlation, but the difference seems small.

While I think this is a decent proxy for anti-Semitism, it's not perfect. Anti-Semitism, like any kind of prejudice, encompasses a constellation of beliefs and opinions, not all of which are related to mere affiliate feeling. For instance, some premillenial dispensationalists may feel warmly toward Jews but belief that they will have to accept Christ, a belief which some characterize as anti-Semitic. Other groups, such as Messianic Jews, Black Hebrew Israelites, and Christian Identitarians, may define the word Jew much more narrowly but not necessarily identify as Jewish on the survey, which could tilt the numbers a little.

Further, which religion a person adheres to may be relevant. Religious Jews (and non-religious Jews) view Jews more positively. Although the survey didn't have enough Muslim respondents to get results, it's possible that religious Muslim respondents will either lack premillenial dispensationalist arguments, or be influenced by perception of Israel's actions, and thus have a lower score on average. Some religious Hindus might be influenced by opinion of Pakistan and by perceptions of Jews as being against Islam. And so forth. Conversely, if the survey had split out pre-millennial dispensationalists from the larger evangelica pot, it's possible that they'd be even more warm toward Jews than "white evangelicals."

Obie 2.0

Posted 2019-02-14T17:48:59.097

Reputation: 8 081

7I think you could be more critical than saying it's a "decent proxy": it seems pretty clear that atheists in that poll are less warm towards all the monotheistic religious groups, being more warm towards Jews than everyone except other atheists and Buddhists. That's a more telling comparison than looking at the views of Protestants vs Atheists. – Bryan Krause – 2019-02-14T23:41:15.143

@Bryan - OK. So, that's interesting but it's very hard to tell what that means. Atheists seem to be less warm toward various groups, so it's not clear what it means that they're more warm toward Jews than some others. Does it mean they're not likely to be anti-Semitic, or that they are more likely to be antipathetic toward various religions, and simply least toward Jews? I felt the comparison to Christians was most direct, since that was what the question asked. – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-14T23:50:57.837

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It's a version of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox - in other words, it's not really fair to make the comparison without considering both dimensions of the problem. If you compare on one dimension you are likely to get some misleading conclusions.

– Bryan Krause – 2019-02-14T23:57:01.693

@Bryan that is a good point. I wish I knew of a direct study. – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-15T00:10:19.970

I suspect the question's implied context had little to do with outright "atheism", but that's a problem with the question's vague wording rather than the answer. – user4012 – 2019-02-15T16:39:54.773

@user4012 You are right, I did have trouble formulating the question as precisely as I'd like it to be. My interest was mostly about "degree of (Christian) religiosity" as it relates to antisemitism. But atheism is also one degree of religiosity, so the stats are still interesting (even if flawed). If you have suggestions on how to improve the question, please let me know (or feel free to edit it yourself). – tim – 2019-02-15T22:21:11.283

It is also worth noting that the sample size of an atheist subsample is smaller than the sample size of a Protestant sample, so the margin of error in the atheist sample is greater than the margin of error in the Protestant sample. Politically, non-Christians of all types tend to support each other and to avoid the Republican party which has significant Christian dominionist elements. – ohwilleke – 2019-02-15T23:32:33.130

I guess the crux of this is whether you would consider someone who refuses to allow their Jewish staff to take Jewish holidays as anti-semitic if that person also does not allow their Christian staff to take Christian holidays. If, a very hypothetical, Atheist refused to hire any religious staff should they be labelled an anti-semite or something else? – Eric Nolan – 2019-02-21T12:15:56.713

1@EricNolan - They'd be prejudiced against all religious groups, I suppose, which wouldn't be a huge improvement over being prejudiced against just one. In a loose sense, someone might say that they are anti-Jewish (and anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, etc). It's not accurate to assume that atheists cannot be more traditionally and specifically anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim, however. – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-21T17:26:20.657

1Even if such a correlation exists, it wouldn't be very interesting without an explicit theory about what it means. I would expect there to be a much more meaningful correlation between anti-Jewish bias and other things, like Jewish immigration. Anecdotally I'd say it seems that hatred toward Jews in the United States was highest in the early twentieth century before the gates were closed to Eastern European immigrants. – Brian Z – 2019-02-21T17:52:50.557

1@Obie: Is the attitude of atheists/agnostics towards religious groups a PREJUDICE? Or is it simply a rational recognition of the historical and largely present attitude of those religious groups towards them? Which would, I think, explain why they're more positive about Jews, since (outside of Israel, perhaps) Jews have never had the power to oppress them much. – jamesqf – 2019-02-21T18:52:00.250

@jamesqf - Well, firstly, there's not just one attitude. Non-religious folk have a whole spectrum of opinions. So when you talk about "the" attitude it's not too clear to me which one you mean. – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-21T20:56:25.910

Second, yes, there is a distinction between recognition of the hostility of religious structures toward non-religious people and prejudice. A given person might have one, both, or neither. If you dislike someone for being religious, I'd say that falls in the second category (to say nothing of not letting people take of religious categories). – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-21T20:59:19.023

In my personal experience, most non-religious people have no problem with religious people (as distinct from organized religion). Prejudice against atheists is much more common than the other way around. – Obie 2.0 – 2019-02-21T21:03:12.510

@Obie: But when you talk about poll results, you are discussing the average or aggregate of all those individual opinions. – jamesqf – 2019-02-21T23:32:55.347