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Posted on August 30th, 2012, by

Today, the problem of the religious intolerance seems to be out of date but, in actuality, this view on the religious life is quite superficial and it does not reveal the full extent to which the problem of the religious intolerance affects the life of the American society. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the past of the US. For instance, it is possible to refer to the case of the attack on Jehovah’s witnesses from the part of pipeline workers in Little Rock, Arizona on September 19, 1942. In fact, the Jehovah’s witnesses were subjects to the attack from the part of the pipeline workers because of their religious belief and the violence against the Jehovah’s witnesses was the manifestation of the extreme religious intolerance. At the same time, it is important to understand whether the aforementioned attack was just the intolerance in relation to a specific group within the American society or probably and more likely this was the result of the systematic violation of minorities’ rights and the oppression of minorities in the US in the mid-20th century. In this respect, it is important to focus not only on religious minorities and religious intolerance but also it is important to refer to such burning issues as racial inequality and discrimination because reports on violent attacks on minorities on the ground of their religious beliefs, race, or other issues were reported regularly, while cases of discrimination and intolerant relation to minorities persist today as well (Barak, 195). In addition, it is important to understand reasons why the pipeline workers attacked the Jehovah’s witnesses and what are the causes of the religious intolerance at large because it is the religious intolerance that lays the foundation to violent attacks on representatives of religious minorities. Moreover, it is necessary to analyze and synthesize the problem using the case of violence against the Jehovah’s witnesses in Little Rock in 1942. In fact, the violent attack on the Jehovah’s witnesses was just one of the cases of religious intolerance, whereas religious intolerance was the manifestation of the more general problem the problem of the relationship between the dominating majority and subordinated minorities in the US.

Literature review

The problem of the religious intolerance persists throughout centuries and even the most democratic societies suffers from the problem of religious intolerance when representatives of different religious groups form a society in which they have to interact and develop socioeconomic, political and cultural relations. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the problem of religious intolerance emergence on the ground of the existing cultural biases and prejudices which traditionally position representatives of different ethnic groups and religions at different levels of the social hierarchy. In addition, cultural traditions are enhanced consistently by socioeconomic inequality which often affects minorities, which in many cases are in a disadvantageous position. As a result, the religious intolerance is determined by socioeconomic and cultural factors which prevent minorities from obtaining better position in the social hierarchy and, in fact, these factors make them outcasts, in spite of all the efforts to avoid religious discrimination and inequality. In such a context, it is possible to estimate that religious intolerance is deep-rooted in cultural identity of individuals and this inequality will persist as long as cultural biases and prejudices, being backed up by socioeconomic inequality, persist.

First of all, it is important to dwell upon the formation of the religious identity and problems which representatives of minorities face that lead to their inferior position in the society. In this respect, the position of religious minorities is to a significant extent influenced by the education and the overall impact of the dominant culture which shapes cultural and religious identity of an individual (Mckay, 315). In actuality, it is obvious that an individual cannot live in isolation from his or her social group and the ideology and cultural norms and traditions that are dominant in the society are naturally absorbed by an individual in the course of his or her personal development.

Eventually, an individual perceives many social biases, concepts and principles as those of his or her own. In such a context, the role of education turns out to be crucial in the process of the formation of the identity of an individual.

In actuality, an individual cannot avoid the impact of the dominant ideology. Many specialists (Sigmund, 169) point out that the ideology of the ruling class affects substantially the ideology of the entire society and the formation of the religious identity is apparently influenced by the ruling ideology (Barak, 246). Therefore, the dominant ideology leads to the enhancement of the religious intolerance rather than to its elimination because the dominant ideology is shaped by a few to maintain their control over the entire society (Albonetti, 791). In such a context, it is possible to speak about the intentional maintenance of tense relations between representatives of different religious groups to make them coming into clashes that helps to divert the attention of the oppressed classes from the true cause of their problems the ruling class (Hillar, 47).

In this respect, the education system becomes a perfect tool with the help of which the ruling elite can impose its ideology and principles on the entire society and each individual in particular (Albonetti, 251). Consequently, the process of the formation of cultural or religious identity is under the impact of this ideology and the impact is implemented through the system of education. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that often the education system turns to be exclusive and leads to the widening gaps between representatives of different religious groups that leads to the formation of inferior religious identity of minorities (Albonetti, 792). In this regard, it is possible to refer to the example of the USA and the position of religious minorities, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as other minorities.

At the same time, many specialists (Lang, 251) point out that the religious intolerance has the same roots as the religious inequality and discrimination. Moreover, they refer to persistent religious inequality and warn against the risk of the revival of the religious intolerance. In actuality, the education system in the USA apparently contributes to the exclusion of certain religious groups from the society and limits them consistently in the access to higher education. It is not a secret that many public schools are predominantly non-white. What is meant here is the fact that students attending publics are basically representative of African-American community, or Latin Americans, Asians (Warraq, 215). At any rate, often the majority of the students of public schools is non-white. Moreover, in some schools the share of African-American students reaches 99% that indicates to the presence of religious segregation in public education (Pipes, 217).

Naturally, such a situation in the contemporary education undermines the psychological state of students and determines the future religion-related problems increasing inequality. Obviously, students attending public schools and living in the inner city feel their exclusion from the American society and the fact that representatives of the religious majority dominate in such schools enforces substantially religious intolerance in the society because students believe that it is because of their religion background they are deprived of benefits of modern education and they are doomed to live in the inner city in a kind of ghetto (Vidal, 144). This psychological pressure along with low educational opportunities enlarges the gap between dominant religious group and minorities, like Jehovah’s Witnesses because they cannot get a perspective, of being treated as equal by the majority (Sigmund, 193).

In this respect, it is important to emphasize the fact that it is in the childhood, in the course of the formation of the personality of an individual, his or her psychological characteristics and identity at large are shaped. Therefore, the biases, rules, beliefs and prejudices people learn in the childhood as well as psychological traumas which they can suffer from in their childhood influence their adult life and manifest themselves in different forms in the adult life (Lang, 262). In practice, this means that, in the course of education, people learn cultural norms and traditions which stand on principles of religious inequality. Even the lack of the access to the higher education or the disadvantaged position of some religious groups in the education system leads to the formation of inferior identity of oppressed religious groups and superior identity of the dominant religious group.

This religious intolerance, which is provoked by cultural traditions that imposed on people through the system of education, is strongly backed up by the socioeconomic inequality. Basically, the distribution of the national wealth is unequal and even in the most democratic societies the socioeconomic inequality leads to the formation of the middle and upper-class, on the one hand, and the lower-class, on the other. These classes are antagonistic and the ruling elite attempts to restrain the lower-class in order to avoid social conflicts and keep control over the oppressed. In this regard, the low income and standards of life is an important factor that leads to the religious intolerance and the formation of inferior religious identity. In fact, many representatives of minorities live in poverty because many of them are immigrants or, as is the case of African Americans, they were historically in a disadvantaged position and had a very limited access to the national wealth. As a result, they feel being doomed to live in the poverty stricken neighborhoods, with the high crime and unemployment rates, few job opportunities and even fewer opportunities for success. On observing the hardships their community and its members have to come through, representatives of minorities naturally identify themselves with the group of disadvantaged, oppressed people who have no prospects but they are doomed to the life in poverty. The unemployment and low level of income enhance the deep-rooted feeling of inferiority, which is amply nourished by the dominant culture. The latter traditionally depicts minorities and the poor or both as socially dangerous criminals or outcasts who are not worthy of respect.

Methodology

The study uses mainly qualitative methods of analysis, including interviews and the study of literature related to the case of the violent attack on the Jehovah’s witnesses in Castle Rock in 1942 and the problem of religious intolerance and relationships between dominant and subordinated groups in the American society in the past and present. Interviews involve people who lived in the mid-20th century and witnessed cases of violence against minorities or were involved in violent attacks on either side. In addition, the analysis of statistical information is used as a complementary method to find out the frequency of violent attack on religious minorities as well as other minority groups in the past and today.

Results

The analysis of the literature related to the problem of the attack on the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Little Rock, Arizona in 1942 revealed the fact that the Jehovah’s Witnesses was systematically discriminated and the violent attack was the result of the long-lasting tension between the local community and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Conflicts between the local community and the Jehovah’s Witnesses existed before the violent attack from the part of the pipeline workers. For instance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were deprived of the possibility to gather to conduct their rites and worshipping. The general attitude of the community toward them was negative. In such a way, the conflict between the religious minority, the Jehovah’s witnesses, and the dominant majority was obvious. The majority prevented the Jehovah witnesses from the execution of their civil rights, while the authorities and law enforcement agencies ignored problems of the Jehovah’s witnesses.

Moreover, after the attack on the Jehovah’s witnesses not a single pipeline worker was arrested. Instead, it was only the Jehovah’s witnesses, who were arrested. Some of them served as conscientious objectors while other were imprisoned because they were granted contentious objector status and refused to join the military. Consequently, it was obvious that the discriminatory practices were maintained by the authorities, law enforcement agencies and local judicial system that makes it possible to estimate that discriminatory practices were supported by the officials.

At the same time, it is obvious that the discrimination and intolerance were the problem of the entire society. The attack on the Jehovah’s witnesses in Little Rock in 1942 occurred because the oppression of minorities was a norm in the American society in that time. In this respect, interviews have revealed the fact that people representing minorities, including religious groups, racial minorities, and other minorities were vulnerable to the oppression and discrimination from the part of the majority. For instance, representatives of the African American community were also subjects to violent attacks from the part of white supremacists.

In addition, the statistics of violent attacks on representatives of various minority groups, such as the attack on Jehovah’s witnesses in Little Rock in 1942, were not rare. Moreover, the violent attacks against African American and other racial minorities were even more frequent than attacks on religious minority. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that the violence against minorities was a norm in the US in the mid-20th century. However, the analysis of more recent statistics concerning discrimination of minorities reveal the fact that the degree of intolerance in relation to minorities decreased but it has never been totally eliminated.

In such a context, the position of the authorities and law enforcement agencies proved to be ineffective and absolutely discriminatory in relation to the attacked Jehovah’s witnesses. The inaction of the authorities and law enforcement agencies resulted in the violent attack on the Jehovah’s witnesses and their ongoing oppression. In addition, the court failed to perform its functions and did not re-establish the justice in relation to the victims of the attack, while offenders stayed unpunished at all.

Discussion

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development of the religious intolerance starts from the beginning of the life of an individual. In the course of education and the formation of an individual’s identity people shape their religious identity, which is shaped under the impact of the dominant ideology of the ruling elite, which is imposed on the entire society through education and media. In addition, the idea of religious intolerance is maintained by socioeconomic inequality of representatives of different religious groups. As a result, people grow accustomed to the religious intolerance and shape their identity which is either inferior or superior depending on the religious group to which an individual belongs.

The case of the attack on the Jehovah’s witnesses in Little Rock in 1942 proved the danger of the persistent religious intolerance and oppression of minorities at large because, eventually, oppression results in violence. In this respect, the authorities, law enforcement agencies and the court should have performed their functions properly but, instead, they took the side of majority violating civil rights of minorities. As a result, the inaction of law enforcement agencies and authorities led to the violent attack on the representatives of the religious minority. In the long-run perspective such official policies are extremely dangerous because they breed violence and intolerance in the society. In this respect, it is important to continue the study of the impact of official policies in relation to cases of oppression of minorities on the maintenance of intolerance in the society and effects of such policies and intolerance. At this point, it is possible to presuppose that such policies and practices can lead to disastrous effects because, if the authorities maintained such policies, the US would have faced the problem of the violent clash between the dominant group and subordinated minority groups not at the level of Little Rock but at the federal level.

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