Religion and prejudice Revision cards

AQA Religious Studies B notes 

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What is prejudice?


Prejudice means to pre-judge someone unfairly before getting to know them. It can make someone think less of people because of their race, religion, gender, age and so on. Many prejudiced attitudes are based on stereotyping certain groups of people. For example, it would be stereotyping to think that all football supporters are violent.

Discrimination means acting on prejudice. It can involve treating someone unfairly or preventing them from havbing equal chances in life. For example, it would be discrimination to refuse to give someone a job because of their religion. 

Positive discrimination means treating people more favourably because of who of what they are:

For example, it would be positive discrimination to give wheelchair users front-row seats at a cinema. It is usually used to help people who may not have been given equal opportunities in the  past, for example, deliberately employing more women or people from minority ethnic groups.

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What is prejudice?

Why are some people prejudiced?

Most people are prejudiced about somehting. When people travel abroad they may be unwilling to try foreign foods because they are nore used to them. Upbringing and culture play a part in whether we are willing to try new things. These are some reasons for prejudice:

  • If someone does not know a group of people or understand their culture or background, it is easier to stereotype and reject them. Lack of education can lead to the ignorance that breeds prejudice. This in turn leads to fear of others who are different, in case they change the way of life people are used to.
  • Fear and uncertainty about the future can encourage scapegoating, or blaming certain groups of people for problems in society. This can seem to justify treating them badly. For exanple, the Nazis persuaded people that the Jews were to blame for German's economic problems to justify extreme discrimination against them.
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What is prejudice?

  • Children whose parents are prejudice may grow up hearing racist or sexist comments and are likely to imitate them. Friends and neighbours may also reinforce prejudice, since most people feel comfortable around others with similar opinions. Outsiders may be regarded with suspicion.
  • People may base their views of others on an expectaion of what people from a particular race or religion are like. A bad experience can affect people's expectations of others. For example, if an old person was mugged by a teenager, they might think all teenagers were thieves. 
  • The media is an important influence that can reinforce stereotypes, but it can also be a means of breaking them down. Some Italians may complain of being continually shown as gangsters in flims. Yet some homosexuals may feel they are portrayed positively in programmes that show them as people like everyone else. 
  • Some people may be prejudiced against others because they themselves have been the victims of prejudice or discrimination. Their prejudice is the way they cope with being a victim. 
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What is prejudice?

Effects of prejudice: 

Prejudice causes great harm. people can be made to feel worthless, frightened and vulnerable just for being who they are.Prejudice has caused the deaths of millions of people. During World War 2, six million Jews were killed in Nazi Germany. Genocide (killing whole groups of people) has taken place more recently in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The removal of white farmers from Zimbabwe in 2000 is a type of ethnic cleansing (clearing a country of a particular ethnic group) even if it did not result in their deaths. 

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Types of prejudice

Race and colour:

A person's race usually refers to the ethnic or religious group they come from, their nationality or sometimes to the colour of their skin. People speak of 'blacks', 'Asians', 'the Jewish Race' or 'the German race'/ In the past people used to think humans could be seperated into distinct races, which passed their physical characteristics down to the next generation. Scientists now agree that there are no biologically distinct human races, and everyone shares most of the same characteristics.

Descriptions of skin colour can be misleading. 'White' and 'Black' may be used to describe people whose skin is pink and brown. There are all sorts of shades of skin colour, yet black and brown-skinned people are more likely to be victims of prejudice and discrimination. 

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Types of prejudice


Racism is the belief that the colour of a person's skin determines their ability. Racists believe that people of some races are inferior to others. Although it is against the law, racist abuse and even physical assaults do occur. Black football players, even at the top of their sport, have suffered racist chanting, spitting and objects thrown at them from the crowd. Public bodies, such as the police, armed forces and even the Church, have been accused of having deep-seated racism. 

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Types of prejudice


A person's gender can be determined by what sex they are, male or female, their sexual identity, and the way they see themselves and relate to the world. Society creates certain expectations for the behaviour of each gender, known as sexual stereotypes. People who do not conform, such as men who want to work in a caring profession, can experience prejudice and discrimination. 


Sexism is a form of gender prejudice. It means treating people unfavourably because of their gender. Like racism, sexism is against the law, but old attitudes that consider men superior to women still persist. Stereotyped ideas, such as that women should look after the home and family, have helped to deny women equal opportunities in the workplace. 

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Types of prejudice

Women's rights 

In the past women had few rights: they were not allowed to vote, divorce a husband, or inherit property. They almost entirely had to obey their fathers or husbands. After World War one, when women took over 'men's work', while the men were away fighting, their status began to change. However, it is only in the last 50 years or so that it became accepted that married women could work. Despite this progress, many women still earn less money than men and find it difficult to get to senior positions. Some, along with some men, experience unfair interviews and sexual harassment at work. 

Religions teach that women and men are created equal by God. However some religions think they should have different roles. This does not mean they value women less. Staying home to bring up children in their faith is seen as more important than having a career and making money. 

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Other types of prejudice

Religious prejudice

People of all religions gave been discriminated against throughout  the centuries. Discrimination based on religion or belief is now against the law. Since the terrorist attacks in New York (September 11th 2001) and London (July 7th 2005), Muslims have experienced increasing religious prejudice. Yet Islam as a religion does not accept or support terrorism, and the Muslim community rejects these violent acts. However, because some terrorists claim to be acting in the name of Allah, some people think all Muslims support these crimes. 

Jews have suffered religious persecution throughout their history. Roman Catholics have faced discrimination in jobs and other rights in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Religious persecution can quite often be more about people's ethnic group, tribe, colour or culture rather than just their religion. There is also a difference between prejudice against someone's religion and genuine disagreements with people over their beliefs. Not all arguments between religious groups are based on prejudice. For example, Quakers many disagree with other Christians about fighting wars. This is because they interpret Jesus' teaching to love one's enemies to mean that wars are always wrong. 

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Other types of prejudice


Ageism (prejudice against someone because of their age, leading to discrimination) is often based on stereotypes. For example, some people wrongly think that all young people are rude, irresponsible hooligans and old people are 'past it'. Ageism usually refers to discrimination against older people because employers think they are incapable of doing certain jobs. Younger people have better chances of being hired. Employers may think that their health, energy and productivity may be better than someone nearing retirement. Some employers now realise that older people have a wealth of experience, just as young people have potential. Age discrimination is against the law. 

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Other types of prejudice

Disability discrimination

Most people would consider it wrong to call a disabled person names. However, discrimination can occur against people with a disability in the workplace or when they are denied access to services. Sometimes this is unintentional. Disabled access ramps, lifts, toilets and other facilities have only recently become normal in public buildings and firms. People with learning disabilities sometimes experience prejudice because people do not understand their problems. 

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Other types of prejudice

Prejudice based on class, lifestyle and looks

Social class (people's position in society) was often determines by their family background, education, job and wealth. Today, people, move between classes or fall into different ones. For example, bright working-class children may go to university and become middle class. Many celebrities have great wealth, but may not have had much formal education or come from upper-class families. Money is often the biggest influence on a person's lifestyle: their interests, activities, opinions, possessions and spending habits. Great attention is paid to a celebrity's looks, their clothes, their body and their fashion sense. People who do not conform to these images can often experience prejudice. 

Lifestyle choices influence health. People who smoke, drink alcohol, eat a poor diet and do not exercise are much more likely to have health problems. The government is highlighting obesity as a problem in society. This, along with media images of thin models, encourages others to look down on people with weight problems. Discrimination on these grounds may also occur in the workplace, but it is difficult to prove.

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Religious attitudes to prejudice


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued in 1948 said that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Everyone has the right to think what they want and express their opinions. This is the basis of tolerance. Tolerance is accepting all people and valuing their contribution to life and society. People should be allowed to keep their own beliefs, practises and ways of life as long as they do not harm others or break the law. 

Tolerance towards other people who are different or hold different beliefs does not mean agreeing with them. It means respecting their rights to hold beliefs that some people may think are wrong, without oppressing or persecuting them. There are limits to tolerance, however. Racist or other prejudiced views harm other people, so cannot be tolerated. 

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Religious attitudes to prejudice


All religions teach that people are equal. This means that all people have the same value and worth and equal human rights to live and work freely, and be happy and at peace. This does not mean everyone is the same or has equal advantages in life - they obviously do not. Religious believers think people should be treated with justice, that is, fairly and according to the law. If laws are unjust, religious people should work to change them. 


Harmony means living at peace with others. It requires people to act justly and have tolerance and understanding of others, even when they are different. Many religious believers have a sense of community, feel responsible for each other and share the same values. They believe that practising kindness, compassion and generosity within their religious communities will help them to live in harmony with people in the wider community in which they live. 

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Religious attitudes to prejudice

The value of the individual

Human rights are based on the religious belief that each individual is created by God and has a special value to him. Each person is unique and made in God's image. Therefore, humans should treat each other as equals, regardless of race, colour, religion or gender, and all should have the same rights and opportunities. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that everyone is entitled to. The ideas and values in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be traced back through history. The same beliefs and values were present in the world#s ancient cultures and religions. From early times laws were made to protect people against abuses of their rights to live freely and try to be happy. 

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Western faiths


All Christians agree that discrimination goes against the idea of God's design. Christians believe that God created men and women in his own image; therefore all are of equal value. Jesus's teaching 'to love your neighbour as yourself' was explained in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story, the Samaritan, an enemy of the JEws, was the hero. Jesus taught that anyone who needs help, reglrdless of background, should be treated kindly. He welcomed tax collectors and sinners to God's kingdom. He healed sick and disabled people, even the servant of a Roman Centurion. He treated people of different religious beliefs with respect. St Paul summed up Christian teaching on equality in his letter to the Galatians.

Christians today actively fight racial discrimination. In 2005, Anglicans elected their first black archbishop, John Sentamu, although there were still not many black or Asian priests. Some Protestant denominations and Anglicans allow women to be priests or ministers, but the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches do not. They do not think this is discrimination, but that women have different roles to play. 

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Western faiths


Muslims believe that Allah created all people equal, whatever their race, gender or background. They believe that their differences show the wonderful variety of God's creations. Muhammad preached against slavery and taught that someone's tribe, race, colour or traditions are not an excuse for unjust treatment. Equality in the sight of Allah is shown on hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah, where all wear simple white garments regardless of racial or social status. The worldwide Muslim community contains people of every background. Islamic law is based on justice and protests the right of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries to practise their religion.

Women are equal to men but have different roles, most importantly to bring up their children in their faith. Most women do not pray with men at the mosque and a woman cannot become an imam. However, Muhammad taught that a believe who does good work for Allah's sake, whether a man or a woman, will be rewarded. 

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Response to prejudices

Society and the law 

Democracy and human rights are founded on religious principles of equality and justice for all. These ideas are central to the laws created to combat prejudice and discrimination. The UK government is a secular government, but religious people would support any laws that promote and secure principles and beliefs that are shared with religions. In Muslim countries Shari'ah law is based on religious principles.

Britain has passed a number of laws against discrimination::

  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Equality Act 2006 (against religious discrimination and ageism)

These laws mean that all people should have equal rights at work and equal pay for the saw type of work. They should have equal chances to get a good education or healthcare, go to a restaurant or the cinema, buy things and do whatever they want within the law. If someone thinks they are being discriminated against they can take the person to court. Prejudice is harder to stop than discrimination, because you cannot arrest people for their attitudes, only for their actions. Schools and the media have an important part to play in getting the message across that people should be treated equally. 

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Response to prejudices

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Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 1929. When he was 18, he became a Christian minister, like his father.

Segregation and discrimination

In America at the time, black people faced awful prejudice and discrimination. Segregation (a policy of separating blacks and whites) meant that black children had to attend different schools from white children. Often these schools had poorer facilities, books and equipment than the 'white-only' schools. Black people could not use the same swimming pools or sit in the same restaurants as white people. They earned half as much as white people and many were not allowed to vote. A racist group, the Ku Klux Klan, used violence against black people or anyone who sympathised them. 

These injustices went against Martin Luther King's Christian beliefs. He wanted black people to be treated fairly, so he set out to change the laws by persuading people through argument. Inspired by the life of Jesus and the ideas of the Hindu leader, Mahatma Gandhi, he was determined to fight racism without using violence. 

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Martin Luther King

The civil rights movement

In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a woman called Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. The law said black people had to sit at the back of the bus. If it was crowded and a white person got on, they had to give up their seat for the white person. Martin Luther King organised a 'bus boycott'. Thousands of black people refused to travel on the buses until the law was changed over a year later. During this time, King was arrested, his home was bombed and he received death threats to himself and his family. 

The boycott's success and King's personal courage earned him great respect. He became leader of the 'civil rights movement', which organised campaigns for black voter registration, better education and housing for black people, and desegregation of public facilities. he and other black people sat down in restaurants that refused to serve them and waited to be arrested. The television pictures of people, including children, being attacked  by police dogs did a great deal to persuade all Americans that the laws were unjust. 

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Martin Luther King

King led hundreds of thousands of people in protest marches and inspired people with his words. At the historic march on Washington DC in 1963, he delivered a famous speech in which he said that he had a dream that one day people would judge his children on what kind of people they were rather than on the colour of their skin. He spoke of his hope that people of all races and religions would join hands and thanks God that they were free at last. 

King's final years and legacy

In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The following year the US Supreme Court gave equal voting rights to black people though America was not to elect a black president until 40 years after King's death. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39. Americans remember his great contribution to the fight against prejudice every January on Martin Luther King Day. 

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