Most Annoying Religious Stereotypes, According to Reddit
Religion is a touchy subject, and stereotypes only make that worse. Every religion faces a list of stereotypes. And who do they help? No one. Stereotypes are misleading at best — and a road to prejudice and persecution at worst.
To bust some common myths about the world's most popular religions, we took to Reddit to uncover the most irritatingly persistent religious stereotypes. We hope you're prepared to cringe.
That Judaism Is Nothing but Outdated Christianity
"The notion that Judaism is basically just Christianity but without Jesus. The actual differences are extremely vast and Christianity is not even the closest religion theologically to Judaism, that’s Islam." –Aggie1391
Newsflash: Judaism is not Christianity. It's a completely different religion. Just because their origins are similar doesn't mean being Jewish means someone just missed the memo on the coming of Christ. We'd be annoyed too.
*Note: Quotes have been edited for grammar, punctuation and concision.
That There's Only One Correct Type of Christianity
"That right-wing fundamentalism is the most authentic form of Christianity and if you’re not a right-wing fundamentalist, it’s due to a lack of religious commitment." – Around_the_campfire
Yeah, not true. Every Christian denomination has distinct tenets and none are superior to the rest. If your denomination believes in the teachings of Christ and you practice in a way that helps you to live a meaningful life, wouldn't you consider that committed?
That Paganism Is Evil
"That it's devil or demon worship when it literally has nothing to do with either." – NemesisAron
Take it from this poor Redditor who has to deal with this irritating misconception all the time.
The majority of pagan religions have nothing to do with the macabre. Even those who practice Wicca and describe themselves as witches are against the concept of cursing others. Many pagan religions don't believe in the existence of the devil at all. Even outright Satanism is horribly misunderstood.
That Quakers, Puritans and Amish People Are All the Same
"Quaker here. Everyone thinks we're Amish. It's that Quaker Oats mascot, I think. Drives me crazy. I work in tech and have to explain it all anytime someone finds out I'm Quaker." – TomImura
Darn that Quaker Oats mascot. Quakers are extremely different from Amish folks. The Amish are all Christians and live a traditional lifestyle free from technology. Some even avoid basics, like cars and electricity. They're also discouraged from pursuing higher education. Quakers, however, welcome technology and going to college is common.
Quakers are also highly involved in politics, actively engaging in issues of social justice. Their beliefs center around equality and peace — and they back it up with their votes. They also don't always identify as Christian, instead following the guidance of their own conscience.
That Hindus Worship Cows
"Contrary to popular belief, we do not worship cows; however, we do have a deep reverence for these creatures. We regard cows as holy animals since they provide us with life-sustaining nourishment. Essentially, it's similar to venerating a mother rather than a godly figure." – SaudiPhilippines
TL;DR: Viewing an animal as sacred isn't the same thing as worshiping it.
Hinduism is an ancient religion and respect for cows developed around the fourth century BCE. As mentioned by the Redditor above, cows are considered a symbol of Mother Earth, a provider and caretaker of life. The majority of Hindus eat a vegetarian diet, but they consider dairy products like yogurt and ghee to be valuable.
That Islam Is Inherently Violent
"That we are violent terrorists, that all Muslim women are oppressed or brainwashed by their men and fathers." –lostinthetrash4ever
Extremists exist, of course, but the majority of Muslims have nothing to do with the likes of groups like al-Qada, Boko Haram or Hamas.
That Atheists Are Unethical
"I'm atheist, so I guess it's the assumption that people like me have no moral standards. Uh, we do...we base our standards on real needs of real people in real time and on empathy, not force or fear due to some ancient tradition." –Anonymous
One could argue that needing a list of instructions on how not to be an a**hole actually makes you more of an a**hole. Religion provides many people with a sense of structure and faith that helps them to live virtuously, but all of that ends when you start judging others for having different beliefs.
That One Must Be Born Into Hinduism
"That Hinduism doesn't accept converts or adoptives." –Vignaraja
This is a common misconception and it's not completely untrue. While Hinduism doesn't have a formal process for conversion, their unique structure of faith makes the concept of conversion redundant. Hindus believe that many paths lead to the same God, so you can believe in Hinduism without giving up other religious beliefs. As long as an individual agrees with the fundamental teachings of Hinduism, they can call themselves a Hindu.
That Catholics Condone Child Abuse
"That we worship idols or are ok with child molesters!" –Prettyelvisfan
Considering Catholicism is one of the most popular denominations of one of the most popular religions in the United States, the odds are high that you know at least a few. Do they seem cool with child abuse? We didn't think so.
Every group has bad apples. Hitler was German, but does that mean every German citizen was antisemitic? Of course not. The Catholic faith doesn't justify sexual abuse more than any other religion. And if any religious officials took part in it or attempted to cover it up, that's a reflection of them, not the religion as a whole.
Additionally, Catholics don't actually worship saints or Mary. They honor these figures, but they only worship God.
That Christians Are "Sheeple"
"At least I think I'm against the idea that Christians are all uncritical and blindly obedient, but I'll have to check with my pastor to be sure." –Trebuchetfight
Again, no. Plenty of people who identify as Christian think for themselves and challenge practices that no longer align with modern values. If we could engage in respectful conversations instead of making broad assumptions, so many of these stereotypes wouldn't exist.
That Christians All Vote Red
"That we are all conservative Republicans." –Anonymous
Also, no. Not even close. Before you make assumptions like that, check your data. Catholics, historically Black Protestants and Orthodox Christians lean Democrat, while mainline Protestants are pretty evenly divided. Some smaller populations, like Jehovah's Witnesses and Evangelicals, are more starkly conservative, but Christians in general tend to be Democrats or moderates.
That Atheists Are Mean
"We had a new employee who was very religious. She asked one of my friends what church I attend. My friend told her that I am an atheist. Her response was 'But he seemed so nice.'" –dudleydidwrong
We have no words. Actually, we have a few. Lady, if you need a book to teach you how to be nice, it seems like you're the one struggling with ethics, not the atheist at the office.
That Norse Paganism Is the Same As White Supremacy
"That we’re all white supremacists because a small group of people took the religious symbols. Or that the religion 'isn’t real' because Christianity practically wiped it out a long time ago." –Dsnanoonthego
Norse paganism, also called Heathenism, is a reinvention of ancient Germanic beliefs from the Iron Age and Early Middle Ages. It lacks a unified theology, but the central tenets emphasize integrity, loyalty and honor. Their beliefs are steeped in folklore and center around a collection of deities, which are honored through sacrificial rites that offer food and drink.
If it sounds innocent, that's because it is. The problem, as usual, is religious extremists ruining things for everyone else. "Odinism" is the name adopted by a group of white supremacists that stole the imagery of peaceful pagan religions and repurposed them as symbols of hatred. They use Odin, the Norse god of war and death, as a warrior for their own racist ideals. That's not what Norse mythology was ever about and most Norse pagans vehemently oppose the bastardization of their belief system.
That Agnostics Are Just Indecisive
"That agnostics really do believe in God deep down somewhere. We don't. We don't know. Some still actively search like me and some are cool with simply not knowing and going on with life." – FineRevolution9264
Say it louder for the people in the back. Agnostics aren't just on the fence between believing in God and believing in nothing. They see life as far too vast and mysterious for a humble human being to know definitively how the universe works. That sounds more like wisdom than insanity to us.
That Buddhists Are All Hippies Who Don't Eat Meat
"Buddhist here. I'm not vegetarian. Not all of us are vegetarians, nor is it required by my sect, which is Tibetan, for a lay follower. I try to eat as veggie as I can, but I have to eat meat for iron deficiency reasons. My lamas are ok with this." –spinifex23
Many Buddhists are vegetarians, but the practice is most prevalent in monasteries. Laypeople are not required to abstain from animal products, but many choose to for health reasons and out of respect for the sanctity of all life forms. It's still considered a personal choice, however, and Buddhist vegetarians are unlikely to judge you for enjoying a McDouble now and again.
That Jewish People Are Rich and Miserly
"I've been told repeatedly that as a Jew, we own the banks. I've written to my bank multiple times asking them why I have to pay my mortgage if I own them and they never responded and I still have to pay." –ChummusJunky
This is one of the oldest and most offensive stereotypes in the books. This toxic stereotype began in the Middle Ages. Jews were often persecuted and subjected to laws that restricted their right to own property. In order to earn a living, they took to offering high-interest loans out of necessity. Christians were banned from doing so, so many Christian leaders used Jewish lenders, leading to resentment between the two parties.
Jews were merely working with the only options they had, but they were turned into scapegoats for widespread poverty, accused of being greedy and unscrupulous villains. The stereotype that Jews are greedy is still alive and well today, and it couldn't be further from the truth.
That Islam and Arab Mean the Same Thing
"For Islam, the idea that we are all Arab. Islam is an extremely ethnically diverse religion, perhaps the most diverse. At work, people still get confused when I say I’m Indian and Muslim, like the two concepts are mutually exclusive. I’ve had to explain multiple times that despite being Indian, I eat beef, and that despite being Muslim, I don’t speak Arabic." –xAsianZombie
Islam is a religion, not an ethnic group. Arabs are linked by a language, Arabic, rather than a race, religion or nationality. Islam is the monotheistic faith practiced by Muslims. Does that sound like a synonym to you? We didn't think so.
The moral of this story is to get your facts straight before you make any assumptions. That, and an ounce of tolerance is more valuable to humanity than an ocean of judgment. Choose which one you spread carefully, people.