Recently on the APA Division 36 (psychology of religion) email discussion list there was some discussion of "microaggression" and religion. In a nutshell, microaggressions are the comments one might hear that suggest subtle prejudice. Saying something like, "You are very smart for a hispanic," (or woman, or other group member) would be an example. But as I understand it, much more innocuous statements would also be considered to be "microaggressions". Apparently, the idea has been applied mainly to racial groups, with the point of the research being that prejudice and bias against groups is still going strong.
The writer of the original post sought feedback regarding how well the concept might apply to religion, and whether it would be useful to study prejudice against religion in a microaggression framework. In my opinion, the best reply was when someone asked why we need to study microaggression in religion, when overt, in-your-face prejudice is condoned. He pointed out questions raised concerning Mitt Romney's candidacy because of his religion. Several poll results indicate that a substantial portion of people, both political liberals and conservatives, are reluctant to vote for Romney because of his religion. Here is one story reporting this type of poll result, and here is another.
I was reminded of this today when I read a story on the Reuters news wire saying thatTom Cruise is not welcome to film in Germany because of his support of Scientology. Maybe there is something useful to be gained by studying microaggressions in the context of religion... but it seems that much remains to be learned about overt prejudice in the religious sphere. I write this not to support Scientology or even Romney, but as a commentary about the idea of prejudice toward religion. Some religions seem to have much more benign effects on society and individuals than do others, and each of us likely has our own preferences for and against various religions. But here is my question: If we are going to study prejudice toward religion, should we begin with the overt or the subtle? Any thoughts about which would be most informative and would contribute most to a better world?