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Carolina Navarro

1/15/2017

AP Literature

Religious Intolerance

Societal standards are something that many people have tried to change in recent years;

however, in the past, many people were judged by something as simple as strange actions. Many

people have been very distrusting of their own neighbors which leaves hypocrisy in the nation as

well as government mistakes. The culprit of this large mistrust has been religion. From the Salem

Witch Trials to Obama’s presidency, many people have been discredited due to their religion. In

many ways religion plays an important role in today’s society and the stereotypes that follow

with them. From a sociological perspective, religion plays a significant role to someone’s

credibility, especially in the american society.

The Salem Witch Trials took place in the late 1600’s in which many people were thought

to be witches, especially women. Many times, people were judged by how religious they were

which resulted in their execution. Salem was a very religious and strict place to live in at the time

since Salem was a Puritan town. The Crucible by Arthur Miller speaks to this and sheds light on

some of the problems of the society at the time. In one instance a person is judged because he

“will not come to church but once a month” (Miller Act 3 pg 84). This therefore elucidates the

impression that religion was something that was engraved so deeply in the society that people

forgot how to act reasonably. It seemed that the only way they could trust one another was purely

by religious actions rather than morals.


The Red Scare is an event that is very important to the way people thought in the 1950’s.

Joseph McCarthy played an important role to expose the way people thought and how gullible

they could be. In Joseph McCarthy’s infamous speech, he says “communistic atheism and

Christianity” (McCarthy 3). This greatly impacts the message he sent out more than 3 centuries

after the Salem Witch Trials. He blatantly gives the United States credit because it is a Christian

nation while communism in Russia was seen as atheist. It seemed as though the only way

McCarthy could discredit communism was through a religious attack. He framed all communists

to be atheist when in reality, not all communists were atheist which therefore created a stereotype

that communists were atheist.

Nearly a decade later, the United States was filled with anti-catholic prejudice with the

election of the President John F. Kennedy who was the first Catholic president of the United

States. Many people judged Kennedy for his decisions on matters such as birth control, but

overall, non-Catholics “​were fearful that a Catholic in the White House would be under the

direction of the Vatican, and the Pope, and that the constitutional separation of church and state

would be compromised” (Roosevelt 2). Many people were so focused on the religion of the

president, that they almost forgot about his morals and his political standings. This suggests that

in the american society, credibility in religion is something that has become a societal normality.

Religion in politics has played a significant role even in the 21st century.Similarly to

John F. Kennedy’s situation, when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, many people were

questioning how Obama’s catholic association would play favoritism with the Pope. When

Obama visited the Vatican as “an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the White

House and the Catholic Church” (Wellford 1), Obama’s visit and religious association caused a
common idea of bias towards the Catholic church and that the United States would implement

conservative policies. Many news outlets attempted to discredit Obama by mentioning his

religion rather than his morals which goes to show how religion has played a significant role to

the american society for so many years.

To conclude, for many years, american society has relied heavily on religion to judge a

person’s actions as ethical. Over many years there has been multiple instances where a multitude

of people has judged another for simply having a different religion than their own. This is a huge

problem for not only events in history, but also in the present and the potential future. In the

present, there are still people who are judged heavily on religion. Muslims, atheists, christians,

buddhists and many others are stereotyped under a bigger umbrella simply because of

differences which allows for religious intolerance in the american society despite being so

diverse.

Sources:

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Dramatists Play Service Inc, 1953.

McCarthy, Joseph. Enemies From Within. 20 Feb. 1950.

Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt
Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker,
Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery
(Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished
letters. [Accessed January 20, 2018].
https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/mep/displaydoc.cfm?docid=erps-acism
Wellford, Rachel. “A History of Papal Visits by U.S. Presidents.” PBS, Public Broadcasting
Service, 27 Mar. 2014, ​www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/history-presidential-visits-pope​.