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Discussion of Prejudice: A Learned Behavior

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Updated on: March 1, 2023

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Introduction

Prejudice is a social phenomenon as humans are the only species that exhibit this behavior. It is a range of attitudes and opinions not based on experience or logical reasoning and can result in an unwarranted negative judgment of a group of people and its members (Matsuda et al., 2020). Nevertheless, prejudice can also be positive, with stereotypical positive attributes ascribed to different groups of people. For a long time, there has been a debate about whether prejudice is an innate human quality or behavior that is learned and can, therefore, be unlearned. Levinson and Sanford (2020) state that people do not instinctively have preconceptions, and prejudices are learned over time through interactions with society. Meanwhile, Hjerm et al. (2018) and Donovan (2016) that peer networks and even school curricula can influence the development of biased attitudes, specifically towards people of different races. Overall, prejudice is primarily considered to be an adopted behavior and a learned way of thinking.

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Biblical Worldview Integration

The drive to address and correct negative societal preconceptions has been a priority for many moral and religious teachings. The Bible, in particular, includes passages that urge people to act without bias towards others. However, instances of prejudice can also be found in the texts. Christianity is a tradition of faith that insists that God formed man in His image and after His own likeness (Hutabarat et al., 2021). It should be noted that this transference of the image of God onto humankind, men and women included, encompasses members of all races and ethnicities as God created all. Therefore, any negative presumptions and intolerance against any person can be viewed as an insult to God as He created that individual and loves them unconditionally. It can also be asserted to be an affront to the Deity as it is, technically, His image that is being devalued. The Bible argues for equality and acceptance of people from all walks of life, and there are numerous examples of prejudice being challenged in the text.

Prejudice in the Bible: The Concept of Judgement

The notion of prejudice in the Bible is reflected in the idea of judgment. The text insists that people should not judge others and base their opinions of other nations, ethnicities, and persons of other faiths on unfounded and unsupported preconceptions. Furthermore, if allowed, such judgment will inevitably lead to the individual who judges others being submitted to the same treatment and being treated based on prejudice, not fact. This idea is most clearly presented in Matthew chapter 7, verse 5, where judging others is discouraged. The verse begins with a commandment: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (“Matthew 7:1-5,” 2021, para. 1). The verse asks the faithful not to be prejudiced as the same biases they hold against different people will be held against them themselves. Prejudice is better defined in the Gospel of James, where people who are biased in their behavior towards others are likened to “judges with evil thoughts” (“James 2-4,” 2021, para. 1). Thus, it can be asserted that bias, prejudices, and any negative preconceptions about others that are not based on experience or reasoning are malevolent in their nature.

However, the Bible also has examples of positive judgment and prejudices being encouraged. John chapter 7 allows for a form of judgment in words: “Stop judging by mere appearances but instead judge correctly” (“Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles,” 2021, para. 24). Although it is not corroborated what judgment is correct, it can be assumed it is the assessment of people by their actions rather than appearances or baseless preconceptions. Leviticus chapter 19 continues this idea with the people of faith being asked to “show no partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great” and to “judge your neighbor fairly” (“Leviticus 19,” 2021, para. 15). Thus, although judgment sometimes cannot be avoided, it is crucial to be fair and form it on sound reasoning and experience. Overall, the Bible includes numerous verses on unsubstantiated judgment not being acceptable in society and encourages fair treatment of all people.

The Notion of Acceptance in Religion

One of the main reasons prejudice and negative judgment of others are rejected in the Bible is the insistence that Christianity is meant for people from all walks of life. It is portrayed as a religion that embraces all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, social status, and other characteristics. In chapter 10 of Acts of the Apostles, Saint Peter says that “God shows no partiality” (“Acts 10,” 2021, para. 34). Furthermore, he maintains that every nation of people who fears God’s retribution and lives by his commandments will be accepted by Him (“Acts 10,” 2021). Thus, if the Divine is not prejudiced against any people, all of whom He created after His own image, so should the faithful avoid baseless judgment. In addition, the text asserts that regardless of the difference, all people “are all one in Christ Jesus” (“Galatians 3,” 2021, para. 28). Overall, one of the primary ideas that the readers can see in the Bible is that God does not discriminate against anyone who accepts Him and follows His teachings.

Moreover, the Bible utilizes examples of prejudice to show that it has no place in the world. Thus, in chapter 10 of Acts of Apostles, it is demonstrated that laws of men hold no value if they lead to people of different races, ethnicities, and social standings being discriminated against. Saint Peter notes that God showed him that no person should be called common or unclean (“Acts 10,” 2021). Furthermore, if laws of men call for a group of people to be excluded or discriminated against, such rules should not be obeyed as they are not supported by God. The Deity, in His essence, asks for acceptance of all. Thus, prejudice should be rejected by the people of faith as it prevents them from following the commencement of God and allows them to stray from His teachings.

Prejudice is a Learned Behavior

The notion that God does not discriminate, but even people of faith do, supports the idea that prejudice is a learned behavior. If people innately were without prejudice, then God would have no cause to include notions of justice and the importance of universal acceptance into His teachings to men. Furthermore, God is portrayed throughout the Holy text as the omnipresent and omnibenevolent Devine being that does not judge and holds no biases against His creations. However, if all people were created by God after His image, they too shall possess the qualities bestowed upon them by their Creator. Specifically, they should not judge others and should not have any negative preconceptions against different groups of people. However, as they evidently do in the text of the Bible, it can be argued that prejudice is a learned behavior.

Moreover, it can be asserted that prejudice and bias are behaviors learned by people through exposure to society and interaction with other people. The Bible says that man lost his likeness to the image of God in the Fall and can only restore it in redemption (Hutabarat et al., 2021). In the community, people learn socially accepted behaviors through interactions with others. People adopt common biases through exposure to prejudiced behaviors and their relationships with their different networks, including peer networks (Hjerm et al., 2018; Levinson & Sanford, 2020). If prejudice is accepted in the broader society, more people will embrace it without experience of communication with the members of the discriminated group or logical reasoning. Thus, prejudice cannot be viewed as an innate human behavior, but a learned one.

Conclusion

In summary, both contemporary research and the Bible argue that prejudice is a learned behavior. In the Bible, bias and prejudice are likened to judgment, with numerous verses throughout the book calling for people of faith not to be rash in their assessment of people and not succumb to evil thoughts. Bias is rejected as the Bible teaches that God created all people in His own image and that Christianity should accept all people. In addition, the Bible supports the notion that prejudice is a behavior learned through exposure to society as men themselves create biased laws. However, as the Holy text teaches acceptance, prejudice can be unlearned.

References

Acts 10. (2021). Bible Gateway. Web.

Donovan, B. M. (2016). Learned inequality: Racial labels in the biology curriculum can affect the development of racial prejudice. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(3), 379–411. Web.

Galatians 3. (2021). Bible Gateway. Web.

Hjerm, M., Eger, M. A., & Danell, R. (2018). Peer attitudes and the development of prejudice in adolescence. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, 4, 1–11. Web.

Hutabarat, F., Hutabarat, R., & Majilang, D. B. (2021). The understanding of the image of God in the early and medieval church history. European Journal of Theology and Philosophy, 1(6), 5–11. Web.

James 2-4. (2021). Bible Gateway. Web.

Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles. (2021). Bible Gateway. Web.

Levinson, D. J., & Sanford, R. N. (2020). Prejudice a major societal problem: Review. IDOSR Journal of Applied Sciences, 5, 43–54. Web.

Leviticus 19. (2021). Bible Gateway. Web.

Matthew 7:1-5. (2021). Bible Gateway. Web.

Matsuda, K., Garcia, Y., Catagnus, R., & Brandt, J. A. (2020). Can behavior analysis help us understand and reduce racism? A review of the current literature. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 13(2), 336–347. Web.


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