Double Standard

This year in my basic statistics classes, after I give the announcements I begin class by giving them two pieces of information.

  • Something interesting about myself.
  • The number of the day.
The purpose of the first is so that the barrier between professor and student can be breached. Getting to know me as someone that has a life outside of work and does things that are fun and interesting can help build a connection with students that I never had.  Today, I went to the skeletons in the closet, and informed them of something I’m not proud of for the purpose of showing them I’m human and I can overcome difficult times. 
Today’s “Did You Know” segment of the two times in my life, one at age 18 and one at age 23, when I spent a night behind bars.  I didn’t go into specifics, but I could tell they did find this information very intriguing. 
The number of the day was 50, which is a percentage of Americans who answer NO when asked, “When people claim to be Muslim and commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, do you really believe they are Muslim, or not?”  This came from the Public Religion Research Institute and was included in their article, “Americans’ Double Standard on Religious Violence.” 
The double standard becomes apparent when you ask Americans the other question, switching Muslim/Islam with Christian/Christianity.  Then, 75% answer NO.  This is very interesting.  
When I present such data I need to be careful.  Instead of drawing any kind of conclusion, I remarked on how it made me think of how I would answer the question (using Christian/Christianity or Muslim/Islam) without having read about the study previously.  Would I answer yes to one and no to the other and have a double standard? Or would I be consistent in my answer and say either yes to both or no to both?  

Indeed, this is a difficult question to answer.  I can find in both the Bible and Quran passages that would condone and encourage acts of violence, so I could see somebody using those verses and thinking they are acting as a true Christian or Muslim.

However, I feel all of these verses are antiquated and do not deserve merit. The modern day and reasonable Christians and Muslims understand this, so to act out in violence in the name of either is an act of ignorance of what being a modern day and reasonable Christian and Muslim means.

It is complicated, but it deserves thought.

3 thoughts on “Double Standard

  1. This jibes with the ideas in The Righteous Mind, which I'm reading right now. Jonathan Haidt argues that we rely primarily on intuition (not reasoning), and that our reasoning is usually an ex post, ad hoc justification for what we feel. Given that the US has far more Christians and Muslims–and knowing what we know about how humans view “others”–this kind of double standard is to be expected.

    Man, that's a pretty dark assessment, isn't it? Let's promote the value of a liberal education in order to move things in the right direction!


  2. It is dark, indeed. Hopefully, I am promoting a liberal education through the practices I mentioned.

    Another thing I thought about shortly after writing this post. What do we think when shown a picture of individual wearing turbans wielding guns? Then, what do we think of when we see a bunch of white people wielding guns?

    The thoughts that come to mind are completely different. Should they be?


  3. I think you are promoting a liberal education! It's tough to overcome the shortcomings in our natural tendencies to label others and use mental shortcuts in evaluating whether someone's a threat, but it's work we have to (as your examples show).


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