Americans hold double standards about cases of religiously motivated violence, with white evangelicals most inconsistent and the religiously unaffiliated the most consistent.
In a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, Americans were asked if people who perpetrate acts of violence in the name of faith are legitimate members of those religions.
When the question was applied to Islam, 50 percent said no, those perpetrators are not really Muslims. But 37 percent said they are and another 13 percent said they are uncertain, PRRI found.
When violence is motivated by the Christian faith, 75 percent of respondents said the perpetrators are not really Christians. And 19 percent said those committing violence are real Christians.
The research was published nearly a month into the presidency of Donald Trump, who has declared fighting Muslim extremists a top priority of his presidency.
World events indicate he is following through. U.S. special operations forces conducted a raid in Yemen in late January. One Navy SEAL and a number of local civilians were killed. Currently, American forces are reportedly advising Iraqi forces in combat operations around the city of Mosul.
PRRI’s research shows Americans can be of mixed feelings on the topic of religion and violence.
When Republicans were asked about Muslim identity and the committing of attacks, 55 percent answered the attackers are legitimate Muslims and only 33 percent are not.
Most Democrats — 55 percent — said those committing violence in the name of Islam are not real Muslims. Thirty percent of them said they are.
However, the two groups were close — 79 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans — when asked if those who perpetrate violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians.
But the biggest disconnect comes in statistics broken down by religious affiliation, PRRI said.
“No religious group expresses a larger double standard than white evangelical Protestants,” the organization said in a summary of its report published online. “White evangelical Protestants are the most likely (87 percent) to disown Christian terrorists who claim to be acting in Christianity’s name. However, they are among the least likely (44 percent) to say the same about terrorists who say they’re Muslim.”
Only 11 percent said those perpetrators remain Christians.
But only 44 percent believe Muslims who conduct violence in the name of their faith are not really Muslims, compared to 45 percent who do, PRRI found.
White mainline Protestants echoed those attitudes. Seventy-seven percent of them said those who perpetrate violence in the name of faith are not Christians, compared to 41 percent of Muslims in those cases.
A significant majority of Catholics, at 79 percent, said those who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not real Christians. But that dropped to 58 percent when applied to Islam.
Unaffiliated Americans also were surveyed, and 61 percent said Christian-motivated perpetrators of violence are not legitimate members of the faith. Fifty-four percent said that about Muslims.
“The religiously unaffiliated stand out as having the smallest double standard,” PRRI said in its summary.