It sometimes happens that a number of seemingly unrelated blog posts, conversations, and forum threads start to form a pattern. The blogosphere has been abuzz lately with the discussion about the Cordoba Initiative mosque/no-it's-a-community-center, with half of them bemoaning America's raging Islamophobia. Then today in Greta Christina's blog, I saw Atheist Meme of the Day: Atheists Experience Discrimination. But then, I've often told Atheist friends- who laughingly agreed- "You think you've got it bad? We Pagans catch flak from Christians and Atheists alike!" But wait a minute, Christians say, what about the secular progressive war on Christians? It seems we all have a persecution complex- but who does America really hate?
I didn't bother Googleing for polls on the subject; for various reasons polls on this sort of thing are notoriously unreliable. But it was Greta's post that gave me an inspiration- some of what she described are hate crimes, and we keep statistics on that. My reasoning was thus: if everybody hated each religion equally, and given that nutjobs are distributed more or less evenly, then people would become victims of hate crimes in approximate proportion to the demographic numbers of their religions. I reasoned that the skew of the numbers between the demographics and the percentages of hate crime victims would give us a hint of how people really feel. It wasn't hard to find both hate crime statistics and demographics by religion for the same year, 2008, and the results are fascinating.
Let's start with the opposite end of the spectrum to test methodology: who does America love? Protestant Christians make up 50.9% of the population, but only 3.6% of the victims of religious bias based crimes; clearly, America loves Protestants, victimizing them at only 1/14th their demographic percentage. America loves Catholics, too, although not as much; they make up 25.1% of the populace and 5.1% of the victims, for a 1/5th rate. And what about Atheists, the inspiration for this exercise? Turns out America kinda likes them; Atheists and Agnostics are 1.6% of the populace, but only 0.8% of the victims, half of what you might expect.
What about Muslims? Muslims make up 0.6% of the populace- but 7.5% of the hate crime victims. That's 12.5 times their demographic share. That makes a Muslim 62.5 times more likely to be a hate crime victim than a Catholic, and a whopping 175 times more likely than a Protestant. That's terrible- but it's not the worst. There's another religion that, judging by the hate crimes Americans commit, is hated far, far more than Islam- can you guess what that is? Go ahead, guess; I'll wait.
Jews comprise 1.2% of the population in the US... and 66.1% of the religious bias based hate crimes victims. A Jew in America is 4.5 times more likely to become a hate crime victim than is a Muslim. And judging by the categories of the crimes, not only do more Americans hate Jews than Muslims, but the hatred runs deeper. In the 2008 numbers for religious bias crimes, we find simple assault matching the demographic; there are twice as many Jews as Muslims, and they suffered twice as many simple assaults: 30 attacks on Muslims, 58 on Jews. But aggravated assault- a much more serious attack- tells a different tale: 5 anti-Islamic attacks, 25 anti-Jewish. And vandalism is even more striking: 30 assaults on Muslims, 742 against Jews. And that's 7 years after 9/11.
I tried to think of a witty summation, but couldn't, so here's the credits instead: religious demographics from TeachingAboutReligion.org, hate crime statistics from the FBI