A study by researchers at the University of Sydney found that the number of religions that were represented in the mainstream media had a negative impact on the general public’s perception of them.
“What we found was that if a religion was not widely represented, then people didn’t trust the religion in a way that they might expect,” Professor Anthony Burgess said.
“The negative impact of the mainstream is not something we can ignore.”
The research showed that in addition to the effects of the media, religious groups also had negative associations with the wider community.
For instance, the number one predictor of a person’s perceived lack of religiosity was whether or not they attended church on a regular basis.
In fact, the research found that if they attended churches on a weekly basis, they were more likely to believe in God, and less likely to be religious.
“If you’ve never been to church and you’ve always thought about the importance of it, then you’ve got to do something about that,” Professor Burgess said.
“This suggests that people are more likely than others to find religious groups engaging in dishonesty, or that they are less likely than non-religious groups to report positive aspects of their religion.”
When you do that you are undermining your own self-esteem, which is something that we all experience when we’re younger,” he said.
The study also found that while people who attended religious groups regularly were more tolerant of other religious groups, those who rarely or never attended religious services were more prejudiced.”
It was interesting that if we look at the religion that people said was the most tolerant of others, it was Christianity,” Professor Stephen Burdon said.
Mr Burgess said religious groups could be influenced by the way they presented themselves in the media.”
We can imagine that a religious group will be perceived as more friendly or more accepting if they’re not portrayed as being quite so aggressive or violent, or as not being quite as respectful, or just more tolerant,” he explained.”
I think that’s one of the reasons why people like to believe that they’re more tolerant and kind of caring.
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