I've heard "racist" being used in a few cases to describe bigotry towards people of a certain religion. It's a bit annoying because it implies that all people of a religion are the same race, which is hardly the correct case. However I'm also bewildered that there doesn't seem to be an appropriate one-word substitute coined to describe prejudice/discrimination/sense of superiority in terms of religion. What (if any) word exists for it?

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    Race is to racism as religion is to religious intolerance. Why is considered important to have a one-word term for every concept? Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 20:38
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    Religionism, obviously. Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 4:32
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    Why not creedism? It's been proposed before as a stop for this particular linguistic gap, and as neologisms go, it's hardly so peculiar as to be unusable.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 14:29
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    @JustChris: IMHO Britain at least was doing fine coping with quite high levels of immigration for a long time. Introducing the buzzword "racism" instead of "racial intolerance" has only encouraged yet more intolerance on the part of people who don't want to allow even the possibility of discussing the implications of rapid major changes to the demographic. If there were a buzzword for "religious intolerance" I'm sure this would just be used as shorthand for preventing discussion on that front too. Short words are no substitute for rational thought. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 19:00
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    @iterationx: If we'd had the sought-for single word (call it Xism) for a few decades, by now it would probably be possible for me to accuse you of Xism for your suggestion! And at some point in the future, expressing such thoughts and opinions might be internationally recognised as crimes against humanity! Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 19:06

10 Answers 10


The term I would use is "religious intolerance." To describe the basis for events like the Inquisition in Spain.

  • It's definitely better in describing situations where someone is openly showing hatred towards followers of a particular religion. The other term 'religious discrimination' sounds more like not allowing to have the same rights as others because of religion.
    – Ratul
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 6:22

Sectarian is probably the right word for the job. (though it usually refers to opposing forces within a group).

Note that in some cases, people identify their ethnicity as the religion (jews for instance), in which case, "racism" and "religious bigotry" are nearly equivalent.

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    Sectarianism, since the OP wants a noun (and also sectarianism has more negative connotations than sectarian). Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 20:25
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    I agree it's related, but a person can be sectarian without being bigoted. In fact most deeply religious have sectarian views on politics (for example), but not all of them would claim that all other views were invalid. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 20:26
  • Perhaps in this case "sectarianism" is the proper form for the OP's question?
    – The Raven
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 20:26
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    The problem is that for race, we have two different adjectives, racial, which has no negative connotations, and racist, which does. For religion, sectarian currently plays both roles. For nouns, sectarianism is the religious parallel for racism. We need a new adjective, and I nominate sectarianist for the religious parallel of racist. I think that, if you used it, you would generally be understood. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 20:34
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    Antipathy towards Islamic fundamentalism expressed by any particular Christian group would not normally be called "sectarian", even by the most strident atheist. And if that strident atheist were himself to show extreme hostility towards Islam, even fewer people would describe this as a sectarianist position. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 20:37

Zealotry is the best word to carry the extra negative connotation of "racism".

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    For one-word answers, I like this is better than sectarian (or sectarianism for a noun), and have thus voted it up. But I think of zealotry more as enthusiasm for one's religion than negative feelings toward other religions. So it does a better job at conveying self-superiority than it does at discrimination of others.
    – John Y
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 23:32
  • This is the best, so far. "Religious bigot" is good, but two words. Still, "zealotry" is often used metaphorically, so these days one might still need to qualify it with "religious" at the first usage. Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 4:31
  1. Antitheism - opposition to belief in a deity (or deities)
  2. Antireligion - opposition to organized religion
  3. Anti-Judaism/Anti-Judaic - opposition to Judaism
  4. Anti-Christian [sentiment (n.)] - opposition to Christianity
  5. Anti-Islamic/Anti-Islamist - opposition to Islam

Other words exist such as Islamophobia, but that could perhaps be considered different because it's a fear of something, which might be considered different than simply hating it.

These terms are also specifying a specific religion or all religion. Other terms that denote hatred for all religions other than one's own, such as "religious intolerance", "religious bigot", etc. have already been given.


Triumphalism may be what you are looking for. It denotes the sense of religious superiority that you are looking for in your word, however it does not necessarily imply an attitude of bigotry towards people of other religions/denominations.


Answer moved from another question ("Race is to Racist as Religion is to What?") closed as a duplicate, hence the mismatch racist > racism and the apparent duplication of the 'sectarian' answer from an earlier answer

The word 'sectarian' is, of religion, closest to parallel with 'racist':

B. n.
3. A bigoted adherent of a sect; one whose views or sympathies are sectarian.

["sectarian, adj. and n.". OED Online. September 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/174583?redirectedFrom=sectarian (accessed December 08, 2015).]

'Sectarianist' is also in use. Examples include

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(From Dialogue and Universalism, Volume 6, Issues 7-12, Warsaw University, Centre of Universalism, 1996.) And

Nobody who can see and write so brilliantly and fearlessly about the evils of religion as he had done would take back what he said just like that. How can a highly spiritual person like him suddenly reduce himself to a mere sectarianist?

(From Transcending Rizal, Margarita Ventenilla Hamada, Giraffe Books, 2005.)

'Sectarianist', however, has not established itself in dictionaries, although the intended meaning is clear.


Religious persecution would be my choice.


"Religious fanatic" is the word to define that person who is sure that only his religous truth is actually true, and who dismisses all others as being false, and every person who does not follow his religion as being an infidel. So, instead of racism, it would be [religious] fanatism.

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    The examples you give for "religious fanatism" might be true for many people who are not actually treating adherents of other denominations badly. I think that "fanatic" refers more to someone who approves of the destruction of other cultures on religious grounds rather than someone who truly believes that his faith is the truth. Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 4:56

The answer is obvious.

The word you're looking for here is "Sectism"



Note - I posted this answered against a later question which I didn't realise was a duplicate. I don't know if it's considered "good form" to duplicate an answer, but I've copied it here because it seems extremely relevant, and at time of writing I don't see the word "Dawkins" anywhere on this page.

Religious intolerance/discrimination are well-established, but so far as I'm aware they are mainly used in contexts where people of one religion don't like people who believe in a different religion.

I'm not entirely sure whether the man himself would endorse the categorisation, but...


...is certainly gaining considerable currency.

It's mainly used by people who are religious, and hence consider the word to be inherently derogatory. In which context, it's worth noting that the -ism suffix is often used in terms denoting a form of discrimination, or wild or visionary theory. By extension, the actual word "ism" is often used in a negative sense.

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