1. Prosopagnosia - Our brains are created to recognize patterns. One of the patterns we are significantly keen to is the recognition of faces, or even recognizing that we're seeing a face in the first place. People with prosopagnosia are unable to recognize faces.
2. Aphasia - This is a disorder in which an individual is unable to recognize writing, or unable to speak or write. While it may never have occurred to you that the recognition of writing is a difficult chore, consider that you are able to recognize a plethora of symbols in a plethora of fonts. You can even recognize symbols in fonts you've never seen before. How do you do this? You do it by recognizing patterns, or stereotyping.
3. Pareidolia - This is the phenomenon whereby we recognize patterns where none exist. The general consensus among naturalists is that humans have evolved to recognize patterns. This is such a strong inclination, we even recognize patterns at times when none may truly exist. The argument goes that it's better to perceive danger (I see a tiger) when none is present (it's just a shadow) than to not perceive danger (a tiger is really there stalking me) and not react (I get eaten).
So in the grand scheme of things, stereotyping and pattern recognition is a hugely important tool to utilize, even if that tool gets used incorrectly at times. We may want to correct those times in which we make mistakes, but it's extremely valuable that we don't squelch people or ourselves from stereotyping, particularly from a consistent naturalistic standpoint.
I think it's also important to note that stereotyping isn't typically done for no good reason. It's done because we've made significant observations. For instance, Crash is a great movie that takes a look at stereotypes. While the movie deals with all sorts of groups and stereotypes, one of the best scenes involved a rant by Sandra Bullock's character after she'd been robbed by two black men. She talks about how her instincts told her to be cautious as the two black men approached, but her political correctness overtook her instincts, which caused her to be vulnerable. While we can argue problems with our current criminal justice system, as it stands, "one in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime." (NAACP). So Bullock had a 33% chance (two black men approached her) she was coming face to face with at least one convict/potential convict. From a survival standpoint, those are high odds. Compare that to a 3% chance (or 6% if facing two individuals) if those approaching were white males.
Let's flip the lens and look at racists. When we look at racism in general, the stereotype would be to point fingers towards the South. Is it racist or ethnically uncouth to stereotype those from the South as being racist? Let's take a look at the data. Twitter after the second election of Obama was a great way to see racism in action. And guess where most of the racist data pointed? The South. Which states are more outspoken and fail to hide their racism? The states in the South. We could mix this data with other polls that may help indicate racism, such as an overall poll and a poll about sympathies for the confederacy (obviously many may hold to this for state's right's, but many also certainly for racial reasons, whether that racism is overt or latent). While certainly not as conclusive, we may be able to conclude that the two black men who robbed Bullock's character had the same chance of assuming those they were robbing were racist (had they been in the South) as the victims had of believing that two black men were convicts.
Examples abound where stereotyping is founded in truth and probability. Young earth creationists are probably more closed minded to science. Theistic evolutionists are probably more liberal in their theology and believe less in biblical infallibility. College students love free food. Middle schoolers are weird and stink. Single parents don't typically do as well as two parent homes, and as every educator learns, the best indicator of a child's success is their economic status. Real world examples of stereotypes abound and are legitimate. They help us to determine when to be on guard, where to allocate our resources most effectively, and so forth. While you may only have a 20% chance of being correct, when it comes to survival or allocating limited resources, it simply makes sense - given naturalism - to stereotype, not only when talking about dealing with data, but with every individual encounter.
The same, however, does not follow from a Christian worldview. While a Christian can certainly be aware of such data, and while they may choose to act on it at times, they are not constrained by the data. Whereas on naturalism one is stupid, irresponsible, and lacking in evolutionary wit to avoid listening to their instincts of stereotypes (like Bullock's character lamented in the clip), on Christianity, one is gracious, loving, merciful, and generous to do so. Those altruistic notions make no sense on naturalism, as even those things we consider altruistic are really driven by self-interest (see Kant, Hume, Nietzsche, etc). But on Christianity, we are given the tools to be all of those things, though we certainly fail in implementing them much of the time. And on what grounds does Christianity provide for altruism and love?
1. We are made in God's Image- I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, but it's just as applicable here. Whenever we're talking about human value, the notion that ALL humans are created in God's image is huge. Everyone, regardless of what their background is, is a valuable human being worthy of dignity and my love. We all bear this image, not because of our accomplishments, pedigree, or ability to ascertain it. It is intrinsic to all humans and cannot be stripped away. It is inalienable, as our founders put it.
2. We are Them: Christianity is very clear on the sinfulness of all, and the unworthiness of all who would stand before God apart from the propitiation of their sins through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and his perpetual intercession on our behalf. Yes, it may be more possible that this person I'm meeting is a racist, a criminal, or whatever else - but who am I? Is my slate clean? Am I innocent of discrimination and ill will towards others? Am I without fault? Can I throw the first stone? Not even close. We're in the same boat as those we stereotype.
3. We are Forgiven: One of the most convicting passages in the Bible to me is that which tells the story of a wealthy man who is loaned a huge sum of money by a king. The man is unable to pay the king back, but the king forgives his debt. However, this wealthy man loans a pittance to a peasant, who is then unable to pay back the debt. Rather than forgiving the peasant, the wealthy man has him thrown into jail. When the king finds out that the man he forgave was unwilling to forgive, he punished him severely and cast him out of his presence.
As Christians, we believe that we are that wealthy man. We have been forgiven so much. Nobody could ever owe us more than we owe our king. Despite our wretched, sinful condition, our king took on the status of a peasant, lived a long, meager life, and died a torturous death for us. If he could do that for us in our state, shouldn't we reach out in love and forgiveness to others. Even if we're right, and the individual we stereotype is actually a racist, a convict, or whatever else, we have no grounds as the loved and forgiven to do anything but reach out in love and forgiveness.
4. We are God's: Finally, Christians have a perspective that naturalists don't. While they live and die at the hands of the course nature has determined, Christians don't have to fear such things. It's not that there is no fear because God always protects from physical harm or death, and it's not that God has promised the Christian an easy life. Rather, as Romans 8:28 ff. says, he has promised that all things work together for good, a) to those who love God, b) and good as defined as that which conforms us to the image of Christ.
Christians have thus been promised that we will be made like Christ, which often is done via suffering. Christians also realize that this process of sanctification is not completed here on earth, but will be after we all stand before God's presence in the future. While we can enjoy our life here on earth, and while God often does provide in simple ways and with a multitude of blessings, the greatest blessing and the only thing we are learning to live for is the transformation of our bodies and wills so we can and will be able to live in the presence of God forever. So even if my stereotype is right, and the two men in front of me are about to rob or kill me, my hope does not lie in what transpires in that moment, and it certainly doesn't keep me from desiring to share that same hope with those that stand before me.