Religious persecution consists in making an offence of certain religious beliefs, or of their natural expression in speech, writing, or religious observances. The term is loosely used of mob violence, which is sometimes encouraged or connived at by the authorities; but in its stricter form refers to legal action. Whilst there is some doubt of the exact point where political precaution passes into religious persecution, in practice any punishment of religious belief or interference with religious action is persecution, except so far as it can be justified by real public danger or by gross and public scandal or disorder.
Religious persecution may be part of a social, political or economic conflict between two religious groups which may conduct terrorist activities against each other. Force or superior power may be used to exploit a different religious group through fear. This may be achieved by physical or psychological intimidation, terrorism, indoctrination and occultism. Indoctrination and moralism may produce a guilt complex. Fear of the occult and of being cursed may cause mental disorder, physical disease and even death (as is recorded in tribal societies).
Religious intimidation has existed through history and is still a present-day reality. In 1983, for example, more than 250,000 Muslims living in nearly 100 countries as minorities faced persecution and oppression. Since coming to power in 1979 Iran's clerical rulers have executed tens of thousands and continually persecuted the 350,000 followers of the Baha'i faith. With the deaths of three Iranian Christian leaders in 1997-98 fears are rising among the country's 80,000 Christians of a new wave of repression directed against them.