Atheism and religious diversity

AENJThere has been quite a bit of discussion in New Zealand about the problems of religious diversity and the need to develop understanding and cooperation. However, this has concentrated on ethnic and religious groups. The third of the population with non-religious beliefs are mostly ignored and this undermines true acceptance of diversity. We need to widen our horizons beyond the “Interfaith” approach if we are to address problems underlying suspicion and conflict between people of different beliefs.

I have contributed an article on this to a special issue of the Aotearoa Ethnic Network Journal. This issue deals with Faith and ethnic communities. The article entitled, Atheism and Religious Diversity, argues for an approach to religious diversity which includes non-theist groups and is therefore more consistent with international treaties, and New Zealand legislation, on freedom of religion and belief.

I welcome any feedback, comments or criticism of the arguments presented in this article. (a pdf version is available for download here).

Related Articles:
Religious Diversity Statement
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
Destiny of Christian privilege?
Helen Clark’s diplomacy
Common values, common action?
Special rights for religion?
“Let us pray . . . “
Faith and terrorism
What is religion?

5 responses to “Atheism and religious diversity

  1. Hi. I think you’re right that “interfaith” as a term sort of excludes the non-religious. But is “religious diversity” really much better. You say religious diversity “includes people with non-religious beliefs”, but it’s easy to see how the term can sound like it only refers to diversity amongst those of a religious bent.


  2. I can appreciate what you say, Bob. However, we need to deal with the existing situation. In New Zealand we have been going through discussion of religious diversity – most probably in an attempt to prevent the import of religious violence and intolerance via immigration. The motivating concern may be Muslim/Christian relations but the discussion is about rights and privileges for different religions, safety, education, relation with government, etc. In this the religious participants are ignoring these rights for the non religious and the non-theist (except Buddhists). Have a look at my post on the National Statement on Religious Diversity.
    This is a big problem with discussions around religious diversity, “interfaith” activity and even sometimes when diversity of belief is discussed (religious participants assume “belief” refers only to religious beliefs).
    It would be nice if the discussion accepted that it should cover all beliefs, all traditions, etc., and not just those normally considered religious. But given that it doesn’t (and some of the religious participants actively try to prevent inclusion of the non-religious in their discussions) then, I believe, we have to attempt to win the more open-minded participants into accepting that their discussions should include all beliefs and traditions, not just those normally considered religious. This is, after all, what our human rights legislation and international human rights treaties do. And they are discussing things like rights to safety, to special consideration at work and to what we teach our children. Non-theists should not be left out of these.


  3. Thanks for recycling one of my first posts from 2 years back, Steve. This should improve its Google visibility.


  4. Are all religions the same?

    Is this going to be a habit with you, Steve?
    Spamming links to your site?


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