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Religious diversity: rethinking religion
Religious diversity: rethinking religion

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4 The importance of understanding religions

Active religious groups continue to have a substantial presence, both in the United Kingdom and in the world more generally. Diversity is both enriching and challenging. In order to effectively appreciate and manage migrants to Britain and international relations, the religious dimensions of this diversity need to be understood.

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Figure 19 Sign at Heathrow Airport directing passengers to its multi-faith prayer room. Photo: Marion Bowman

Religion is often linked with membership of a particular community. It is extremely important to both individual identity and national politics. It arouses strong emotional and intellectual reactions. Individuals and groups frequently appeal to and identify with religion if asked to explain their motivations, aspirations and anxieties.

Religion is a key aspect of the social and historical experience of most people on our planet today. If we want to understand the world around us, then we need to understand religion. At the beginning of the course, we asked you to reflect on what ‘religious literacy’ meant to you and why it could be valuable.

Activity 11

Reflect again on these questions – do you now think of religion differently from how you thought of it before, after reading through this course?

Then play this short podcast in which some of the members of the Religious Studies Department of the Open University explain why they believe studying religion is important.

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