Assertion of Religious Identity

(This is an archived page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book.  Current versions are at book contents).

Religion influences people's moral values if they have been brought up with it, or have been affected by it.  There is a spectrum of religious awareness and activism:

·     Religion might quietly, even unconsciously, affect someone’s moral attitudes and the way they interact with other people.

·     Some people might be tolerant of other religions, recognising that different views can be equally strongly held, and choose not to assert their own faith – mixing freely with people from any religion, without friction.

·     For some people, religion is an important part of their identity – determining their social networks and giving them a strong sense of belonging to an ethnic group.  Codes of practice vary between religions, and between the different sects within a religion, and these variations are important to the groups concerned – as symbols of identity as well as having religious significance. 

·     Depending partly on the leadership of a religious group, and on the circumstances surrounding it, some people with a strong sense of religious identity might feel the need to defend themselves against people with different beliefs. 

·     They might go further, by trying to convert 'non-believers', even using violence in some cases.

Although, as previously noted (, there are common factors which could provide a basis for mutual respect between religious groups, it is undeniable that religion has often been seen as a divisive force.  Its influence spreads through many other patterns of power, as described next (

This is sometimes caused by the exploitation of religion to gain support for political causes, which is a subject for the Political Dimension (, but it is also because religion is a convenient and sometimes very visible badge of group identity.  As described later in this chapter, any form of social group contains the potential for opposition to other groups ( and hostility is easily fomented (