chapter  18
11 Pages

Engagement between religious and non-religious in a plural society

ByANDREW COPSON

Any social movement that genuinely has mutual understanding between people of different worldviews as its aim cannot afford to ignore the nonreligious in light of this demographic reality. Thankfully, the foundational principles of the ‘interfaith’ movement within the UK prima facie do so in only one respect – the specific use of the word ‘faith’. There is nothing elsewhere in its principles that could not in theory be extended to include the non-religious. The stated ‘vision’ of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, for example, is to achieve a society ‘where we live and work together with mutual respect and shared commitment to the common good’ and it sees its ‘mission’ as being to ‘increase understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths’ and ‘helping create opportunities for mutual learning and tackling prejudice’. Although its own work is purely with those who regard themselves as religious, plainly this vision and these aims can apply equally to encounters and cooperation between non-religious and religious people as well. In light of the large and growing presence of the non-religious in the UK, and the impact that has and will have on the types of ‘prejudice’ and barriers to ‘mutual respect and shared commitment’ that might exist, we might say not only that these aims can apply, but that they urgently ought to.