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SARIYA CONTRACTOR [Derby]; Discrimination, Equality and the 'Non-Religious': Part 2

20 April 12

Duration: 13.26, access the accompanying slides for this and Part 1 presented by Tristram Hooley at the bottom of this page.

Sariya Contractor reported on a programme of six focus group discussions conducted with “non-religious” participants, 50 in total, at Derby [pilot study], Leicester, Cardiff, Blackburn, Newham and Norwich. The focus groups formed part of the Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality in England and Wales: Theory, Policy and Practice (2000-2010) project funded by Religion and Society, which has set out to assess experiences of discrimination, and how that had changed over a ten year period up to the present. She presented her interim findings.

Most of those who took part were unwilling to label themselves in a specific non-religious way, and were not members of any non-religious organisations. Some had not even realised they were “non-religious” until prompted to reflect on their position with regard to religion. This prompted discussion within the groups about the way in which positions are defined in some way in relation to a religion, and there was resistance expressed to that being in any way necessary or helpful.

Some spoke of having been on a “journey”, and that openly expressing a position of being non-religious had been a “coming out”. Participants were asked to discuss definitions of “non-religious”, and some quotations from participants were highlighted:

• ‘Religion is a set of rules. In every religion you have rules for prayers or the crucifix and you have to belief in God. People who don’t believe in god and don’t have a set of rules are non-religious.’

• ‘ … if you imagine a diagram and you've got a circle in the centre and that’s religious and then everything else outside of that is non-religious! Because if you define what’s religious then surely non-religious is everything else’

• ‘A stance that is based on scientific and logical reasoning, a moral stance and the possibility to be spiritual (without being religious)’

Some felt that non-religious people were seen in a bad light, looked down upon, and seen as lesser, or lacking in morality:

• ‘there is this default position that you are supposed to be religious preferably Christian in this country and if you’re not you are in some way a bad person, or a deficient person or a dodgy person in some shape or form’

She then listed various ways in which non-religious participants felt that religion intruded into their lives in an uncomfortable or discriminatory way. On public occasions, a religious dimension would be included in an event. Conversations with religious people would leave them feeling judged or even condemned. In education, they felt their standpoint was not adequately recognised or included. In employment, many felt that religious people enjoyed more favour and privileges. In public structures, establishments were seen as providing special favour and provision for religion, and media portrayal was seen as negative.

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Associated file:

Non-Religious Presentation - Contractor and Hooley.pdf

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