Should people keep their religious beliefs private?

Should people keep their religious beliefs private?


According to Eurobarometer, 77% of EU citizens consider themselves to be religious. Catholics are by far the largest religious group in the EU, accounting for 48% of all Europeans, while Protestants make up 12% and Eastern Orthodox Christians make up 8%. Taken together, agnostics and atheists account for 23%, while Muslims (the largest non-Christian religious group) represent 2% of the EU population.

Can all these different religions and beliefs get along together peacefully? How can we ensure that religious diversity in Europe is a strength and not a source of tension? According to a 2012 poll, 39% of Europeans feel that religious discrimination is widespread (though 51% say it is rare).

To give you an idea about religious diversity in Europe, we’ve put together some relevant facts and figures. Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger image).



We had a comment sent in by Dogaru, arguing that a strong secular divide between personal religious beliefs (which should be kept private) and shared public spaces or institutions (such as schools, hospitals, or the civil service) should be maintained.

citizen_icon_180x180I might sound odd, but I think that a [way to improve religious tolerance in the EU] might be for everybody to keep their religion beliefs to themselves in their own private spaces, and not to show them off in public spaces.

To get a response, we put Dogaru’s suggestion to Alan Murray, President of the European Network on Religion and Belief. How would he respond?

We also spoke to Elsa Ray, from the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF). She was strongly opposed to the idea, arguing that religious* belief is an integral part of an individual’s identity:

elsa_rayReligious* belief is a part of your identity, and you cannot ask a human being to leave a part of their identity at home. It’s like asking someone not to be black in public. It’s not possible! The problem is not in displaying our religious beliefs in public spaces, the problem is how modern European societies can make sure that every citizen can live together in peace, without regard to their race, gender, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, etc.

You cannot ask people to be Muslim at home, but not to be Muslim in the street. So, I believe the challenge here is to make sure that European governments and societies make sure that all citizens can live together in peace.

To get another perspective, we also put Dogaru’s comment to Robin Sclafani, Director of CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe. How would she respond?

Should people keep their religious* beliefs to their own private spaces? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

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