Tolerance for religious diversity is a core message in recent Governmental and Educational initiatives in the United Kingdom, along with a major component of British “soft power” in international relations. This presentation looks beyond the “brand” of multiculturalism/diverse heritage of the modern UK to understand religious identities beyond essentialising and reductive categories of membership or belonging. Using a Lived Religion approach, which preferences people above texts and practices above beliefs, I will survey recent UK equalities legislation, and discuss the effect this has had on everyday lived reality for religious individuals and communities. I will analyse census data and raise issues relating to the rise of the “religious nones”, the muted voices of minority religions, and the debate over Britain as a “Christian country”. I will focus on diversity within, as well as between, religions and ask why some communities are embraced more than others, and reflect upon the problem of tolerating intolerance.
Dr Stephen E. Gregg is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, and the Hon. Secretary of the British Association for the Study of Religions. His research interests are focused on Religious Identity, Contemporary Religion, Minority Religions, and Religion and Comedy/Performance. His recent books include Swami Vivekananda and Non-Hindu Traditions (Routledge, 2019), The Insider/Outsider Debate: New Approaches in the Study of Religion (Equinox, 2019), The Bloomsbury Handbook to Studying Christians (Bloomsbury, 2019), Engaging with Living Religion (Routledge, 2015) and Jesus Beyond Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Stephen received his BA and PhD from the University of Wales, where he was subsequently appointed Lecturer in Religious Studies. He was then appointed as Fellow in the Study of Religion at Liverpool Hope University and is now Senior Lecturer at Wolverhampton, the multicultural heart of the UK. He has delivered invited papers at universities in India, Turkey, Australia, the USA, and across the UK and Europe. In 2013 Stephen was the lead coordinator for the European Association for the Study of Religions and the International Association for the History of Religions Conference in Liverpool, UK.