European Diversity, Religion and Citizenship

By Pedziwiatr, Konrad | European Judaism, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

European Diversity, Religion and Citizenship

Pedziwiatr, Konrad, European Judaism

After the terrorist attacks on the London transport network on 7 July 2005 some academics and journalists announced the 'death of multiculturalism' in Europe. Multiculturalism, however, cannot be dead because it is a social reality for millions of Europeans. Not only these who live in the global cities like London, Paris, Rome, and others, but also those who live in small ones like the Italian City of Peace, Rovereto. All the European societies from east to west and from north to south have become increasingly diverse, multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious. This diversity is producing not only high levels of uncertainty, but also lack of social cohesion. As Putnam notices in his latest large-scale study of social solidarity in American society, in the ethnically diverse areas there is less trust and civic engagement. (2) Such areas lack, above all, meaningful social encounters.

One of the forces which is able to provide more opportunities for meaningful interactions across ethnic lines is religion. It can also significantly empower citizenship. This paper aims to shed light on how religions may contribute to identity, participatory and normative dimensions of citizenship, which is often understood at its lowest common denominator as a membership in a legally constituted political community.

Religion and Citizenship

While the role of religious factors in contemporary politics has been generally acknowledged, very little attention has been paid to the link between religion and citizenship and the influence of religion on the way people view themselves as citizens. If religious identity was taken into account in the research on citizenship it has usually been viewed as a threat to civic self-definition, as if religious belonging automatically excluded the civic, and vice versa. One of the reasons for this antagonistic vision of relationship between religion and citizenship may lie in the original understanding of civil society formulated by Thomas Hobbes as an alternative to kingdom and the church. The seventeenth-century English political philosopher used the notion to describe a sphere of social activity distinguished from the state and out of reach of religious authority. (3)

Hollenbach suggests that another reason could lie in the heightened awareness of religious diversity in contemporary societies and related to it an understanding of the difficulty, or even impossibility, of reaching an agreement on a common definition of the 'good life'. (4) Members of today's individualized societies, as Beck and Beck-Gernsheim aptly note, tend to be wary or at least lukewarm to such concepts as 'common good', 'good society' or 'just society'. (8) I believe it is not only religious diversity that makes them sceptical of the chances of achieving a common definition of 'good life', but more the general cultural diversity and increasing functional differentiation or, as Giddens prefers to call it, the disembedding. (6) The growth of individual freedoms and the increase in opportunities for greater self-interpretation made many social actors socially indifferent, as if the task of constructing personal biographies obscured them from a social reality without which, however, they are unable to perform this task. (7)

The perceptions of relations between religion and citizenship as a zero-sum game have also been largely influenced by images of such places as Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq or Darfur, to name only the main conflict areas on which the media focuses nowadays, where religion plays a divisive role. More generally, they are based on knowledge of the history of religion. Worries about the conflict-prone tendencies of religion are thus not a product of the secularist bias but are well grounded and legitimate. Religious beliefs and loyalties may deepen social divisions which in some places results in the outburst of violence. As numerous studies show, religions may build communal bonds that do not coincide with those linking the citizens of nation-states and thus threaten the basis of the unity of state and set subdivisions of the human race at odds with each other.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

European Diversity, Religion and Citizenship


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.