Spirit in the 'Expanding Circle': why learn about religion in Australia in the 21st Century? can comparative religion knowledge enable cultural diversity capability?
Byrne, C 2007, 'Spirit in the 'Expanding Circle': why learn about religion in Australia in the 21st Century? can comparative religion knowledge enable cultural diversity capability? ', Honours thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld.
The place of religion in society is under scrutiny. Increasing local and global religiously marked conflict calls for deeper enquiry into its causes and possible solutions. Inter-religious ignorance may be contributing to rising intolerance. Philosopher Peter Singer (1981, 2004) claimed that interactions with an increasing variety of cultures will require humanity to develop a more tolerant approach to those once considered outsiders. This thesis proposes that comparative religion education may contribute to a possible remedy. The study combines qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore the relationship between comparative religion knowledge and cultural diversity capability. It argues that comparative religion education may assist in the development of inclusive attitudes towards religious and cultural difference and thus make a positive contribution to social cohesion and democratic citizenship. It includes a survey of Australian Year 11 students enrolled in the comparative Study of Religion course. The results are not conclusive but may be interpreted as showing some support for the hypothesis. The study raises important questions regarding the nature of religion education in Australia and highlights opportunities for further research.