Religious identity – like cultural identity – is perceived differently by different people. Some people need to be anchored in a single community, which provides them with a firm direction in life; others live in situations where they see themselves as members of various groups - for example, the way Tim feels in the dialogue. These people then have to deal with how much these individual groups are able to tolerate each other and, at the same time, how much they try to protect their own unique identity. It can be hurtful to encounter this kind of exclusivity, especially if it occurs in very personal areas, which faith and religion on the whole certainly are.
The ecumenical movement: A movement that strives for greater unity among Christians. It emphasises the common roots of Christian faith in an effort to overcome existing differences. One result of these efforts is the regular organisation of ecumenical church services, involving the participation of members of more than one church.
Exclusivity: The belief that one’s own faith is superior to all other faiths, or that it is the only true faith; for example, the claim that “Christianity is the only path to salvation”.
Ethnocentricity: Elevating the values and standards of one’s own society above the values of standards of other societies, and judging foreign cultures according to the terms of one’s own culture; for example, claiming that “the peoples of the South-Pacific are backward because they don’t use cars or computers”.
Conservatism: A favouring of everything that is old, time tested, and long established in society (a way of life, values, ways of dealing with problems, social roles). It can at times take the form of clinging to the past and an associated resistance to anything new.
Traditionalism: A very positive view of traditions (e.g. religious rituals, traditional liturgy, etc.), and the importance of preserving and promoting them. It is sometimes mistaken for conservatism. Traditionalism need not necessarily be authoritarian, and it does not always relate to social roles and ethical norms.
Fears about losing one’s traditions and values sometimes lead people to disdain foreign religious groups (or other idea currents within their own cultural environment). Foreign religious systems are then described as inferior or even as bad.
Mehmet lives in Germany and is one of the second generation Turks in the country. He knows that when his parents still lived in Turkey they had been admirers of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, President and founder of the secular Turkish state. They were neither exceptionally religious nor nationalistic. It was in Germany that his mother began to wear a headscarf, as though she were afraid that abroad she would lose her relationship to the traditions of her nation. His sister is even more radical. She criticises the immoral style of European dress and seeks the roots of her culture as influenced by Islam. Mehmet himself likes the German (or Western European) lifestyle, but he also understands his sister. It sometimes strikes him that in Germany Islam is discussed only in negative terms (generally in connection with terrorism). He then has a tendency to defend Islam against prejudices. Other times, his sister irritates him with her one-sided attitudes, and to her he defends the secular way of life and its advantages. It annoys him considerably when people in both of these camps want him to denounce the other side. He would like to maintain his position as a Western European, but one who understands the values and traditions of devout Muslims.
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