Goffs School Religious Studies

Topic 4 – Community Cohesion

Key Words:

  • Prejudice- believing some people are inferior (not as good as others) without even knowing them.
  • Discrimination – treating people differently (unfairly) because you are prejudiced against them.
  • Racism – discriminating against people because of their race or the colour of their skin.
  • Sexism – discriminating against people because of their gender (being male or female).
  • Multi-ethnic – many different races and cultures living together in one society.
  • Multi-faith – many different religions living together on one society.

Social facts

The roles of men and women

A hundred years ago, women did not have rights in Great Britain, but during the twentieth century women have gained equal rights with men. It is now illegal to discriminate against women or to pay them less than men for doing the same job.

These changes have also affected the roles of men and women. In 1994, almost as many women as men were in paid jobs (but more of the women’s jobs were part-time).

It is now accepted that men and women have equal rights and should both have the chance of a career. This also means that men and women have to share equally in running the home and bringing up the children.

Britain as a multi-ethnic society

Britain has always had immigrants, but after the Second World War, a shortage of workers let to many different cultures coming to Britain; Afro-Caribbean (Africans and West Indians), Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, and Bangladeshi. Even so, in 1994 only 4.8% ofBritain’s population came from ethnic minorities.

Half of this 4.8% was born and educated in Britain and so they are fully British. To encourage social harmony, the Race Relations Act 1976 banned all forms of racial discrimination and any attempts to stir up racial hatred.

Britainas a multi-faith society

In some ways Britain has been a multi-faith society since 1558 as there have been Church of England, Roman Catholics and Nonconformist (Protestants other than Church of England) Christians and since 1656, Jews. However, with the immigration of the 1950’s. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have settled in Britain.

As Britain became used to being a multi-faith society, people began to realise that it is possible to worship God and be a good person without being a Christian.Being a multi-faith society causes problems for religion because all faiths must be treated equally and without discrimination. However, religious people’s attempts to convert each other could be a form a discrimination you are saying the members of the other faith are inferior because they need to be converted.

Some members and leaders of the different faiths in Britain do try to work together and show love and respect for each other. At official functions leaders of all Britain’s faith communities appear together and sometimes pray together.


The roles of men and women

Some of the Bible says that women are inferior and should stay at home as wives and mothers.

Other parts say that men and women are equal in religion, e.g. There is neither male nor female for you are all one person in Christ (St Paul). Jesus treated women as his equal and had women followers like Martha and her sister.Mary and Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene stayed with Jesus during his crucifixion and was the first to see him when he rose from the dead.

Many Churches (e.g. Church of England, Methodist, URC) have women ministers / priests demonstrating equal roles for men and women.

The Roman Catholic Church says men and women should have equal roles, but only men can be priests because of Jesus chose men to be his successors.

Some fundamentalist Churches will not give equal roles to men and women because of St Paul’s statements in the Bible about women not being allowed to speak in Church.

Racial Harmony

The New Testament is totally opposed to any form of racism, Jesus treated people of different races equally. St Peter had a vision from God telling him that God has no favourites among the races. In the Parable of Good Samaritan, Jesus showed that races who hated each other (like the Jews and Samaritans) should love each other as neighbours.

All the Christian Churches have made statements recently condemning any form of racism or racial discrimination.

Religious harmony

All Christian Churches believe there should be freedom to practice (believe and follow) whatever religion you want.

Some people believe that non-Christian religions have some of the truth about God but only Christians have the full truth.

Other believe that only Christianity has the full truth and that Christians should try to convert other faiths to Christianity.

A few Christians believe that all religions are equal and that they are ways different ways of finding God. So each of us should follow the religion which makes us feel most at home.

Buddhist Teachings 

Attitudes to men and women

Both men and women can become Buddha (literally Pali for ‘Awakened One’). This means they are equal.

All men and women have been either sex in their past lives.

However, the Buddha was initially reluctant to admit women into the Sangha (community of monks and nuns) as no other religious group had women monks at the time. Also, he worried some would only join to gain social status and respect. He also worried about women leaving their families for a life as a nun.

Despite this, the Buddha’s cousin, Ananda, said that if women are just a capable of attaining enlightenment (knowledge of the ultimate truth), then they should be allowed to become nuns. The Buddha thought about this and agreed.

Nevertheless, in Theravada Buddhism, women nuns have 311 rules to mens 257. This is seen as unfair. Some rules suggest that women nuns should not criticise a monk etc.

In some Buddhist countries, like Thailand, women nuns are not as equal to male monks whereas in other countries or types of Buddhism, they can be.

Buddhism and Racial Harmony

Any person, whether black, white or Asian, can become a Buddha.

Buddhist karma may suggest that racism leads to bad karma for the racist. People might start resenting them too – what goes around comes around.

Bad karma could lead to a bad rebirth. Perhaps a racist will end up as a hunted animal.

The Buddhist Eight Fold Path suggests Buddhists should follow ‘Rights Action’ (not hurting others), Right Speech (not abusing or speaking badly of others and Right Mindfulness (being fully aware of your actions). These may prevent racist discrimination, abuse and prejudice.

The Three Poisons of hatred (snake), greed (cock) and ignorance (pig) may lead to racism. Racist behaviour normally comes from ignorance of others. How many black or Asian friends do white racists have? Probably none! Also, hatred leads to more hatred (karma).

Also, the 5 precepts mean you should avoid harming others (1st) and false speech (4th).

Lastly, Buddhist believe in metta. This is loving kindness – the opposite of racism. Buddhists even meditate on love and try to love those they dislike!

All the above Buddhist teaching would apply to other faiths (inter-faith harmony) as well.

Islamic (Muslim) Teachings

Racial harmony

The Qur’ an teaches that racism in any form is wrong. God made all the races on earth, and so we should give each other equal respect.

Muhammad chose a black African as his first prayer leader and said in his last sermon that no race or colour is superior to any other. He also told Muslims that they are one community who should treat each other as brothers.

The teachings of the Qur’ an and Muhammad and the belief in the brotherhood of Islam, lead Muslims to oppose all racism.

The roles of men and women

Most Muslims believe that men and women are equal in religion and education, but that God has given them different roles in life. They believe that men should support the family, while women have children and bring them up. Both roles have equal value, but men need to inherit more than women in order to fulfill their role as providers.

These attitudes are based on the teachings of the Qur’ an and the Hadith.

Many Muslims now accept that women can have careers, but believe that family commitments

Religious harmony

The Qur’ an teaches that there should be no compulsion in religion and so all Muslims believe that people should be free to practice whatever religious faith they choose.

Most Muslims believe that only Islam has God’s true message, because God dictated the Qur’ an to Muhammad. So they feel they have the duty to convert people to Islam.

A few Muslims believe that all religions are just different paths to the same God.