DEI Toolkit: Religious Beliefs

an illustrations of sacred symbols from the world's major religions

Definition of religion

1: the service and worship of God or the supernatural

2: commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When you think of religion, what first comes to mind? How do your beliefs concerning religion affect your daily actions? What do you think about other religions or religious beliefs?

A religious belief is defined as the attitude(s) toward a religion’s central articles of faith. One example of this is the Christian belief that Jesus is the son of God. While all religions have prescribed beliefs, not all individuals who identify with that religion adopt all of those beliefs. In 2020, 83% of the world’s population identified as following one of 12 major religions: Baha’I, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. Depending on your interpretation of a religious belief, agnosticism/atheism or the absence of belief in a higher power, may be the thirteenth major religion.

Major religions tend to have denominations, which are recognized religious groups with their own distinctive set of beliefs. Examples of a religious denomination include Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox within Christianity. When a group of followers break off from a main religion and adopt different or more (or less) stringent ideals, a religious sect has formed. If we continue our examples, sects within the Protestant denomination include Baptist, Lutheran, Amish, Presbyterian and others. As we can see by these examples, not all religious sects are radical. However, some religious sects form out of radicalism.

Radical religious sects have been credited with running various violent and deadly terrorist organizations. While we all can identify extremist religious groups overseas such as Hezbollah, ISIS/ISIL and Al Qaeda, there are numerous extremist sects throughout the U.S. Some of these are founded off Christian identity or extreme Catholicism. Some sects use religious teachings as the foundation for a platform of hate; examples of this include some anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion and anti-Muslim groups.

It is important to understand these extremist sects are not supported by the main religion. These sects do not represent the values of the believers of the overall religion. In our attempts to be inclusive, we should not group all believers of the same religion as being the same, specifically if we group them all to be part of an extremist organization. Treating others differently because of their chosen religion is a form of religious discrimination.

We should work to become more inclusive concerning religious practices that are different from our own. Inclusivity can be shown in a variety of actions. For instance, hosting a potluck that includes kosher options would allow devout Jewish practitioners to take part. Another example would be hosting a meeting that works around prescribed Muslim prayer times. As with all types of diversity, religious diversity brings different perspectives that strengthen a team. Supporting religious diversity helps recruit and retain the diverse members and creates a supportive culture. In society, learning about other religions can help us “take responsibility for living a life that benefits the world.”