Historical Reflections on Religious Diversity

Martin E. Marty

in The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195340136
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Historical Reflections on Religious Diversity


Historians and other scholars, who have enough difficulty defining the “religious” or “religion” about which they write, also have to wrestle over the meanings of religious diversity when that combination of two words is their subject. Complication arises because religious diversity has acquired a kin, religious pluralism. The latter has been in use for less than a century and often gets used as a virtual synonym for diversity. Encyclopedia, dictionary, and handbook writers use the words interchangeably. However, the concept of pluralism introduces many themes that are not, or do not have to be, treated when mere diversity is the subject. Historians in North America and especially in the United States tend to point to our local environs, the northern part of the Western hemisphere, as being as notable an example of religious diversity as humans have known. This article traces the history of religious diversity, focusing on Europe in the medieval period as a case study.

Keywords: North America; religious pluralism; religion; historians; history; United States; medieval period; Europe

Article.  5296 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Comparative Religion

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