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Looking at the Relationship Between Religions. An Empirical Study Among Secondary School Students

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This paper explores the interreligious orientations of Dutch secondary school students. On the basis of a typology of four interreligious orientations, i.e. exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism and dialogical-pluralism, a measuring instrument was designed that was used to inquire into the extent to which the students agreed or disagreed with these orientations. The relationship between these interreligious orientations and other student characteristics was also studied. The results showed, first, that the students do not differentiate between exclusivism and inclusivism. Rather they consider this to be one and the same orientation, with which they disagree. Second, the students are ambivalent about the dialogical-pluralist orientation, but clearly favour the pluralist orientation. This reinforces the idea that young people today tend to perceive religion as an interesting sociological phenomenon, but one that does not yet affect their personal lives. This idea is also confirmed by the finding, revealed by regression analysis, that the interreligious orientations of the students are influenced hardly at all by familiar religious characteristics like church attendance or religious belief. The students' preference for one of these interreligious orientations seems to be best explained by the positive or negative influence of the other interreligious orientations. In view of these findings, it is suggested that this way of looking at the relationship between religions may be a typical youth phenomenon, one which, in terms of Erikson's psychosocial theory of identity formation, can be called an identity moratorium.


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