Professor Kim Knott

BA (Leeds), MA (Leeds), PhD (Leeds)

I was a student in the mid-1970s when Britain was becoming more religiously diverse as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and migrant Christians began to settle. There was also an interest among young people in meditation, yoga, alternative spirituality, and the East more generally. I visited many places of worship, went to festivals, and met people from different religious backgrounds. Religion in Britain was undergoing many changes, and I wanted to understand, teach and write about them.

Religion is an important issue to study because it is vital for understanding society and politics both historically and at present. It is also central to personal identity for many people in Britain, and even for those who are ‘non-religious’, it is important for helping them work out their own ideological position. Beyond Britain, religion is often at the heart of social and political life, and the globalisation of religion means that there are interconnections between what happens here and elsewhere. We can’t understand ourselves without knowing about others.

Why is religion worth studying, particularly in relationship to politics and philosophy? Insight into religion, what it means for individuals today and for contemporary public life, and how it was shaped and lived historically is of great value in employment because so few people know anything about it. When questions are asked about the nature or role of religion, or about equality and religious rights, you could be the one to answer them, whether they arise in teaching, the charity sector, the law, the NHS, local or national government, or in business.