Construction of the Concept of Religion in the United Nations’ General Assembly: From Human Rights to Dialogue and Harmony

Reference work entry


Over the last two decades, we have been witnessing a fundamental reassessment of the relationship between what is described as religious and secular. All over the world, the seemingly clear-cut division between the religious and the secular has been put under scrutiny – in part with terribly violent outcomes.

The present chapter intends to add to the understanding of these processes by analyzing the development of the religion discourse in the context of the United Nations Organization (UN). First, the chapter makes the point that the UN – with its manifold suborganizations, commissions, and committees – has developed into one of the most significant stages for the display of worldwide discourses. Second, it argues that the reference to religion has changed considerably – from an object of human rights to a means for the creation of “peace and harmony.”

Along those lines, the chapter will use Reiner Keller’s concept of discourse analysis to look at the usage of the concept of religion in the official documents of the UN’s General Assembly, thus adding a frequently neglected “shade” of the more recent shifts in the world language map.


United Nations Organization Worldwide discourse Secular Religion Discourse analysis 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kirchliche Pädagogische Hochschule, Vienna/KremsViennaAustria

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