Friday, June 18, 2010

Religious Pluralism

Religious pluralism (rel. comparative religion) is a loosely defined term concerning peaceful relations between different religions, and is also used in a number of related ways:
  • As a synonym for religious relativism; that one's religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and that some level of truth and value exists in at least some other religions. As a synonym for ecumenism. At a minimum, ecumenism is the promotion of unity, co-operation, or improved understanding between different denominations within the same religion, or sometimes between different religions. The latter is sometimes called Macro-ecumenism.
  • As a synonym for religious tolerance, which is a condition of harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.
  • Pluralism as the belief that more than one religion can teach truths
  • In its strongest sense, religious pluralism holds that no single religion can claim absolute authority to teach absolute truth. The word of God is not literal religion. On the contrary, religion attempts to describe God's utterances. Given the finite and fallible nature of human beings, no religious text written by Man can absolutely describe God, God's will, or God's counsel, since it is God apart from Man who reveals the divine thoughts, intentions and volition perfectly.
"Just as microsurgery proves more effective than the amputation of a limb, there are better ways to deal with religious pluralism than removing religion from public life. In short, there are good reasons to question whether secularism is the enlightened path to living together." Hunter Baker's The End of Secularism (pg 23).
Religious pluralists point out that nearly all religious texts are a combination of an assortment of human observations documented, for example, as historical narratives, poetry, lections, and morality plays. Accordingly, a distinction exists between what may be claimed as literal in a religious text and what may be metaphorical. The text, therefore, is open to interpretation. In this light, no religion is able to comprehensively capture and communicate all truth. Although all religions attempt to capture reality, their attempts occur within particular cultural and historical contexts that affect the writer's viewpoint.

Believers in religious pluralism, in this sense, hold that their own, self-made syncretistic belief system is "true". In other words, their religion is the most complete and accurate interpretation of the divine, though they also accept that other religions teach many truths about the nature of God and man, and that it is possible to establish a significant amount of common ground across all belief systems.

Dr N. T. Wright Bishop of Durham, in his lecture titled, Paul in Different Perspectives has this to say regarding religious pluralism:


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