Religious Diversity (Pluralism)
by D. Basinger
Posted at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Short Version

With respect to many, if not most issues, there exist significant differences of opinion among individuals who seem to be equally knowledgeable and sincere. Individuals who apparently have access to the same information and are equally interested in the truth affirm incompatible perspectives on, for instance, significant social, political, and economic issues. Such diversity of opinion, though, is nowhere more evident than in the area of religious thought. On almost every religious issue, honest, knowledgeable people hold significantly diverse, often incompatible beliefs.

That is why we have been afforded RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, that no one would impose their beliefs on others as pluralist priests have done in public schools.

Religious diversity of this sort can fruitfully be explored in many ways — for instance, from psychological, anthropological, or historical perspectives. The current discussion, however, will concern itself primarily with those key issues surrounding religious diversity with which philosophers, especially analytic philosophers of religion, are most concerned at present. Specifically, our discussion will focus primarily on the following questions:

How pervasive is religious diversity?

Does the reality of this diversity require a response?

No. Everyone has the right to believe as they choose.

Can a person who acknowledges religious diversity remain justified in claiming just one perspective to be correct?

There are many different religions. People are justified to believe as they choose without feeling compelled to explain it to anyone. This is the approach public educators have taken to reprogram children under the guise they "think for themselves," and it is absolutely an assault on religious freedom.

If so, is it morally justifiable to attempt to convert others to a different perspective?

This pluralist is attempting to do that right now, what is immoral is using government funding and coercion to do it. FORCING students to learn and respond in required Pluralist classes.  THIS is their "reasoning" skills. To admit there are many religions, then to lead them to:

Can it justifiably be claimed that only one religion offers a path into the eternal presence of God?

YES. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. Doubly protected.

The answers to such questions are not simply academic. They increasingly have great impact on how we treat others, both personally and corporately.

"Not simply academic"? Is this the justification to impose Pluralist beliefs in a fascist manner?

bullet1. The Pervasiveness of Religious Diversity
bullet2. Possible Responses to Religious Diversity
bullet3. Religious Diversity and Epistemic Obligation
bullet4. Religious Diversity and Justified Belief
bullet5. Religious Diversity and Apologetics
bullet6. Religious Diversity and the Eternal Destiny of Humankind
bullet7. Conclusion
bulletOther Internet Resources
bulletRelated Entries

  1. The Pervasiveness of Religious Diversity (Pluralism)

Aptly titled, public education has made Pluralism PERVASIVE.

Religious diversity exists most noticeably at the level of basic theistic systems. For instance, while within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam it is believed that God is a personal deity, within Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism God's existence is denied and within Hinduism the concept of a personal deity is, in an important sense, illusory. Within many forms of Christianity and Islam, the ultimate goal is subjective immortality in God's presence, while within Hinayana Buddhism the ultimate goal is the extinction of the self as a discrete, conscious entity. However, significant, widespread diversity also exists within basic theistic systems. For example, within Christianity, believers differ significantly on the nature of God. Some see God as all-controlling, others as self-limiting, and still others as incapable in principle of unilaterally controlling any aspect of reality. Some believe God to have infallible knowledge only of all that has occurred or is occurring, others claim God also has knowledge of all that will actually occur, while those who believe God possesses middle knowledge add that God knows all that would actually occur in any possible context. Some believe the moral principles stipulated by God for correct human behavior flow from God's nature and thus that such principles determine God's behavior, while others believe that God acts in accordance with a different set of moral rules, that for God what is right is simply whatever God does. Some believe that only those who have consciously "given their lives to Christ" will spend eternity in God's presence. Others believe that many who have never even heard the name of Jesus will enter God's presence, while others yet do not even believe subjective immortality (a conscious afterlife) to be a reality.

Philosophy has plenty of circular humanist logic to unravel. Why do "philosophers" insist on dissecting religious beliefs? If there is separation of church and state, then why remove proponents of church yet allow its critics free reign? To be lambasted unanswered by those who hate it?

While it is still somewhat popular in philosophical circles today to focus on diversity among basic theistic systems, there is a growing awareness that the same basic questions (and responses) that apply to inter-system diversity (for example, to differing perspectives on the most accurate basic theistic conception of God) apply just as clearly, and in exactly the same sense, to intra-system diversity (for example, to differing perspectives within Christianity over the extent of God's knowledge). And there is increasing awareness that the practical import of intra-theistic diversity is just as significant as is that of inter-theistic diversity.

For most Christians, for instance, the practical significance of retaining or modifying beliefs about God's power or knowledge is just as great as retaining or modifying the belief that Christianity is a better theistic explanatory hypothesis than is Islam (Basinger 2001, 2-3).

And for most philosophers, for instance, the practical significance of analyzing Christians affords the privilege of marketing heterogeneous thoughts in an endeavor to gain notoriety and illicitly gained respect while retaining the belief that there are no consequences to immoral behavior and rejection of God.

2. Possible Responses to Religious Diversity

One obvious response to religious diversity is to maintain that since there exists no divine reality — since the referent in all religious truth claims related to the divine is nonexistent — all such claims are false.

How it must frustrate academic pluralist priests that they cannot openly admit this "obvious response" because if they did, it would be instantly recognized as a violation of the Establishment Clause, which it is.

Another possible response, put forth by religious relativists, is that there is no one truth when considering mutually incompatible religious claims about reality; more than one of the conflicting sets of specific truth-claims can be correct (Runzo 1988, 351-357). However, most current discussions of religious diversity presuppose a realist theory of truth — that there is a truth to the matter.

In other words, in order to be minimally acceptable in public schools, pluralist priests cannot outrightly claim any religion is false. As seen in textbooks, pluralist priests rather lead students to that conclusion by teaching demonstrating the paradox...if more than one set of specific truths can be correct, yet claim each other are not, we have a paradox...hmm, what will the conclusion be? They have students lightly skim an altered version of each religion, each with their own "truth", then ask them to choose one and debate it... what might the conclusion be...

When the topic is approached in this way, philosophers normally center discussions of religious truth claims on three basic categories: religious exclusivism, religious nonexclusivism, and religious pluralism.

Right here, pluralism is being identified as religious...academia’s preferred "right" religion, forced on children in public school in a fascist fashion.

For the purpose of our discussion, someone is a religious exclusivist with respect to a given issue when she believes the religious perspective of only one basic theistic system (for instance, only one of the major world religions) or only one of the variants within a basic theistic system (for instance, within Christianity) to be the truth or at least closer to the truth than any other religious perspective on this issue.[1] Someone is a religious non-exclusivist with respect to a given issue when she denies that the religious perspective of any basic theistic system or variant thereof is superior to all other religious perspectives on this issue.

And someone is a religious pluralist with respect to a given issue when she claims not only (as a non-exclusivist) that no specific religious perspective is superior but also makes the positive claim that the religious perspectives of more than one basic theistic system or variant thereof are equally close to the truth.[2]

In other words, "exclusivist" as opposed to a "pluralist." This CLEARLY shows favoritism of the "pluralist" who is really a "non-exclusivist" with a "positive claim" of equality. What POSSIBLE conclusion can be drawn under this definition if our children are reprogrammed to accept "pluralism," that all religious perspectives share equal truth yet deny the truth of each other? Answer: Our children will be forced to conclude that all religions are wrong. There can be no other according to divisive pluralist programming. EXACTLY what frustrated philosophy professors are endeavoring society conclude.

3. Religious Diversity and Epistemic Obligation

No philosopher denies that the awareness of (realization of) seeming religious diversity sometimes does in fact have an impact on an exclusivist — from causing minor uneasiness to significantly reducing her level of confidence in the truth of certain beliefs to precipitating belief abandonment.

pluralist priests have just pled GUILTY of violating the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. This is an admission of the reprogramming effect on our children, though in context is observed as the goal.

This is simply an empirical claim about psychological states and behaviors (Alston 1988, 442-446; Plantinga 2000, 189).

How should, though, an exclusivist coming to an awareness of religious diversity — the awareness that seemingly sincere, knowledgeable individuals differ with her on an issue of religious significance — respond to the reality of such diversity?

By listening politely to those beliefs and then expressing our own. It’s called free expression and thought, normally highly touted by academia unless it opposes their own Pluralist beliefs.

How should, for instance, the devout Buddhist or Hindu or Christian who comes to realize that others who seem as knowledgeable and devout hold incompatible religious perspectives respond?

Would it be possible to allow free expression and thought between these two hypothetical people? Or must we impose the fascist beliefs of pluralist priests endeavoring to force their own ideology?

Or how should the Christian who believes the Bible clearly portrays a God with total control over all aspects of reality respond to the realization that other seemingly sincere, devout, "Bible-believing" Christians see the Bible as clearly portraying a God who has chosen not to control what occurs in those contexts in which humans have been granted meaningful moral freedom?

We should react exactly as God tells us to react. Love them, pray for them, and protect our children from them.

How should pluralist priests respond to the realization that Christians see God as all-sovereign? Should they respect their freedom or wield their PhD’s and EdD’s to force their own pluralist religion upon them?

Can an exclusivist justifiably disregard such diversity?

Absolutely, exclusivists recognize others have free will to believe as they choose and so do exclusivists.

If not, is the exclusivist under some obligation to attempt to resolve such epistemic conflicts — engage in belief assessment? Or would it at least be a good idea for her to do so?

We should always be ready to give an account for the hope that’s within us. But we do not have to resort to epistemic logic which philosophers love to get lost in. We are not lost we are found. We trust in God’s word, it is reality to us. Are you attempting to wrest that freedom from us and our children?

Philosophers continue to differ significantly on which response is correct. There are, of course, religious individuals (and groups) who believe it is inappropriate to subject religious beliefs to assessment of any sort.


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