after a couple of points were made, i tried to argue in class my preference for religious pluralism over religious fundamentalism*, but there's so much one can do within an hour of class. what is religious pluralism?
religious pluralism is the view that there is more than one path of salvation.**
we have a pretty good idea that ashoka the great, the buddhist king of the 2nd century b.c. preached a very early form of religious pluralism:
all religions should reside everywhere, for all of them desire self-control and purity of heart. (in the s. dhammika) and this one: contact (between religions) is good. one should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. rock edict Nb12 (s. dhammika)
why do i find religious pluralism a preferable option? religious tolerance would be first on my list. then one could argue that pluralism is epistemologically sound. earlier, i said that infallibility is not a trait of the wise (who by principle keeps his/her fallibility in check).
pluralism presupposes fallibilism. the quest for knowledge, truth, (whatever you want to call it) is an open-ended, historic, time-bounded, proposition. coming back to religion, this is the an attitude of the mystic sufi poet rumi:
i looked for god. i went to a temple, and i didn't find him there. then i went to a church, and i didn't find him there. and then i went to a mosque, and i didn't find him there. and then finally i looked in my heart, and there he was.better yet: "how many paths are there to god? there are as many paths to god as there are souls on the earth."***
here is a consequence of pluralism:
even if i believed that my religion is a "better" choice of worship, i understand that "better" are --not objective standards, but-- open-ended biographical, sociopolitical preconditions. there is nothing else that makes my religion "better" except my belief that it does (of course i share this belief with a community of believers that think like me). as a pluralist i have to be aware that i cannot prove that my religion is "better" without begging the question on my own assumption. why?
the reason is that the "ultimate" test rests on my religion's claim to legitimacy: it boils down to saying, my religion is best/better because my religion (church, doctrine, whatever) claims to be best/better. in theology this might be good enough for a test.
not in philosophy.
* islam, christianity and judaism have fundamentalist versions. for example, here are some of the fundamental views of the presbyterian church: 1- the bible is inspired and infallible. 2- christ was born of a virgin. 3- christ's death is the atonement for human sin. 4- christ resurrected in a body from the dead. 4- christ's miracles are real. **keep in mind that pluralism is not relativism. the relativist claims not that there is more than one valid path of salvation, but that all paths are the same. but you see, as a pluralist i'm saying exactly the opposite of this. i believe that religious pluralism is better than religious fundamentalism. ***another mystic virtuoso of this same period, abu hafs al-suhrawardi says: "whoever claims possession of something, his altruistic outlook is not sound, since he considers his self more entitled to the thing by possessing it … altruism is the mark of those who see that all things belong to god." see Paul L. Heck's Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism, p. 205.