Wednesday, October 31, 2012

on the advantage of religious pluralism

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. 


Domonique Devereaux said...

I love the Idea of Pluralism in religion. Every Religion or faith has something to offer, if the experiences are genuinely humbling one’s. However , I do not know which one I like better, the idea that there is no right religion, or the idea that there is. I know that this is ironic but if I chose to believe in something knowing that it Is valid, but not necessarily anymore valid than another belief system, then why should I make it my faith? Is it to believe for the sake of believing? many (including myself) often suffer from confusion and overthinking, is this not a reasonable question, its either you have no particular faith and embrace all walks of faith, (which I personally think for the most part is a wonderful way of life that possibly has its inevitable almost uncomfortable moments of self-analysis) or, you chose your faith and have a fundamental way of life that is less confusing, without disregarding some lessons from other belief systems. I think the general question of this is, is it so simple to have an ongoing certainty or uncertainty in a truth? Well Perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Warning! Warning!
For what I have to say is extremely explicit,or is it?
A brief backround of myself, I was born in Wurzburg bavaria Germany, till I was about four years of age. My first spoken language, is some version of a country dialect taught to me by a German Nanny. Upon my mother returning to America, She was told that a black man speaking German would not be excepted in this society. So afterwards I was circumsized, and on my path towards completing my sacraments in the Catholic Church.
That being said, I have something to say. My personal Idea of Jesus was that he was of blonde hair and blue eyes. I was conditioned to think this way for many years. As I got older things started to not make sense. Now the bible tells me of Nazarines, Men who did not cut thier hair, thier hair grew long, so did Jesus.The bible says that Jesus, his hair was made of wool. This of made me think that maybe light skin people might have wooly hair. Then my girl friend and I where in biology class looking at a strand of each other hair under a microscope(She is a natural blonde). We concluded that a strand of my hair was like a peice of wire, being compared to a piece of string (her hair).
That being said, my personal ideal of Jesus was that he was a Hebrew, and I have learned since that Hebrews were of a darker skin. This being said, either someone is trying to distort my image of Jesus or there were tanning beds back in his day.
So in this next statement, I would like to mention an oxymoron: I wish all the negros of all races showed a little more negritude. Of course in my belief we are all humankind, but we also have a beginning. You can only have so many parts of a WHOLE. So therefore, a beginning exists.
For one example, a tree starts as a seed and then branches and eventually gives off seedlings. If the seedlings grow, they are the same, but they have different shapes and the leaves are in different patterns. Allow all the seedlings to grow, and in time, they will grow into each other, and the beginning may not be as important as the WHOLE. I believe that some religions use prunning so that the begginning is desire, and will seperate us a WHOLE. That's why we(atman) have to look at everything as a WHOLE(Brahman) to get the WHOLE picture.

Anonymous said...

I feel as if there are different levels of truth, like a multi-faceted diamond. How can one side be better than the other when ultimatly all sides make up the One and point to the same thing..

Alex v

Naima Mompoint said...

I have been seeking for something like that for the longest. The idea of pluralism is genius.I am a catholic since I was young not because I choose to but, because I was raise with. In my opinion, my religion is not the best. Since I was young I always wish to be part of the Chinese religion. Their religion seems beautiful to me. However,it is not the only "beautiful" religion, there is many religion. My point is, how do you know yours is the best. You said when you pray many things happen to you but, when they pray many things happen to them too; how do you explain that. I was a follower once, now I decide to open my eyes to other option. My God won't get mad at me for exploring the world and asking question, because this world is full of question that we don't have the answer yet... I got to said my religion have flaws. How can you tell me that the "Pope" is the richest person on earth and there is still poor people in this earth. I remember on my bible Jesus seating down on a donkey not a Pope mobile that is actually a Mercedes Benz with bulletproof carrying the Pope who is suppose to represent Jesus. You know how much that Mercedes cost? Well, I don't want to know because it will hurt me to know. All I can said is look at your religion and analyse it well and trust me you will come out with a flaw. If all the religions find a flaws then there are not perfect, therefore, stop thinking it is. I believe there is a beauty in every religion and there is flaws in all of them, on thing that connect all of them is a God different God but, still a God.

Alfredo Triff said...

Beautifully said, Naima. You're not any less religious for accepting other paths and sharing yours.

Marisabel Lavastida said...

I think it should be mandatory in school to study every religion. I.m not saying to bring back prayer in school or anything like that. But I think being informed thoroughly and discussing different religions from both an academic and practical perspective would benefit any society immensely. It would help people in their personal lives to chose a spiritual path that makes sense to them and it would eliminate people's fear of other religions that are the root of so much violence and hatred in the world. I dont see why we exclude religion from the main curriculum when it is so vital to our lives. So it should be math, science, arts, social sciences and religion that we study in school.

atRifF said...

But I think being informed thoroughly and discussing different religions from both an academic and practical perspective would benefit any society immensely.

thanks, marisabel.

Jorge Dominik said...

"In theology this might be good enough for a test.

not in philosophy."

Pluralism seems to impose a very open view, accepting change and variation. Somewhat similar a street race where there is no set course between start and finish, a non-pluralistic view, more limited, has a course with a set path to reach an end. yet the pluralistic view is undefined in terms of means, but all the while an end, salvation or truth, is a shared goal by vehicles trying to get to the end using whatever course they choose.

After writing the thought, i realized that if you were to choose a religion and deem it the best, you would be more concerned with the winning the race, than finishing. Which levels the "better" religion to a shiny lamborghini on a speed track. I find more appeal in the more gritty motorcyclist who can handle a ducati racing against a 12 cylinder supercar through traffic. Of course this shows that personally my priority is more the freedom of my path, and the challenge of balance while riding on it; than the salvation at the finish line.

Alfredo Triff said...

After writing the thought, i realized that if you were to choose a religion and deem it the best, you would be more concerned with the winning the race, than finishing. Which levels the "better" religion to a shiny lamborghini on a speed track.


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Samuel Maynes said...

If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and the Trinity, please check out my website at It previews my book, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Your constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

* The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

For more details, please see:

Samuel Stuart Maynes