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How people view the status of
religions other than their own

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You are viewing a section of the ReligiousTolerance.org website, dealing with religious diversity.

This section is also the home page of our domain www.ReligiousDiversity.info.

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According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified worldwide. 1

These religions and faith groups teach very different belief systems about:

This naturally raises the question of where religious truth is to be found. To many believers, religious truth is of paramount importance.

Many people regard their own denomination or faith group within their own religion to possess the totality of religious truth; they view other denominations as teaching at least some error. Other people go further, and consider other religions to be in serious error and sometimes to be in opposition to the truth. Within fundamentalist and other evangelical Christianity denominations, other religions are sometimes referred to as being led by Satan or some of his demons.

There are four specific ways of viewing other denominations and religions:

bullet Extreme Particularism: This is the belief that one's own faith group, alone, possesses all of the truth, as revealed by God. Other faith groups and religions worship demons and are led by Satan. Few if any of them will be saved.

bulletExclusivism: One's own group possesses the truth as God revealed it to them. Other religious groups are in serious error, and place the latter's members in grave peril regarding salvation.

In recent years, some theologians have objected to the term "exclusivism" because of its negative connotation. They prefer the term "particularism" Within Christianity, this belief system takes two main forms:
bullet Agnostic Particularism: Salvation is attained through belief in Christ alone as Lord and Savior. However, it may be possible for those who have not heard of Christianity, the Gospel or Jesus Christ to avoid Hell and be saved and attain Heaven after death.
bulletTraditional Particularism: Salvation is attained only through an explicit knowledge and faith in Christ. The vast majority of humans -- even those who have never heard of Jesus -- will spend eternity being tortured in Hell

bulletInclusivism: One's own group possesses the truth; other religious groups contain parts of the truth. The latter's believers are less likely to be saved.

bulletPluralism: All group's beliefs and practices are valid, when interpreted within their own culture. Salvation is for all.

Speaking generally, in most of the world's main religions:

bulletThe liberal/progressive wing accepts pluralism,
bulletThe conservative wing teaches inclusivism, and
bulletThe very conservative wing believes in exclusivism, and
bulletThe fundamentalist wing teaches extreme particularism.

Unfortunately, the term "religious pluralism" has to two largely unrelated meanings.

bulletOne is as a synonym for religious diversity: the fact that there exists a variety of religious beliefs in a given country or other geographic area. Thus, religious pluralism in North America -- in the sense of the U.S. and Canada being religiously diverse -- is a statement of fact.
bullet The other is that all religious are equally valid, when evaluated within their culture of origin.

We generally use the latter meaning on this website.

The term "religious pluralism" normally refers to the validity of the theological teachings of a religion. There are also the teacings of religions in practical areas, like the status of women,the status of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, and transsexuals), on racial, and other minorities, on the death penalty, on corporal punishment of children, on promotion of religious freedom, on promotion of religious oppression, etc. Not all religions make equal contributions to people's quality of life. Some are very oppressive.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletThe diversity of meanings of the term "religious pluralism"
bulletConflicting quotations. How groups cope with religious diversity
bulletConflicts involving religious pluralism
bulletConflicts involving religious exclusivism
bulletInterpretations of John 14:6: one of the most quoted verses in the Bible about non-Christian religions
bulletChristians' beliefs about other religions
bulletCan non-Catholics be saved, according to the Roman Catholic church?


Essays by Rabbi Allen Maller:

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Recomended books, representing both positive and negative beliefs about pluralism:

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Reference used in the above essay:

The hyperlink below was used to prepare the above essay, but is not necessarily still valid today.

  1. David B. Barrett, et al., "World Christian Encyclopedia : A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World," Oxford University Press, (2001). Read reviews or order this book

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Site navigation:

Home Religious Info. Basic Info. > here

or HomeChristianity > History, beliefs... > here

 or HomeChristianity > Groups > here

or HomeChristianity > Relationships to other religions > here

 or HomeSpirituality > Religious tolerance > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-MAY-20
Latest update and review: 2011-SEP-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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