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Reacting to religious diversity

Conflicts involving religious pluralism

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Does religious pluralism mean that all religions are factually true?

No. Multiple religions cannot all be absolutely true for the simple reason that they hold conflicting cosmological, moral, and theological beliefs. Consider just one belief: that of the nature of deity, as held by the following eleven religions and belief systems:
bulletAtheists have no concept of a supernatural God.
bulletStrong Atheists assert that God does not exist.
bulletAgnostics remain uncertain about the presence of God. They believe that there is insufficient proof of either God's existence or non-existence. Some suggest that a proof can never be found.
bulletChristian denominations, with a few exceptions, teach that God is a Trinity of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who together form a single entity.
bulletHinduism is a henotheistic religion. Its followers believe in a single deity, Brahman, but also recognize other gods and goddesses as facets or manifestations or aspects of that supreme God.
bulletIslam and Judaism are monotheistic religions; Muslims and Jews believe that God is a unity, a single personality, without internal divisions. The belief that God is a Trinity is considered a serious sacrilege. However, they differ with respect to God's names, attributes, and expectations of humans.
bulletSanteria is a polytheistic religion. They recognize Olorun, as the "owner of heaven," and in a group of other guardians, called Orisha. Their deity structure is similar to the Pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome.
bulletWicca, and many other Neopagan religions are ditheistic; they teach that God is dual: consisting of a male God and a female Goddess. Bitheistic and duotheistic are synonyms for ditheistic.
bulletZoroastrianism is also ditheistic. The believe in two deities of approximately equal powers: one wholly good and the other wholly evil.

Obviously, a maximum of only one of the above religions that believe in a deity can be absolutely true according to the Law of Non-contradiction. 1 The vast majority are factually false.

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Can many religions be valid without being absolutely true?

Yes. One can recognize the validity and worthiness of other religions, even though they are very different from our own. For example:
bulletWe can recognize that followers of other religions often consider their faith to be absolutely true. Different cultures have different fundamental beliefs about deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. From these foundational beliefs, religions and systems of morality are derived, which their followers consider to be true.
bulletWe can realize that other religions successfully motivate their followers to be more spiritual, loving and ethical. For example, many Muslims and Roman Catholics appreciate the importance that the other group assigns to close family bonds, personal ethical behavior, etc.
bulletWe can often find individual beliefs that we hold in common with other religions. For example, almost all religions have an Ethic of Reciprocity. This is called the Golden Rule in Christianity: to do onto others as one would wish to be treated in return.
bulletWe can acknowledge the dedication with which the followers of other religions follow their religious faith. As an example, a Christian can appreciate the sincerity and dedication with which Muslims observe fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan.
bulletOne can recognize the worth of each human being, and the importance of guaranteeing fundamental human rights to all. This includes the freedom by which individuals can follow their own spiritual and religious path. Valuing the rights of other people to hold diverse beliefs can lead to an appreciation of their beliefs.
bulletAs we study other religions, we will probably find resonances there that help us to gain a deeper understanding of our own faith. We can value other religions for the contribution that they can make to our own spiritual path.

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Reference used in the above essay:

  1. Seena Fazel, "Religious Pluralism," at: http://bahai-library.org/

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Copyright © 2001 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-MAY-20
Latest update: 2007-NOV-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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