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Religious pluralism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K086-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Religion displays a luxuriant diversity of beliefs and practices. Crusades and colonialism, preaching and proselytizing, argument and apologetics have failed to produce worldwide agreement. In order to understand this situation, four possibilities are worth considering. The first is reductive naturalism. On this view, religious beliefs about a supernatural or transcendent dimension of existence are all false. They are to be explained as products of a merely human projection mechanism. The writings of such naturalistic philosophers and scientists as Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, and Durkheim suggest ways in which such projections might occur. A second possibility is exclusivism. Doctrinal exclusivism is the view that the doctrines of one religion are completely true; the doctrines of all others are false whenever there is conflict. Soteriological exclusivism is the view that only one religion offers an effective path to salvation or liberation. Though the two kinds of exclusivism are logically independent, they are usually held together. A third option, which has found increasing favour in the second half of the twentieth century, is inclusivism: one religion contains the final truth and others contain only approaches to or approximations of it; the privileged religion offers the most effective path to salvation, but those outside it can somehow be saved or liberated. The final option, pluralism, is a relative newcomer. According to pluralism, a single ultimate religious reality is being differently experienced and understood in all the major religious traditions; they all, as far as we can tell, offer equally effective paths to salvation or liberation.

These options raise interesting questions. What accounts for the growing popularity of inclusivism and pluralism? How are we to articulate pluralism? Does exclusivism remain a rational option in spite of what is known about the whole range of religious traditions? Is pluralism, once clearly stated, a rational option?

Citing this article:
Quinn, Philip L.. Religious pluralism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K086-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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