Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday Blessings -Is Pluralism More Tolerant Than Christianity?

Is Pluralism More Tolerant Than Christianity?

Jonathan Dodson »

In the prior (Sunday  Blessings) posts, we have examined the claim that Jesus is the only way to God is both unenlightened and arrogant. As it turns out, it's actually the opposite. It is religious pluralism that is rather unenlightened and carries an air of arrogance. In this post we will examine the important idea of tolerance. Is religious pluralism more tolerant than Christianity?

Is Religious Pluralism Truly Tolerant?

Very often people hold to religious pluralism because they think it is more tolerant than Christianity. I’ll be the first to say that we need tolerance, but what does it mean to be tolerant? To be tolerant is to accommodate differences, which can be very noble. I believe that Christians should be some of the most accommodating kinds of people, giving everyone the dignity to believe whatever they want and not enforcing their beliefs on others through politics or preaching. We should winsomely tolerate different beliefs. Interestingly, religious pluralism doesn’t really allow for this kind of tolerance. Instead of accommodating spiritual differences, religious pluralism blunts them. Let me explain.

”The claim that all paths lead to the same God actually minimizes other religions by asserting a new religious claim. When someone says all paths lead to the same God, they blunt the distinctives between religions, throwing them all in one pot, saying: “See, they all get us to God so the differences don’t really matter.” This isn’t tolerance; it’s a power play. When asserting all religions lead to God, the distinctive and very different views of God and how to reach him in Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam are brushed aside in one powerful swoop. The Eightfold Noble Path of Buddhism, the 5 Pillars of Islam, and the Gospel of Christ are not tolerated but told they must submit to a new religious claim–all ways lead to God–despite the fact that this isn’t what those religions teach.

The Religion of Pluralism

People spend years studying and practicing their religious distinctives. To say they don’t really matter is highly intolerant! The very notion of religious tolerance assumes there are differences to tolerate but pluralism is intolerant of those very differences! In this sense, religious pluralism is a religion of its own. It has its own religious absolute—all paths lead to the same God—and requires people of other faiths to embrace this absolute, without any religious backing at all. It is highly evangelistic! Religious pluralism is highly political and preachy. Yet, it does so under the guise of tolerance. It is a leap of faith to say there are many paths to God; it is not a self-evident fact. It isn’t even an educated leap, nor is it as humble and tolerant as it might appear.

Recall Stephen Prothero’s comment regarding religious pluralism:

“But this sentiment, however well-intentioned, is neither accurate nor ethically responsible. God is not one.” He goes on: “Faith in the unity of religions is just that—faith (perhaps even a kind of fundamentalism). And the leap that gets us there is an act of the hyperactive imagination.”

Enlightened, Humble, Tolerant?

As it turns out, the reasons for subscribing to religious pluralism—enlightenment, humility, and tolerance—actually backfire. They don’t carry through. Religious pluralism isn’t enlightened, it’s inaccurate; it isn’t humble, it’s fiercely dogmatic; and it isn’t really all that tolerant because it intolerantly blunts religious distinctives. In the end, religious pluralism is a religion, a leap of faith, based on contradiction and is highly untenable. Christianity, on the other hand, should respect and honor the various distinctives of other religions, comparing them, and honoring their differing principles–Karma (Hinduism), Enlightenment (Buddhism), Submission (Islam), and Grace (Christianity). In the next and final post, I will examine Jesus’ exclusive claim, and the charge that his teachings in Christianity are unenlightened, arrogant, and intolerant. In particular, we will examine the unique principle of grace.

11 Fertilize my soul:

Ron Krumpos said...

Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter "Mystic Viewpoints" in my free ebook, "the greatest achievement in life,"on comparative mysticism:

Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

Conflicts in Conventional Religion. "What’s in a Word?" outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello Amrita,

You have touched upon a very important and relevant topic. People like us who live along with other religious friends and interact with them on a daily basis slowly get the feeling that all religions ultimately lead to God. Only the path taken by different religions is different but all paths ultimately lead to the Creator. We have a very large following of Christianity in Kerala, so also Muslims and very,very large number of people follow Hinduism. Hinduism is a very old religion and then came Buddhism, then Christianity and then Islam. Both Christianity and Islam are very aggressive religions and hence have a world wide following whereas Hinduism is very tolerant of all religions and is able to absorb them and yet Hinduism is very vibrant,very strong and the devotees are very faithful to their religion.

I am not saying this because I am also one those people who say all religions take us to God. But I see Hindus are very devoted to their religion and perhaps even more than Christians. I see most of them going to the temple on a daily basis every morning and spending some time there. I wonder how many Christians go to Church every morning. Hindu religion is not very strict as Christianity yet the Hindus have a self imposed discipline of their own.

As a result many people automatically tend to believe that all religions take us to God by different routes.

I would like to have your thoughts on this.

Best wishes,

Nadwrażliwiec said...

When I discuss with people, who are religious pluralists, I ask them, what with pagan beliefs of ancient Mayas, who sacrificed people for gods. And what with atheism? Sometimes I have impression that atheism (especially "fighting atheism") is also some kind of religion.
Religious pluralism is very popular today, because it makes people free from thinking - they don't have to think.

Amrita said...

Dear Mr Joseph,When we examine different religions we ought to keep 4 things in mind.

The questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny. I have posted a You Tube link of Ravi Zacharias who addresses these important issues.

I beleive that Jesus is the only way to God. Listen to Dr Zacharias , you will know why

Amrita said...

Dear Mr Joseph and Zim, I will post the last article in this series by J Dodson this coming Sunday.

Zim I agree with you. I know you were a deep truth seeker and found Chrtist.

JI said...

How people can believe in half human, half animal gods I don't know. I do not believe all paths lead to same God. It is actually dangerous to believe in false gods and they can have a detrimental effect on society. Saying your beliefs are old is not good enough. Are they true? Ultimately I think it's the Christian faith which best stands up to scrutiny when judged by history, science, rational argument, and reliability of scriptures than any other religion. Of course, Christians have often failed to live faithfully according to the teachings of Christ, but at the same time they have also made some of the biggest impacts on the world. I'm thinking of people like Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, William Wilberforce and Pope John Paul II.

Amrita said...

I appreciate your insightful comment JI and agree with you. The driteria you have mentioned should be taken note of.

Amrita said...

Dear Mr Joseph, coming back to your comment. You say that our Hindu friends are very faithful in performing their religious dutiesand rituals, very true this is.

But I have observed that most of them are carried out withoout understanding, just like a mindless tradition. I have asked our Hindu friends why they are doing this, the answer is because our forfathers have taught us- we feel socially obliigated.
Many of them admit that idol worship is worthless but they do it because of social and family pressure. Its a fear based belief wanting to appease the gods.

Christianity is not based on good works or rituals but on faith. We are not saved through our good works but by the grace of God through faith.

Amrita said...

Zim, I love this quote by GK Chesterton, "There would be no athiets if there was no God".

A tolerant man is a person who has no convictions.

Ron Krumpos said...

I was introduced to mysticism by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar when we met privately at the Yerkes Observatory. Chandra was an atheist who once said, "God is man's greatest creation."

My ebook summarizes the mystical traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. However, you do not have to be religious to be a mystic.

Amrita said...

Dear Ron, I believe the one true God revealed his truth to all men. Many mystics point to Him.

In fact there are some verses in the Hindu scriptures Vedas which have a description of Christ.

God have revealed His truth, its what we do with it that 's important