We’re jumping off the idea of religious pluralism and why, since religions can’t all be true, we must not therefore be flippant or utilitarian in our approach to who or what we decide to follow.
The following quotes are from someone you’ve probably heard of. See if you can guess who it is.
Recently I’ve been trying to show that religious pluralism – the idea that somehow all roads lead to God – is simply incoherent. Though many faith systems teach similar concepts of morality, they contradict each other in fundamental ways and therefore cannot be equally valid or true. If that’s true, then there are two conclusions we must come to and neither one is comfortable, though I only plan to address one of them now.
The first conclusion we have to confront is this: if it’s not possible for all religions to be true, then at least one or as many as all of them must be false. We are then faced with the distinct possibility that the faith system we hold to, whether we were “born into it” or chose it later on in life, might be wrong.
But what does it matter, right? Why not just let people believe what they want and mind our own business? Live and let live and all that jazz, right? If someone wants to be a Buddhist or a Mormon or a Muslim, then who’s to say they should do otherwise? It’s their life and they have the right, the freedom and the choice to live it as they see fit.
I certainly agree that people have the right, the freedom and the choice to believe whatever they want to believe. At the same time, however, I believe that truth matters and that a rational person cannot consciously hold to a belief they know to be false. In addition, I think this is the prime cause of what is often referred to as “the angry atheist”; someone holds to a belief, comes to be convinced that the belief is not true, and then becomes embittered against the church, faith, establishment they were once a part of because they feel they’d been lied to.
In my latest posts, I’ve been looking at the concept of religious pluralism and pointing out what I feel to be significant problems. They are as follows. Pluralism fails because:
There is much more to be said about this topic, particularly because in each of my own posts I’ve only compared a handful of faiths in specific areas. There are also other issues that I haven’t addressed at all. While each of these issues can be explained or dealt with on its own, to do so requires a great deal of imagination and theological gymnastics rather than clear reasoning. Taken together, I feel that these provide ample reasons to reject the idea of religious pluralism outright. If you want to continue looking into this subject, then I recommend Contradict: They Can't All Be True by Andy Wrasman.
Of course, this will bring us to an uncomfortable conclusion: If not all religions are true, then at least one of them (or as many as all of them) is false. If at least one of them is false, then we must deal with the possibility that there are consequences for choosing the “wrong” faith.
And that is something I will be looking at in the next few posts.
Writer, artist, lay theologian, student of comparative religion.