Religious Pluralism and Religious Relativism

  • Philip L. Quinn
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series (LPR)


The world presents us with a rich diversity of systems of religious belief. These systems make what seem to be competing and incompatible claims to truth. At least some of the adherents of each system appear to be perfectly rational in having the religious beliefs they do. What are we to make of this situation? In a recent discussion Joseph Runzo outlines six possible responses to the conflicting truth-claims of the world’s religions.1 Naturalism holds that all religions are mistaken. Religious Exclusivism maintains that only one world religion is correct and all the others are mistaken. Religious Inclusivism contends that only one world religion is fully correct but others contain some of the truth of the one correct religion. Religious Subjectivism claims that each world religion is correct in the sense that it is good for those who adhere to it. Religious Pluralism asserts that ultimately all world religions are correct, each offering a different salvific path and partial perspective on a single transcendent reality. And Religious Relativism argues that at least one, and probably more than one, world religion is correct and that the correctness of a religion is relative to the world-view of its community of adherents. Is there a good reason to prefer one of these responses to all its rivals?


Actual World Conceptual Schema World Order Ultimate Reality World Religion 
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  1. 1.
    Joseph Runzo, “God, Commitment, and Other Faiths: Pluralism vs. Relativism” (hereafter GC), Faith and Philosophy 5 (1988): 343–64. I shall make page references to GC parenthetically in the body of my text.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Joseph Runzo, Reason, Relativism and God (hereafter RG) (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986). I shall make page references to RG parenthetically in the body of my text.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion,(hereafter IR) (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989);Google Scholar
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    For recent criticism of Hick’s Pluralism, see Paul J. Griffiths, “An Apology for Apologetics,” Faith and Philosophy 5 (1988): 399–420, andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Wake Forest University 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip L. Quinn

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