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Religious Diversity: What Is the Issue?

Some General Reflections from the Perspective of the Philosophy of Religion
  • Perry Schmidt-Leukel

Abstract

Excuse me, but what’s the question? Isn’t religious diversity normal?” This is the title Rita Gross, an American scholar of religion, feminist, and practicing Buddhist, gave to one of her essays on religious pluralism. 1 One possible answer to her rhetorical question might be that not everything “normal” is unproblematic. Disease, for example, is certainly normal but is by no means unproblematic. We do not regard diseases as desirable; we try to avoid them, and once we get one, we take measures to get rid of it. Of course, what Gross has in mind is that a major part of the problem of religious diversity is the inability of the religions—or at least of some religions—to regard religious diversity as unproblematic. In this she is certainly right. 2 However, those religions may have a point. Why should they see religious diversity as unproblematic? As “normal,” sure. But hence unproblematic? This is far from clear. Critics of religion also consider religious diversity normal but not unproblematic. Therefore, we need to be specific about why and in what sense both religious people and their critics tend to regard religious diversity as problematic and to what extent their views have an impact on how to assess religious diversity.

Keywords

Religious Belief Religious Tradition Religious Experience Religious Identity Religious Diversity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See R. Gross, “Excuse Me, but What’s the Question? Isn’t Religious Diversity Normal?” in The Myth of Religious Superiority. Multifaith Explorations of Religious Pluralism, Paul F. Knitter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005), 75–7.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I am much less confident on whether she is right in claiming that, by and large, religious diversity is of no problem to Buddhism. On this see P. Schmidt-Leukel, ed., Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions (St. Ottilien, Germany: EOS, 2008);Google Scholar
  3. P. Schmidt-Leukel, ed., Buddhism and Religious Diversity (Critical Concepts in Religious Studies), 4 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2012).Google Scholar
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    Cf. William A. Christian, Meaning and Truth in Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964), 60ff., 86.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Robert Cummings Neville, Behind the Masks of God. An Essay Toward Comparative Theology (Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1991).Google Scholar
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    Cf. B. Russell, “Is There a God?” (1952), available at http://www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/religion/br/br_god.htmlGoogle Scholar
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    Cf. A. Flew, There Is A God. How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York: HarperOne, 2007).Google Scholar
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    A. Flew, God and Philosophy (London: Hutchinson, 1966), 126.Google Scholar
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    This is the main thesis of J. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion. Human Responses to the Transcendent (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1989).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism. Arguments for and Against the Existence of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 15.Google Scholar
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    On the classification of religious attitudes along those lines, see P. Schmidt-Leukel, “Exclusivism, Inclusivism, Pluralism. The Tripolar Typology—Clarified and Reaffirmed,” in The Myth of Religious Superiority. Multifaith Explorations of Religious Pluralism, ed. P. Knitter, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005), 13–27.Google Scholar
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    “The intolerance of almost all religions which have maintained the unity of God, is as remarkable as the contrary principle of polytheists.” Hume, A Natural History of Religion, IX. See also: Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), and, somewhat modified,Google Scholar
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    This implies an understanding of syncretism that includes a spectrum of forms: from crude mixing of select religious elements to a well-balanced and consistent acceptance of two different religious allegiances by one person. I treat both issues (multireligious identity and syncretism) in more detail in Chapters 3 and 4 of P. Schmidt-Leukel, Transformation by Integration. How Inter-faith Encounter Changes Christianity (London: SCM Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    Quoted from: Nancy K. Frankenberry, ed., The Faith of Scientists in their Own Words (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 389. Religious justifications of force have been frequently analyzed. See, for example,Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Joachim Gentz 2013

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  • Perry Schmidt-Leukel

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