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Summary

There is great religious diversity in the world—both of religious traditions (e.g. Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) and of traditions within religions (e.g. Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, etc. within Christianity). This religious diversity raises a number of pressing philosophical questions; in particular, questions regarding the epistemic and soteriological import of such diversity. Some epistemic questions include: What epistemic obligations does religious diversity impose on us, given that this diversity highlights substantial religious disagreement—indeed, disagreement amongst interlocutors who are, at least prima facie, intellectual peers? Are we permitted to be dogmatic about our own religious convictions? Or should such diversity cause us to question the veracity of any one tradition? Soteriological questions include: What does this diversity amongst sincere and pious religious practitioners suggest about the soteriological value of any one of the religious traditions? Assuming that there is at least one god, can any one religious tradition lay sole claim to garnering divine favor? Or does every religious tradition offer its own, viable path to divine favor? While the term “religious pluralism” sometimes simply designates the phenomenon of religious diversity, in the context of philosophy of religion it designates a specific philosophical view that aims to answer questions like those above.  

What is the view? In response to epistemic questions from religious diversity, the religious pluralist claims (roughly), for any given area of religious diversity—especially areas where there is substantial disagreement amongst intellectual peers—that “no specific religious perspective is [epistemically] superior” and, what is more, that “the religious perspectives of more than one basic theistic system or variant thereof are equally close to the truth” (Basinger §2, 2014). And in response to the soteriological questions, the religious pluralist claims (roughly) that “there is no one true religion, and therefore, no one and only path to eternal existence with God” or divine favor (Basinger §7, 2014).

Key works

John Hick is one of the leading proponents for religious pluralism, and his 1989 book, An Interpretation of Religion (Hick 1989), is broadly considered to be the seminal case for the view. An excellent collection on the philosophical import of religious diversity—including cases both for and against religious pluralism—is The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity by Meeker & Quinn 1999

Introductions

Encyclopedia articles include http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religious-pluralism/

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  1. Christopher Adamo (2009). One True Ring or Many?: Religious Pluralism in Lessing's Nathan the Wise. Philosophy and Literature 33 (1):pp. 139-149.
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  2. Scott F. Aikin & Jason Aleksander (2013). Nicholas of Cusa's De Pace Fidei and the Meta-Exclusivism of Religious Pluralism. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (2):219-235.
    In response to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Nicholas of Cusa wrote De pace fidei defending a commitment to religious tolerance on the basis of the notion that all diverse rites are but manifestations of one true religion. Drawing on a discussion of why Nicholas of Cusa is unable to square the two objectives of arguing for pluralistic tolerance and explaining the contents of the one true faith, we outline why theological pluralism is compromised by its own meta-exclusivism.
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  3. Jason Albertson (2005). Different Paths, Different Summits: A Model for Religious Pluralism (Review). Philosophy East and West 55 (3):503-503.
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  4. K. P. Aleaz & V. J. John (eds.) (2010). Many Ways of Pluralism: Essays in Honour of Kalarikkal Poulose Aleaz. Ispck & Bishop's College, Kolkata.
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  5. Jason Aleksander (2014). The Problem of Temporality in the Literary Framework of Nicholas of Cusa’s De Pace Fidei. Symposion: Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences 1 (2):35-45.
    This paper explores Nicholas of Cusa’s framing of the De pace fidei as a dialogue taking place in caelo rationis. On the one hand, this framing allows Nicholas of Cusa to argue that all religious rites presuppose the truth of a single, unified faith and so temporally manifest divine logos in a way accommodated to the historically unique conventions of different political communities. On the other hand, at the end of the De pace fidei, the interlocutors in the heavenly dialogue (...)
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  6. Owen Anderson (2008). The Presuppositions of Religious Pluralism and the Need for Natural Theology. Sophia 47 (2):201-222.
    In ‘The Presuppositions of Religious Pluralism and the Need for Natural Theology’ I argue that there are four important presuppositions behind John Hick’s form of religious pluralism that successfully support it against what I call fideistic exclusivism. These are i) the ought/can principle, ii) the universality of religious experience, iii) the universality of redemptive change, and iv) a view of how God (the Eternal) would do things. I then argue that if these are more fully developed they support a different (...)
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  7. István Aranyosi (2013). God, Mind, and Logical Space. Palgrave Macmillan.
    In God, Mind and Logical Space István Aranyosi takes the reader on a journey for the mind by revisiting the fundamental questions and the everlasting debates in philosophy of religion, ontology, and the philosophy of mind. The first part deals with issues in ontology, and the author puts forward a radical view according to which all thinkable objects and states of affairs have an equal claim to existence in a way that renders existence a relative notion. In the second part (...)
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  8. Adnan Aslan (1998). Religious Pluralism in Christian and Islamic Philosophy: The Thought of John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Curzon.
    The philosophy of religion and theology are related to the culture in which they have developed. These disciplines provide a source of values and vision to the cultures of which they are part, while at the same time they are delimited and defined by their cultures. This book compares the ideas of two contemporary philosophers, John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, on the issues of religion, religions, the concept of the ultimate reality, and the notion of sacred knowledge. On a (...)
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  9. Guy Axtell (2003). Review of Rosenbaum. [REVIEW] Contemporary Pragmatism:178-187.
    There are many books on the market about religion in American thought and history, but the idea for a collection of essays focused directly upon pragmatist reconstructions of religious belief and sentiment is overdue. Stuart Rosenbaum’s reader admirably fills this need, and is bound to bring fresh insights to students and advanced researchers alike.
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  10. Guy Axtell, Religious Pluralism and its Discontents Guy Axtell.
    Unpublished draft. Let me know if you're interested to see it. See also my "Possibility and Permission? Intellectual Character, Inquiry, and the Ethics of Belief," forthcoming in H. Rydenfelt and S. Pihlstrom (eds.) William James on Religion (Palgrave McMillan “Philosophers in Depth” Series, 2012/2013).
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  11. Veit Bader (2003). Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously. Arguing for an Institutional Turn. Introduction. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (1):3-22.
    Discussions of the relations between religions, society, politics, and the state in recent political philosophy are characterized, firstly, by a strong US American bias focusing on limitations of religious arguments in public debate. Even if the restriction or radical exclusion of religious reasons from public debate has recently been extensively criticized, secularist interpretations of liberal-democratic constitutions still prevail. Here it is argued that both strong secularism and weak or second order secularism are counterproductive for many reasons. Secondly, separationist interpretations of (...)
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  12. Veit Bader (1999). Religious Pluralism: Secularism or Priority for Democracy? Political Theory 27 (5):597-633.
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  13. James Baillie (2010). New Problems for Religious Pluralism. Philo 13 (1):5-17.
    John Hick’s theory of religious pluralism posits the same ineffable spiritual reality, ‘the Real,’ as the source of all major religious traditions. He offers pluralism as the best explanation of salvific parity, the thesis that these religions are equally effective vehicles for salvation. Most criticisms of Hick have focused on the explanans, arguing that the Real cannot play any explanatory role due to its ineffability. I raise two difficulties for the explanandum, the thesis of salvific parity. I call these the (...)
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  14. David Basinger (2014). Religious Diversity (Pluralism). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1.
    With respect to many, if not most issues, there exist significant differences of opinion among individuals who seem to be equally knowledgeable and sincere. Individuals who apparently have access to the same information and are equally interested in the truth affirm incompatible perspectives on, for instance, significant social, political, and economic issues. Such diversity of opinion, though, is nowhere more evident than in the area of religious thought. On almost every religious issue, honest, knowledgeable people hold significantly diverse, often incompatible (...)
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  15. David Basinger (1988). Hick's Religious Pluralism and “Reformed Epistemology”. Faith and Philosophy 5 (4):421-432.
    The purpose of this discussion is to analyze comparatively the influential argument for religious pluralism offered by John Hick and the argument for religious exclusivism (sectarianism) which can be generated by proponents of what has come to be labeled ‘Reformed Epistemology.’ I argue that while Hick and the Reformed exclusivist appear to be giving us incompatible responses to the same question about the true nature of ‘religious’ reality, they are actually responding to related, but distinct questions, each of which must (...)
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  16. Lovisa Bergdahl (2009). Lost in Translation: On the Untranslatable and its Ethical Implications for Religious Pluralism. Journal of Philosophy of Education 43 (1):31-44.
    In recent years, there have been reports about increased religious discrimination in schools. As a way of acknowledging the importance of religion and faith communities in the public sphere and to propose a solution to the exclusion of religious citizens, the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas suggests an act of translation for which both secular and religious citizens are mutually responsible. What gets lost in Habermas's translation, this paper argues, is the condition that makes translation both necessary and (im)possible. Drawing on (...)
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  17. Peter Byrne (1995). Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism: Reference and Realism in Religion. St. Martin's Press.
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  18. Benjamin James Chicka (2010). Indeterminacy, Ultimacy, and the World: The Self-Creation of Religious Pluralism Through Community and Creation. [REVIEW] Sophia 49 (1):49-63.
    Common arguments for truth in religious pluralism absolutize an ultimate or lived component of religion, reducing a positive affirmation of plurality to deeper unity or exclusion. The arguments of John Hick, William Connolly, Nicholas Rescher, and S. Mark Heim fall into such a trap. By considering how an indeterminate concept of ultimacy, proposed by Robert C. Neville, fares against the problems their arguments raise, it will be shown that such a concept of ultimacy can both give rise to and grow (...)
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  19. John B. Cobb (2005). Different Paths, Different Summits: A Model for Religious Pluralism (Review). Philosophy East and West 55 (2):367-370.
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  20. Perry Dane (1996). Constitutional Law and Religion. In Dennis M. Patterson (ed.), A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory. Blackwell Publishers.
    This essay on law and religion appears in the second edition of the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, edited by Dennis Patterson. It is a revision of a similar entry in the book’s first edition. The essay opens by broadly discussing the complex relationships between law and religion writ large as movements in human history – social, cultural, intellectual, and institutional phenomena with distinct but often overlapping logics and concerns. It then hones in on the efforts (...)
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  21. Amir Dastmalchian (2009). Religious Ambiguity in Hick’s Religious Pluralism. International Journal of Hekmat 1:75-89.
    Much has been said on the religious pluralism of John Hick but little attention has been given to a key step in his argument for religious pluralism. This key step is the observation that the universe is religiously ambiguous. Hick himself is ambiguous about what he means by ‘religious ambiguity’. In this essay I will attempt to rectify this ambiguity by analysing the notion of ‘religious ambiguity’ and arguing what interpretation of this term Hick must commit himself to.
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  22. Amir Dastmalchian (2009). Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion: The ‘Ambiguity’ Objection to Epistemic Exclusivism. Dissertation, King's College London
    The topic of the thesis is the challenge that religious diversity poses to religious belief. A key issue to be resolved is whether a reasonable person may believe in the epistemic superiority of any one religious ideology in the light of religious diversity. -/- After introducing the issues, I examine Richard Swinburne’s, and then Alvin Plantinga’s, view on religious diversity. These two philosophers both advocate religious epistemic exclusivism, the view that only one religious ideology is true to the exclusion of (...)
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  23. Andrew Davis (2010). Defending Religious Pluralism for Religious Education. Ethics and Education 5 (3):189 - 202.
    Religious exclusivism, or the idea that only one religion can be true, fuels hatred and conflict in the modern world. Certain objections to religious pluralism, together with associated defences of exclusivism are flawed. I defend a moderate religious pluralism, according to which the truth of one religion does not automatically imply the falsity of others. The thought that we can respect persons even when holding them mistaken strains credulity when we are dealing with religious convictions. Moreover, exclusivism is informed by (...)
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  24. Christopher J. Eberle (2006). Lucas Swaine, The Liberal Conscience: Politics and Principle in a World of Religious Pluralism:The Liberal Conscience: Politics and Principle in a World of Religious Pluralism. Ethics 116 (4):813-819.
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  25. José Faur (1992). Imagination and Religious Pluralism. New Vico Studies 10:36-51.
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  26. Jorge N. Ferrer (2008). Spiritual Knowing as Participatory Enaction : An Answer to the Question of Religious Pluralism. In Jorge N. Ferrer & Jacob H. Sherman (eds.), The Participatory Turn: Spirituality, Mysticism, Religious Studies. State University of New York Press.
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  27. Giovanni Filoramo (2003). Religious Pluralism and Crises of Identity. Diogenes 50 (3):31-44.
    Processes of globalization have transformed the religious field, raising questions of identity for different religious traditions and their relations with the State, especially in European countries. Religious pluralism remains in most cases the most important characteristic of the current religious situation. This article reviews the origins of the phenomenon and the part it has played in the study of the sociology of religion, and examines the legal and political conditions that form the backdrop to pluralism. The author then considers some (...)
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  28. Allyn Fives (2007). Lucas Swaine, the Liberal Conscience: Politics and Principle in a World of Religious Pluralism. [REVIEW] Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5):515-517.
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  29. Jerome Gellman (2000). In Defence of a Contented Religious Exclusivism. Religious Studies 36 (4):401-417.
    In this paper I defend the possibility that a ‘contented religious exclusivist’, will be fully rational and not neglectful of any of her epistemic duties when faced with the world’s religious diversity. I present an epistemic strategy for reflecting on one's beliefs and then present two features of religious belief that make contented exclusivism a rational possibility. I then argue against the positions of John Hick, David Basinger, and Steven Wykstra on contented exclusivism, and criticize an overly optimistic conception of (...)
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  30. Victoria S. Harrison (2008). Internal Realism, Religious Pluralism and Ontology. Philosophia 36 (1):97-110.
    Internalist pluralism is an attractive and elegant theory. However, there are two apparently powerful objections to this approach that prevent its widespread adoption. According to the first objection, the resulting analysis of religious belief systems is intrinsically atheistic; while according to the second objection, the analysis is unsatisfactory because it allows religious objects simply to be defined into existence. In this article, I demonstrate that an adherent of internalist pluralism can deflect both of these objections, and in the course of (...)
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  31. Richard P. Hayes, Gotama Buddha and Religious Pluralism.
    Buddhism currently enjoys the reputation of being one of the leading voices in a chorus that sings the praises of religious tolerance and perhaps even of pluralism. It is open to question, however, whether this reputation is deserved. The purpose of the present article is to examine whether the teachings of classical Buddhism have a contribution to make to the jubilation over religious pluralism that has become fashionable in some quarters in recent years. It is hoped that this examination might (...)
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  32. John Hick (2006). Exclusivism Versus Pluralism in Religion: A Response to Kevin Meeker. Religious Studies 42 (2):207-212.
    I argue that Meeker is mistaken in two crucial respects. First, contrary to both myself and Plantinga, he treats exclusivism as a theory about the relation between the religions, and then claims that it is superior to the pluralist theory. But he does not say what his exclusivist theory is. Second, he bases his claim of a fundamental self-contradiction in my pluralist position on a view which I disavow, namely that altruism is the core of religion. He omits the central (...)
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  33. John Hick (1999). ``Religious Pluralism and Salvation&Quot. In Kevin Meeker & Philip Quinn (eds.), The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press. 54--66.
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  34. John Hick (1997). The Epistemological Challenge of Religious Pluralism. Faith and Philosophy 14 (3):277-286.
    A critique of responses to the problem posed to Christian philosophy by the fact of religious plurality by Alvin Plantinga, Peter van lnwagen, and George Mavrodes in the recent Festschrift dedicated to William Alston, and of Alston’s own response to the challenge of religious diversity to his epistemology of religion. His argument that religious experience is a generally reliable basis for belief-formation is by implication transformed by his response to this problem into the principle that Christianity constitutes the sole exception (...)
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  35. John Hick (1997). The Possibility of Religious Pluralism: A Reply to Gavin D'Costa. Religious Studies 33 (2):161-166.
    This paper is a reply to D'Costa's article ("Religious Studies," 32, pp. 223-32) in which he argues that there is no such position as religious pluralism because in distinguishing between, e.g., Christianity or Buddhism, and Nazism or the Jim Jones cult, a criterion is involved and to use a criterion is a form of exclusivism. In reply I point out that this sense of 'exclusivism', as consisting in the use of criteria, is self-destructive; that the pluralistic hypothesis, as a meta-theory (...)
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  36. John Hick (1995). Religious Pluralism and the Divine: A Response to Paul Eddy. Religious Studies 31 (4):417 - 420.
    In 'Religious Pluralism and the Divine: Another Look at John Hick's Neo-Kantian Proposal' ("Religious Studies", xxx, 1994) Paul Eddy argues against the ultimate ineffability of the Real, and claims that a neo-Kantian epistemology leads to a Feuerbachian non-realism. In response I stress (a) the impossibility of attributing to the Real the range of incompatible characteristics of its phenomenal (i.e. experienceable) manifestations, so that it must lie beyond the range of our human religious categories, and (b) the distinction, which (...)
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  37. John Hick (1993). Religious Pluralism and the Rationality of Religious Belief. Faith and Philosophy 10 (2):242-249.
    The view that religious experience is a valid ground of basic religious beliefs inevitably raises the problem of the apparently incompatible belief-systems arising from different forms of religious experience. David Basinger's and William Alston's responses to the problem present the Christian belief-system as the sole exception to the general rule that religious experience gives rise to false beliefs. A more convincing response presents it as an exemplification of the general rule that religious experience gives rise (subject to possible defeaters) to (...)
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  38. John Hick (1988). Religious Pluralism and Salvation. Faith and Philosophy 5 (4):365-377.
    Let us approach the problems of religious pluralism through the claims of the different traditions to offer salvation-generically, the transformation of human existence from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness. This approach leads to a recognition of the great world faiths as spheres of salvation; and so far as we can tell, more or less equally so. Their different truth-claims express (a) their differing perceptions, through different religio-cultural ‘lenses,’ of the one ultimate divine Reality; (b) their different answers to the boundary questions of (...)
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  39. John Hick (1985). Problems of Religious Pluralism. St. Martin's Press.
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  40. Seyed Hassan Hosseini (2010). Religious Pluralism and Pluralistic Religion: John Hick's Epistemological Foundation of Religious Pluralism and an Explanation of Islamic Epistemology Toward Diversity of Unique Religion. The Pluralist 5 (1):94-109.
    The path of religious pluralism starts with the fact that our world contains a number of religious faiths having different ideas of the nature of divinity as the main and fundamental principle of religions and therefore, different and various dogmas, rites, and rituals.Despite the claim that the idea of religious pluralism is a product of modern philosophical schools, specifically new epistemological principles, I have attempted to demonstrate that what I have called "pluralistic religion," as a part of a necessary and (...)
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  41. Yong Huang (1995). Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Dialogue: Beyond Universalism and Particularism. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 37 (3):127 - 144.
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  42. J. R. Hustwit (2014). Interreligious Hermeneutics and the Pursuit of Truth. Lexington Books.
    Philosophical hermeneutics provides a model of interreligious dialogue that acknowledges the interpretive variability of truth claims while maintaining their relation to a preinterpretive reality. The dialectic and tensive structure of philosophical hermeneutics directly parallels the tension between the diversity of belief and the ultimacy of the sacred. By placing philosophers like Gadamer, Ricoeur, Peirce, and Whitehead in conversation, J. R. Hustwit describes religious truth claims as coconstituted by the planes of linguistic convention and uninterpreted otherness. Only when we recognize that (...)
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  43. Marinus Iwuchukwu (2003). Democracy in a Multireligious and Cultural Setting: The Nigerian Context. World Futures 59 (5):381 – 390.
    Nigeria is indeed a typical pluralistic society with innumerable differences in culture, ethnicity, tribe, religion, and class. Yet there exists in Nigeria certain dominant cultures, ethnic nationalities, religions, and classes. In some parts of the country the influence of a dominant culture or ethnic group is more pronounced than in others. This paper is therefore an attempt to look into our pluralism and see how it can enhance the development and promotion of democracy in the country. This paper will address (...)
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  44. Jonathan L. Kvanvig (2009). Religious Pluralism and the Buridan's Ass Paradox. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1 (1):1-26.
    The paradox of ’Buridan’s ass’ involves an animal facing two equally adequate and attractive alternatives, such as would happen were a hungry ass to confront two bales of hay that are equal in all respects relevant to the ass’s hunger. Of course, the ass will eat from one rather than the other, because the alternative is to starve. But why does this eating happen? What reason is operative, and what explanation can be given as to why the ass eats from, (...)
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  45. Jung H. Lee (1998). Problems of Religious Pluralism: A Zen Critique of John Hick's Ontological Monomorphism. Philosophy East and West 48 (3):453-477.
    John Hick's "pluralistic hypothesis" of religion essays a comprehensive vision of religious diversity and its attendant soteriological, epistemological, and ontological implications. At the heart of Hick's proposal is the belief in the transcendental unity and soteriological identity of all religions. While coherent and compelling, Hick's model militates against those traditions that do not possess an ultimate noumenal referent that undergirds the phenomenal responses of culturally conditioned traditions. One of those traditions, namely Sōtō Zen Buddhism, at once defies Hick's categories and (...)
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  46. Andrew F. March, Islamic Legal Theory, Secularism and Religious Pluralism: Is Modern Religious Freedom Sufficient for the Shari'a 'Purpose [Maqsid]' of 'Preserving Religion [Hifz Al-Din]?'.
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  47. Jacqueline Mariña (2004). Schleiermacher on the Outpourings of the Inner Fire: Experiential Expressivism and Religious Pluralism. Religious Studies 40 (2):125-143.
    Both in the Speeches and in The Christian Faith Schleiermacher offers a comprehensive theory of the nature of religion, grounding it in experience. In the Speeches Schleiermacher grounds religion in an original unity of consciousness that precedes the subject–object dichotomy; in The Christian Faith the feeling of absolute dependence is grounded in the immediate self-consciousness. I argue that Schleiermacher's theory offers a generally coherent account of how it is possible that differing religious traditions are all based on the same experience (...)
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  48. T. J. Mawson (2005). 'Byrne's' Religious Pluralism. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 58 (1):37 - 54.
    “(1) All major religious traditions are equal in respect of making common reference to a single transcendent sacred reality. (2) All major traditions are likewise equal in respect of offering some means or other to human salvation. (3) All traditions are to be seen as containing revisable, limited, accounts of the nature of the sacred none is certain enough in its particular dogmatic formulations to provide the norm for interpreting the others.” P. Byrne, Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism (NY: Macmillan, 1995), (...)
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  49. Kevin Meeker (2006). Pluralism, Exclusivism, and the Theoretical Virtues. Religious Studies 42 (2):193-206.
    This paper argues that John Hick's commitment to the moral principle of altruism undermines his pluralistic claim that all of the major world religions are equally efficacious from a soteriological perspective. This argument is placed in a context of a discussion evaluating the theoretical virtues of various hypotheses about religious diversity. (Published Online April 7 2006).
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  50. C. Robert Mesle (1998). Kenneth Rose, Knowing the Real: John Hick on the Cognitivity of Religions and Religious Pluralism. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 44 (3):185-187.
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