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).
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
Encyclopedia articles include http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religious-pluralism/
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
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