About this topic

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 Quinn & Meeker 1999


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

Related categories

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  1. One True Ring or Many?: Religious Pluralism in Lessing's Nathan the Wise.Christopher Adamo - 2009 - Philosophy and Literature 33 (1):pp. 139-149.
  2. John Hick and Comparative Philosophy.Shin Ahn - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 8:15-21.
    Buddhism and Christianity have been main religions in contemporary Korea. In order to overcome their antipathies and conflicts, some philosophers of religion have suggested possible models for religious harmony and coexistence. This paper will examine John Hick's theory of religious pluralism by analyzing his autobiography and philosophical arguments. Korean scholars of religion have attempted to understand his theory in various ways, including philosophical, phenomenological, and psychological ones. Pointing out that Hick's pluralistic position, which has formed in a particular context, has (...)
  3. Nicholas of Cusa's De Pace Fidei and the Meta-Exclusivism of Religious Pluralism.Scott F. Aikin & Jason Aleksander - 2013 - 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.
  4. Different Paths, Different Summits: A Model for Religious Pluralism (Review).Jason Albertson - 2005 - Philosophy East and West 55 (3):503-503.
  5. Many Ways of Pluralism: Essays in Honour of Kalarikkal Poulose Aleaz.K. P. Aleaz & V. J. John (eds.) - 2010 - Ispck & Bishop's College, Kolkata.
  6. Religious Pluralism as an Imaginative Practice.Hans A. Alma - 2015 - Archive for the Psychology of Religion 37 (2):117-140.
  7. The Presuppositions of Religious Pluralism and the Need for Natural Theology.Owen Anderson - 2008 - 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 (...)
  8. Religious Pluralism a Metaphorical Approach.C. J. Arthur - 2000
  9. Religious Pluralism in Christian and Islamic Philosophy: The Thought of John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.Adnan Aslan - 1998 - 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 (...)
  10. William James on Pragmatism and Religion.Guy Axtell - 2018 - In Jacob Goodson (ed.), William James, Moral Philosophy, and the Ethical Life: The Cries of the Wounded. London: Lexington Books. pp. 317-336.
    Critics and defenders of William James both acknowledge serious tensions in his thought, tensions perhaps nowhere more vexing to readers than in regard to his claim about an individual’s intellectual right to their “faith ventures.” Focusing especially on “Pragmatism and Religion,” the final lecture in Pragmatism, this chapter will explore certain problems James’ pragmatic pluralism. Some of these problems are theoretical, but others concern the real-world upshot of adopting James permissive ethics of belief. Although Jamesian permissivism is qualified in certain (...)
  11. Review of Rosenbaum. [REVIEW]Guy Axtell - 2003 - 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.
  12. Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously. Arguing for an Institutional Turn. Introduction.Veit Bader - 2003 - 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 (...)
    Asking about the place of religion in a democratic society refers straightforwardly to the kind of pluralism we adopt. Given that intra-societal tensions mark out a democratic pluralistic society, then it seems that there is no doubt that there should be a place for religion and religious people in it. What is crucial for a democratic society is taking a suitable view on pluralism. There could be, at least, two versions of pluralism: Incommensurable or radical and commensurable or moderate. It (...)
  14. New Problems for Religious Pluralism.James Baillie - 2010 - 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 (...)
  15. Religious Pluralism, Globalization and World Politics.Thomas Banchoff (ed.) - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
    This volume should appeal to scholars and policymakers, as well as being useful for courses in religion and politics and international relations.
  16. Religious Diversity (Pluralism).David Basinger - 2014 - 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 (...)
  17. Pluralism and Justified Religious Belief.David Basinger - 1996 - Faith and Philosophy 13 (2):260-265.
    I have argued previously (in this journal) that the reality of pervasive religious pluralism obligates a believer to attempt to establish her perspective as the correct one. In a recent response, Jerome Gellman maintains that the believer who affirms a ‘religious epistemology’ is under no such obligation in that she need not subject her religious beliefs to any ‘rule of rationality’. In this paper I contend that there do exist some rules of rationality (some epistemic obligations) that must be acknowledged-and (...)
  18. Editorial: “Controversial but Never Ignored”—John Hick and Vito Mancuso.Guy Bennett-Hunter - 2016 - Expository Times 128 (1):1–3.
    An Editorial for issue 128.1 of the Expository Times.
  19. Religious Diversity and Disagreement.Matthew A. Benton - forthcoming - In Miranda Fricker, Peter Graham, David Henderson, Nikolaj Pedersen & Jeremy Wyatt (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. Routledge.
    Epistemologists have shown increased interest in the epistemic significance of disagreement, and in particular, in whether there is a rational requirement concerning belief revision in the face of peer disagreement. This article examines some of the general issues discussed by epistemologists, and then considers how they may or may not apply to the case of religious disagreement, both within religious traditions and between religious (and non-religious) views.
  20. Lost in Translation: On the Untranslatable and its Ethical Implications for Religious Pluralism.Lovisa Bergdahl - 2009 - 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 (...)
  21. A Critique of Victoria S. Harrison’s Internal Realist Approach to Pluralism.Daniele Bertini - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-16.
    Victoria S. Harrison’s theory of internal pluralism approaches religious beliefs in terms of conceptual schemes. To her, this approach has the advantage of preserving core pluralist intuitions without being challenged by the usual difficulties. My claim is that this is not the case. After providing a succinct presentation of internal pluralism, I show that the critique of traditional pluralist views such as Hick’s may also be addressed to Harrison. There are two main reasons in support of my claim. Firstly, a (...)
  22. Tradizioni religiose e diversità.Daniele Bertini - 2016 - Edizioni Fondazione Centro Studi Campostrini.
    Most literature on religious beliefs and disagreements among traditions focuses on a bit of mainstream assumptions: religions should be construed in substantive terms; religions are to be individuated by their core belief systems; adherents to a single tradition assent to the same belief system; religious beliefs have factual content; incompatible religious beliefs cannot be both true; and so on. In my work I question all these claims in order to defend a non kantian approach to deep pluralism. In the first (...)
  23. How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God.Tomas Bogardus & Mallorie Urban - 2017 - Faith and Philosophy 34 (2):176-200.
    Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? We answer: it depends. To begin, we clear away some specious arguments surrounding this issue, to make room for the central question: What determines the reference of a name, and under what conditions do names shift reference? We’ll introduce Gareth Evans’s theory of reference, on which a name refers to the dominant source of information in that name’s “dossier,” and we then develop the theory’s notion of dominance. We conclude that whether Muslims’ (...)
  24. Religious Tolerance, Diversity, and Pluralism.Peter Byrne - 2011 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 68:287-309.
    The theme of this paper can be introduced in this way: does a pluralist approach to religion entail a pluralist approach to religion? My theme is not that odd, because I have two notions of pluralism in mind. There is what I will call ‘tolerant pluralism’ and what I will call ‘religious pluralism’. And thus my question is ‘Does tolerant pluralism re religion entail religious pluralism?’.
  25. Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism: Reference and Realism in Religion.Peter Byrne - 1995 - St. Martin's Press.
  26. Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism Reference and Realism.Peter Byrne - 1995
  27. Indeterminacy, Ultimacy, and the World: The Self-Creation of Religious Pluralism Through Community and Creation. [REVIEW]Benjamin James Chicka - 2010 - 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 (...)
  28. Different Paths, Different Summits: A Model for Religious Pluralism (Review).John B. Cobb - 2005 - Philosophy East and West 55 (2):367-370.
  29. J. Hicks, "Problems of Religious Pluralism".H. A. Craighead - 1989 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 25 (3):187.
  30. The Impossibility of a Pluralist View of Religions.Gavin D'Costa - 1996 - Religious Studies 32 (2):223 - 232.
    In the debate about Christian attitudes to other religions, a threefold typology has emerged depicting differing Christian responses: pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism. (This typology is not restricted to the Christian debate alone.) Traditionally, pluralism is opposed to exclusivism, the former claiming that it is arrogant and untenable to make exclusive truth claims, and that all religions are potentially equal paths to salvation and truth. In contrast, I argue that pluralism must always logically be a form of exclusivism and that nothing (...)
  31. Constitutional Law and Religion.Perry Dane - 1996 - In Dennis M. Patterson (ed.), A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory. Blackwell.
    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 (...)
  32. Religious Ambiguity in Hick’s Religious Pluralism.Amir Dastmalchian - 2009 - 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.
  33. Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion: The ‘Ambiguity’ Objection to Epistemic Exclusivism.Amir Dastmalchian - 2009 - 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 (...)
  34. Defending Religious Pluralism for Religious Education.Andrew Davis - 2010 - 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 (...)
  35. Religious Pluralism and Truth Essays on Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion.Thomas Dean - 1995
  36. The Intolerance of Religious Pluralism.Peter Donovan - 1993 - Religious Studies 29 (2):217 - 229.
    The pluralistic approach to religions has come in for some serious criticism in recent writings. I shall consider two examples in particular. The first is the book Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered. The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, edited by Gavin D'Costa. This is a collection of essays offered in response to The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, edited by John Hick and Paul Knitter. The second example is an essay by Paul Morris, Religious Freedom, in Religious Pluralism and Unbelief, edited (...)
  37. 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.Christopher J. Eberle - 2006 - Ethics 116 (4):813-819.
  38. Religious Pluralism and the Divine: Another Look at John Hick's Neo-Kantian Proposal.Paul R. Eddy - 1994 - Religious Studies 30 (4):467-478.
    This study focuses upon the heart of John Hick's pluralistic philosophy of religion -- his neo- Kantian response to the problem of conflicting inter- religious conceptions of the divine. Hick attempts to root his proposal in two streams of tradition: the inter- religious awareness of the distinction between the divine in itself vs. the divine as humanly experienced, and a Kantian epistemology. In fact, these attempts are problematic in that his hypothesis introduces a radical subjectivizing element at both junctures. In (...)
  39. Participatory Wisdom in Religious Studies: Jacques Derrida, Philo-Sophia, and Religious Pluralism.Matthew S. Haar Farris - 2010 - Dissertation, Graduate Theological Union
  40. Imagination and Religious Pluralism.José Faur - 1992 - New Vico Studies 10:36-51.
  41. Spiritual Knowing as Participatory Enaction : An Answer to the Question of Religious Pluralism.Jorge N. Ferrer - 2008 - In Jorge N. Ferrer & Jacob H. Sherman (eds.), The Participatory Turn: Spirituality, Mysticism, Religious Studies. State University of New York Press.
  42. Religious Pluralism and Crises of Identity.Giovanni Filoramo - 2003 - 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 (...)
  43. Lucas Swaine, the Liberal Conscience: Politics and Principle in a World of Religious Pluralism. [REVIEW]Allyn Fives - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5):515-517.
  44. In Defence of a Contented Religious Exclusivism.Jerome Gellman - 2000 - 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 (...)
  45. Gandhi, Deep Religious Pluralism, and Multiculturalism.Nicholas F. Gier - 2014 - Philosophy East and West 64 (2):319-339.
    I’ve advanced from tolerance to equal respect for all religions.1I’ve broadened my Hinduism by loving other religions as my own.2[Gandhi’s] doctrine of the equality of religions . . . did not move towards a single global religion, but enjoins us all to become better expressions of our own faith, being enriched in the process by influences from other faiths.3At first glance the religious philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi appears to be a version of the perennial philosophy, the main proponent of (...)
  46. Monopoly on Salvation? A Feminist Approach to Religious Pluralism (Review).Rita M. Gross - 2010 - Buddhist-Christian Studies 30:205-208.
  47. An Internalist Pluralist Solution to the Problem of Religious and Ethical Diversity.Victoria Harrison - 2012 - Sophia 51 (1):71-86.
    In our increasingly multicultural society there is an urgent need for a theory that is capable of making sense of the various philosophical difficulties presented by ethical and religious diversity—difficulties that, at first sight, seem to be remarkably similar. Given this similarity, a theory that successfully accounted for the difficulties raised by one form of plurality might also be of help in addressing those raised by the other, especially as ethical belief systems are often inextricably linked with religious belief systems. (...)
  48. Internal Realism, Religious Pluralism and Ontology.Victoria S. Harrison - 2008 - 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 (...)
  49. Gotama Buddha and Religious Pluralism.Richard P. Hayes - unknown
    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 (...)
  50. Exclusivism Versus Pluralism in Religion: A Response to Kevin Meeker.John Hick - 2006 - Religious Studies 42 (2):207.
    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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