Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion: The ‘Ambiguity’ Objection to Epistemic Exclusivism

Dissertation, King's College London (2009)

Amir Dastmalchian
Canterbury Christ Church University
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 all others. I argue that the positions of Swinburne and Plantinga are unsatisfactory. In Chapter ‎4 I list a number of objections to religious epistemic exclusivism. One of these objections, namely the religious ambiguity objection, will be important in this thesis. I explain what religious ambiguity is in more detail and distinguish between temporary religious ambiguity and permanent religious ambiguity. Chapters ‎5 & 6 deal with responses to religious diversity in the light of permanent religious ambiguity. William Alston advocates that religious epistemic exclusivism is still reasonable given religious ambiguity. Alston appeals to faith to justify exclusivist belief but this gives rise to the objection that tentative belief is more appropriate. Conversely, John Hick rejects exclusivism in favour of another position altogether, called religious epistemic pluralism. In Chapter ‎7 I assess the impact of Hick’s response to religious diversity on the ideology of a traditionally minded Muslim. I argue that the Muslim is not obliged to accept Hick’s solution in full.
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