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Many religious claims will be logically incompatible with the accepted diagnosis, and many religious practices will be useless or counter-productive when it comes to getting what one believes to be the cure. However, such a person is probably only thinking of large, respectable, and historically important religions.
For example, a religious group may function only to satisfy the desires of its founder, discourage the worship of God, encourage the sexual abuse of children, or lead to the damnation of its members. Carefully worked out theories of religious pluralism often sound all-inclusive.
However, they nearly always have at least one criterion for excluding religions as inferior in the aspect s they focus on. A difficulty for any pluralist theory is how to restrict the group of equally good religions without losing the appearance of being all-accepting or wholly non-judgmental. A common strategy here is to simply ignore disreputable religious traditions, only discussing the prestigious ones. An improvement upon naive pluralism acknowledges differences in all the aspects of religions, but separates peripheral from core differences.
A core pluralist claims that all religions of some kind share a common core, and that this is really what matters about the religions; their equal value is found in this common core. If the core is veridical experiences, all religions will enable ways to perceive whatever the objects of religious experience are.
The Good of Religious Pluralism by Peter L. Berger | Articles | First Things
If the core is salvifically effective practice, then all will be equal in that each is equally well a means to obtaining the cure. The most influential recent proponent of a version of core pluralism has been Huston Smith. This encompasses the idea that physical reality, the terrestrial plane, is contained within and controlled by a more real intermediate plane that is, the subtle, animic, or psychic plane which is in turn contained and controlled by the celestial plane.
This celestial plane is a personal God.
Given that it is ineffable, this Being is neither a god, nor the God of monotheism. It is more real than all that comes from it. Some experience this Being as if it were a god, but the most able gain a non-conceptual awareness of it in its ineffable glory. Smith holds that in former ages, and among primitive peoples now, such a worldview is near universal.
It is only modern people who are blinded by the misunderstanding that science reveals all, who have forgotten it. Smith , ch. Sedgwick Like traditional religions, it too offers a diagnosis of the human condition and a cure. It offers a fall from primordial spirituality into modern spiritual poverty, cured by adopting the outlook sketched above. Most importantly, it offers a chance to discover the deep self as Being.
A muted ally in this was the influential religious scholar Mircea Eliade , whose work focused on comparing mythologies, and on what he viewed as an important, primitive religious outlook, which separates things into the sacred and the profane. Such an outlook is commonly perceived as meaningless, hopeless, and devoid of value. Smith , Others dissent because they accept the incompatible diagnosis and cure taught by some other religion, such as the ones found in Islam or Christianity.
Roy, however, always retained his Hindu and Brahmin identities. Sharma , ch. Stenmark He does not advocate this view, but explores it as an alternative to exclusivism, inclusivism, and Hickian identist pluralism. Stenmark views it as most similar to identist pluralism see 2e below. In modern times, it tries to equalize other religions in the same ways it equalizes the apparently contrary claims and practices internal to it. While elements within it have been sectarian and exclusivistic, modern Hindu thought is usually pluralistic.
Furthermore, Hindu thought has shifted in modern times from a scriptural to an experiential emphasis. Long Still, some Hindus object to various kinds of pluralism.
Morales Long The slogan may also imply that all religions feature veridical experience of that one object, by way of a non-cognitive, immediate awareness. Sharma This modern Hindu outlook has proven difficult to formulate in any clear way. Sharma But if there is no one clear modern Hindu pluralism, it remains that various modern Indian thinkers have held to versions of core or identist pluralism.
Paradoxically, such pluralism is often expressed along with claims that Hinduism is greatly superior in various ways to other religions. Long Cobb and Griffin assume that there is no supernatural intervention any miraculous interruption of the ordinary course of nature by God or other beings. This, it is hoped, rules out anyone having grounds for believing any particular religion to be the uniquely best religion.
Griffin a They do, however, take seriously at least many of the unusual religious experiences people report. These three - Creativity, God, Cosmos - are such that none could exist without the others. Sometimes God and Cosmos are described as aspects of Creativity. The underlying metaphysics here is that of process philosophy , in which events are the basic or fundamental units of reality. On such a metaphysics, any apparent substance being, entity turns out to be one or more events or processes.
It is also allowed that each major religion really does deliver the cure it claims to for example, salvation and heaven, Nirvana, Moksha , and is entitled to operate by its own moral and epistemic values. Further, it respects and does not try to eliminate all these differences, and so makes genuine dialogue between members of the religions possible.
Does Religious Pluralism Require Secularism?
Finally, Cobb and Griffin emphasize that this approach does not endorse any unreasonable form of relativism and, as such, allows one to remain distinctively Christian or Buddhist and so forth. In all these ways, they argue that their ultimist pluralism is superior to other pluralisms. This view has not been widely accepted because the Process theology and philosophy on which it is based has not been widely accepted.
One may object that this above proposal is counter to the equalizing spirit of pluralism. Griffin and Cobb seem to attribute the deepest insight to those who think the ultimate reality is an impersonal, indescribable non-thing. In their view, those who confess experience of Emptiness, Nirguna Brahman , or the One of Neoplatonism behold the ultimate reality Creativity as it really is, in contrast to monotheists or cosmos-focused religionists, who latch on to what are limited aspects of Creativity.
But these monotheists and cosmos-worshipers each take their object to be ultimate, and would deny the existence of any further back entity or non-entity, that is, of Creativity. It would seem that that, for example, a Christian to accept this ultimist pluralism, she will have to reinterpret what many Christians will regard as a core commitment, namely, that the ultimate reality is personal.
Even a Mahayana Buddhist may have a lot of adjusting to do, if she is to admit that believers in a personal God really do experience the greatest entity, and something which is not separate from Emptiness. And how can the ultimist pluralist demand such changes? A similar pluralism is advanced by Japanese Zen scholar Masao Abe In Mahayana Buddhism, the ultimate reality, a formless but active non-thing, is Emptiness, or the Truth Body Dharmakaya. This in some sense manifests as, acts as, and is not different from a host of Enjoyment Bodies Sambhogakaya , each of which is a Buddha outside of space and time, a historical Buddha now escaped from samsara and dwelling in a Buddha-realm.
The Challenge Of Religious Diversity
The historical Buddha, the man Gautama is, in this doctrine, a Transformation Body or Apparitional Body, Nirmanakaya of one of these, as are other Buddhas in time and space. In some sense these three are one, however, the Truth Body manifests or acts as various Enjoyment Bodies, which in turn manifest or act as various Transformation Bodies. It is a mistake, Abe holds, to regard any god as ultimate, and monotheists must revise their understanding as above, if true inter-religious dialogue and peace are to be achievable.
It is a mistake to think that the ultimate is any substantial, self-identical thing, even an ineffable one. Abe Presumably not, as she already believes in levels of truth and levels of reality. At the highest level there is only Emptiness, the ultimate. It can be argued that Abe is an inclusivist, maintaining that Buddhism is the best religion, rather than a true pluralist. Burton His theory is at least superficially clear, and is rooted in his own spiritual journey.
It attracted widespread discussion and criticism, and Hick has engaged in a spirited debate with all comers. Subjectively, those other people have similar grounds for belief. These ideas, and the fact that religious belief is strongly correlated with birthplace, convinced him that the facts of religious diversity pose irresolvable problems for any exclusivist or inclusivist view, leaving only some form of pluralism as a viable option. Hick Starting as a traditional, non-pluralistic Christian, Hick attended religious meetings and studied with people of other religions.
As a result, he became convinced that basically the same thing was going on with these others religious followers as with Christians, namely, people responding in culturally conditioned but transformative ways to one and the same Real or Ultimate Reality.