Religious Pluralism: Threat or Opportunity? - FAKKIR

Religious Pluralism: Threat or Opportunity?

FAKKIR.XYZ | JURNAL – Religious pluralism, the coexistence of religious belief systems in society, involves competing religious stances on being relevant to the society. Relevance entails being genuine and authentic with regard to one’s religious identity. Consequently, for some Christians, to regard religious pluralism as valuable is to abandon the belief in the uniqueness of Christ. Religious pluralism raises, therefore, the epistemological question of legitimate claim to knowledge and objectivity. Each believer rightly claims a cognitive privilege that emerges from the religious experience, the very feature that distinguishes the internal bearing of religious belief from the external viewpoint of those outside of the circle and community of faith. In the case of a homogeneous culture and society, these elements would not be problematic for the development of a rational expression of faith, because the totalizing mode of thought characteristic of theology would be met by a totalizing form of life shared by all members of that particular society. In this scenario, all members would always already share the same cognitive privilege, and the intersubjective confirmation of theological truth claims would be par for the course. However, when such truth claims are pursued in a secular or religiously pluralist society, they cannot but be highly debatable to the point of rejection.

This paper is a reflection on religious pluralism from the epistemological point of view and an assessment of the alternative attitude: for or against the multiplicity of religious denominations. Religious pluralism needs a serious reflection, for there are many cases of social and political unrest, not only in Africa but also in other parts of the world, that have their origin in religious motives. Some religious fundamentalists, “in the name of a different interpretation of God and of religious and ethical values, feel justified to use any means to reach their intransigent goals of alleged religious puritanism, in order perhaps to affirm the sovereignty and transcendence of a voluntarist God, who could even defy rationality.” The issue of religious pluralism is not only relevant to theology and philosophy, but also to politics and policy making. “As soon as an issue of existential relevance makes it to the political agenda, citizens, whether believers or unbelievers, clash over beliefs impregnated by different worldviews; grappling with the strident dissonances of public dispute, they experience the offensive fact of an antagonistic coexistence of competing worldviews.” This article aims to suggest the consideration of human finitude in terms of knowledge and objectivity in our way of dealing with religious pluralism and in our attitude to the diversity of religious beliefs and faiths. The paper starts with Nussbaum’s examination of the current religious intolerance in Europe and the USA and it will be argued that her account of religious toleration is one sided. After presenting two aspects inherent to the very
nature of religious pluralism, I will present Kant’s theory of the boundaries of human reason and then lastly argue that the consideration of human finitude in terms of cognitive objectivity may lead to genuine tolerance in matters of religious differences and that it can help in preventing violence that is religiously motivated.

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