Course Blog February 12th: Tolerance vs. Pluralism

For the book “God Needs No Passport”, I have pondered the distinction made between being tolerant and being pluralistic. In modern America, where the religious landscape consists of seventy percent Christians, I am saddened to say that I find there is often very little religious tolerance, let alone pluralism. I have a hard time imagining people being pluralistic who feel very strongly about their religion. It seems that most religions preach that theirs is the right one and the right way to live life and the rest are wrong; thus, most religions would discourage people from being pluralistic. Therefore, it is simply not realistic to expect people to openly embrace other’s beliefs when the religions themselves are dogmatic. Within this, I see the root of so many religious conflicts in wars: it boils down to the fact that religions almost never approach the world with a pluralistic view. For example, Southern Baptists are strongly against abortion and homosexuality. How then, might you expect a member of that group to openly invite and inquire about a religion that blatantly disagrees with those beliefs? Or, how might you expect a Christian to be interested in Buddhism when the Christian believes that God created the world and Buddhists go against the idea that there is a creator? To believe in a religion means to believe a set of ideals are right and the rest are wrong. Therefore, how could pluralism be achieved when the existence of multiple religions essentially creates divides and labels some things as correct and others as incorrect? Or good versus evil? As much as religion can help people as individuals, it seems it also inherently possesses the opportunity for disagreement, exclusion, and conflict.