Reflection Paper for Philosophy of Religion: The continous conflict between Religious Pluralism and Exclusivism

Topics: Religion, God, Philosophy of religion Pages: 5 (1616 words) Published: January 8, 2004
Religion has been as part of society as far as its beginnings. All ancient human civilization had some sort of belief in a God or the transcendent. Beliefs have always been an issue within any human society. The belief of the transcendent gives humans a chance or hope for eternal happiness for people who abide their beliefs.

But through out history, different religions and beliefs emerged which gives rise to the inconsistency. There are numerous differences between religions: one versus many gods, personal versus impersonal gods, personal survival of believers versus no survival of believers, moral codes, religious life, etc. As observable in human history, though religions often offer some sort heaven it often paradoxically entails conflicts and controversies. And despite the fact that religions supposedly gives people a sense of what's right or wrong, atrocities have been committed in the name of religion; the hundred years war, the inquisition, jihad, ethnical cleansings etc... And amidst the variety of beliefs that populate contemporary society, one cannot help to think how to take in hand the overabundance of truths that sometimes overlaps, dissent, and eventually oppose each other.

There are three stances one can take. First is to (1) treat all religions as valid and true (pluralism). Another way is to (2) view beliefs in way that some are right and some are wrong (exclusivism). Finally, one can also (3) think about all religions as false (atheism).

Let me take into consideration the third stance first. By arguing that all religious beliefs are false, it also means arguing that God or any form of the transcendent does not exist. And by arguing this, means rejecting all of the theistic theses that were formulated in the history of man. And this is the part where the catholic philosopher's shear my head off, as countless theologians in history were also philosophers.

With atheism in hand, the question God's Being is also raised. Paul Tillich argues that God is Being, where "Being" represented the ultimate reality that underlies all existence, whether natural or supernatural. In fact, Being doesn't necessarily pertain to a personal God at all. Tillich wanted to make Being stand for the ultimate concern of all humans, conceived in the broadest sense. Furthermore, any attempt to define what Being is, by giving it the name of a particular God, fails to capture the true Being. Tillich thinks that all particular conceptions of Being that we are familiar with in the West constitute idolatry. When we give religious symbols too much importance, then we have fallen into mere idolatry. It might be plausibly argued that a religion must possess religious symbols and rituals to qualify as a religion-but, if this is true, then all religions must in a way be idolatrous. This is quite a strong and ridiculous thing to claim. But on the other hand it can also be claimed that atheism is really theism because it possesses infinite concern. The unknowable "God behind God" symbols mediate our relationship with God. God is beyond existence and non-existence.

This leads us to the more theistic approach on the variety of human belief. First is the idea of pluralism which is spearheaded by John Hick. Hick's theory holds that all religions are expressions of the same ultimate reality. However, how is it possible for all religions to be true images of the same ultimate reality? They can't all be correct because this would be a violation of the law of non-contradiction (the thesis that something cannot possess a property and lack it at the same time and in the same way). For example, to argue that God is personal from my religion's perspective and not personal from another religion's perspective and thus avoid the violation of the law of non-contradiction is to say that God is not ultimately personal. Since it has just been accepted that some other religion has an equally valid view of God which contradicts my own religion's view,...
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