Profound Problems with Religious Pluralism

by Kenneth Samples

Novelist Yann Martel’s book Life of Pi (now a major motion picture) embodies the popular notion that all religions are simultaneously true. The story’s young protagonist embraces aspects of multiple faiths (Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity), viewing these beliefs as equally valid but different paths to God. Unfortunately religious pluralism fails to appreciate the profound problems associated with it.

1. The World’s Religions Are Different

Many faiths do share some common beliefs and moral values. However, fundamental and irreconcilable differences divide them on many crucial issues, including the nature of God, the source and focus of revelation, the human predicament, the nature of salvation, and the destiny of humankind. Consider, for example, these varied views on the human predicament:

  • Hinduism claims that people are under the false illusion that they are distinct and separate from God.
  • Islam asserts that sin results from human weakness and willful disobedience, not an inborn tendency.
  • Christianity teaches that sin is inherent in human nature and cannot be overcome or compensated for by good works.
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2. The World’s Religions Are Irreducible

Some people argue that no particular religion speaks for God. Instead, they suggest that when we reduce the world’s beliefs to their lowest common denominator, a consensus emerges that reflects God’s voice. However, in light of this complex array of religious perspectives, this dubious reductionist approach is fraught with problems. Religions are so diverse in belief and worldview orientation that they defy attempts to synthesize them to a single common theme or essence. In fact, such reduction would actually cost the various religions the features that make them unique and appealing in the first place…


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