America’s Religious Climate and Christianity’s Exclusivity
by Adriel Sanchez
Back in the 80’s, British theologian Lesslie Newbigin wrote a book in which he described the religious climate of the United Kingdom as “pluralistic.” Newbigin’s description of the U.K. could have easily been made of the United States today:
Religious pluralism… is the belief that differences between religions are not a matter of truth and falsehood, but of different perceptions of the one truth; that to speak of religious belief as true or false is inadmissible. Religious belief is a private matter. Each of us is entitled to have—as we say—a faith of our own. (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 14)
In other words, religious pluralism doesn’t leave room for absolute religious truth. Sure, your religion might work for you, but since (under this idea) no religion can claim to be superior to another, or “truer” than another belief, you mustn’t try to push your religious dogma onto anyone else.
Setting aside some of the glaring problems with the assumption of religious pluralism (for one, the argument that no religion can lay claim to the truth is itself an absolute claim), it’s important to realize that a disdain for the idea of an exclusive belief isn’t anything new. In fact, in the days of Jesus and his apostles, religious pluralism was also quite popular. The Greco-Roman world, like our society, didn’t have a problem with religion per se, but with religious exclusivity (one religion is true over others).
The society in which the apostles lived was extremely religious, and most people worshipped any number of gods, both familial deities, and gods that were venerated by the larger society. Christianity would not have been a problem to the ancients if it taught that one could add a new, crucified deity to the already long list of gods to be venerated. Christianity was problematic because it called its followers to abandon all other gods and worship the one true God…
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