The Danger of Religious Pluralism

four-religionsDistinct from syncretism, which reflects the blending of elements of unrelated faiths, pluralism affirms that different religions offer alternate paths to the same god, or to salvation. I once heard a priest use the analogy of a group of siblings, representing different religions, arguing with each other over who father loves most. Dad, representing God, then walks in on the quarreling kids and assures them that he loves them all equally.

It’s one thing for members of different religions to engage in dialogue as a means of promoting peace, but quite another to disregard their disparate and competing claims to the truth and declare them equally valid. It’s intellectual anarchy, like insisting that 2+2=5. The danger is that it crosses a line after which one’s own religion is unavoidably diminished in value.

This may be particularly true with respect to moral instruction. How important to the aforementioned priest do you think the Church’s moral teachings are if he thinks that contradictory religious systems are of equal value in God’s eyes? I don’t think it is merely coincidental that religions that are open to pluralism or a related notion tend toward moral positions that are contrary to Christian teaching.

A fairly recent study by the Pew Research Center examined the positions of various religions on the matter of abortion. Those who hold to some notion of pluralism, such as reformed and conservative Judaism, Buddhism, Unitarian, United Church of Christ, and most mainline Christian Churches, support legal abortion to some degree. Churches that are exclusivist, like Roman Catholicism, Southern Baptist, Mormon, etc. oppose abortion (the exception is Hinduism).

In a separate study, however, we see that these reflect official positions and are not necessarily held by all the practitioners. While only 18% of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 27% of Mormons surveyed supported abortion rights, extremely exclusivist religions, 48% of Catholics took a pro-abortion stand. Why do so many Catholics think that they can maintain positions on moral issues that are inconsistent with Church teaching? views_about_abortion_by_religious_groupThe answer may be that there are too many theologians and Church authorities opening the door to religious pluralism, the consequence of which is a decline in respect for the authority of the Church.

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