Religious Pluralism

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When discussing the validity and truth value of various religions and religious claims, some people may affirm the idea that all religions are just ways of looking a one god differently or that one god is behind all religions, so everyone is right. Individual religions, from my experience and reading standard teaching, don’t affirm this idea but believe with a very high level of certainty that their holy books and teachings are correct. Preachers don’t approach pulpits saying, “Weighing all of the available information that we have learned, we’re quite sure that God exists, but we may be wrong. People of other religions may also be right and we could be totally incorrect, but I want you to continue going to our church because our way of looking at God is valid…but everyone else may also be correct.” To say that all religions are correct seems to be very evasive and intellectually dishonest. Possibly even saying that one is correct may also be very problematic, especially if there isn’t very good reason and evidence to establish truth value of the claim.

Some religious individuals may also claim that reality is different for them or that “My god exists for me whether or not you believe in him,” but these claims are dishonest. Either God created the universe and rules in Heaven or he doesn’t. God can’t be true for one person and false for another – the only thing that can really differ is whether or not someone believes.

We also have the possibility of a “divine conspiracy” in which one god created various religions, implanted memories in people, and wanted people to decide which religion was the real religion during life. I find this claim highly unlikely because I don’t believe a just and loving being would do this. It is, of course, possible for a malevolent or chaotic deity to so such a thing, but why would an eternal being even bother? It’s also possible that a being created the universe, went away, and was never seen again. There are gods that haven’t even been thought of. A god may exist that makes no rational sense to us such as an all-knowing river made of tenderness. My favorite possibility is a possible god that does not interfere in human affairs, created the universe and left it on its own, and rewarded people after death for being skeptical and not believing in any gods while not punishing the non-skeptics. With all of the possible (and seemingly infinite) gods and religions, it seems very difficult to hedge your bets or even confidently choose one religion. Of all available and possible choices, is it rational to assume that one religion is correct, especially when none offer very good evidence?

A naturalistic and evidential approach can (and I believe should) be taken when considering religious claims. Pragmatic arguments and arguments from utility should automatically be dismissed, for what really matters is whether or not the claims are true. Does an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-eternal being who created the universe and sat around for about 75,000 years while humans suffered and almost went extinct and then decided that the hope for humanity was to send his son to earth to die really seem plausible? Or, perhaps, does it seem plausible that the intergalactic ruler Lord Xenu who is responsible for body thetans a fact? We ought to marshal evidence, really think about our beliefs, and find really good reasons for accepting them. The fact that all different cultures have different religions is very indicative of the hypothesis that religion is formed as a natural and cultural phenomenon, this should not though, mean that they are valid.

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