Religious diversity in the age of globalized world۱۲ اردیبهشت ۱۳۸۹
This is a lecture delivered in world summit of religious leaders, 27th of April 2010, Baku.
The fact that there is a variety of religions all over the world claiming they can provide their believers with happiness and salvation has brought about theoretical problems for theologians and philosophers as well as contemplative believers. The question of religious diversity turns out to be more problematic if one affirms the claim that in every major world religions, either monotheistic religions or not, individuals who seem sincerer, knowledgeable and thoughtful can be in one way or another found. Moreover, it appears that as the history of religions witnesses even sincere, knowledgeable and thoughtful individuals have not yet been successful in arriving at intellectual agreement especially about religious issues.
In this essay the varieties of efforts to deal with and make sense of the phenomenon of religious diversity will be very briefly classified and then sketched out. The conclusion is that for religious leaders to deal with the phenomenon of religious diversity in the globalized world, they must take into consideration the multiple efforts taken by thinkers to interpret this phenomenon. Without this intellectual scrutiny, religious leaders will fail in taking a reasonable and moral attitude toward globalization and diversity.
At least four different approaches, according to one division have been taken by philosophers to interpret the phenomenon of religious diversity. All these approaches can be divided into two major groups (supernaturalistic and naturalistic interpretation) within which subdivisions can be detected.
According to the naturalistic interpretation of religious diversity, as religions’ conceptions of the Real are incompatibly divergent, hence supernaturalistic interpretation of religions is illusory. Religions, according to this interpretation, are not but objectification and projection of human longstanding ambitions in the clothes of personal or impersonal god(s). Human, for instance, thirsts for power and knowledge and she knows that her power and knowledge is limited. As a result, she constructs omnipotent and omniscient God which is the manifestation of those ultimate ambitions. Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), Karl Marx (1818-1883), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), and Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) are among this group.
Naturalistic interpretation of the nature of religions differs on whether or not religions are practically beneficial for humankind. For those who take religions to be dangerous, like Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) British zoologist and famous atheist, religions are the roots of a great deal of evils occurring in the world.
Other naturalists, however, believe religions are useful myths which can vividly depict for ordinary people an accessible and simple Weltanschauung by which they will be capable of living more meaningful and probably more ethical.
Another main approach to interpret religious plurality is supernaturalistic approach. The proponents of this approach continue to hold the postulation of the existence of a kind of supernatural being in their interpretations. They have taken, however, divergent approaches on whether different truth claims among major world religions can altogether be true and on whether one or more than one religion can provide their believers with salvation, liberation and happiness.
With regard to this question the above-mentioned group has been divided into three approaches: religious exclusivists, religious inclusivists and religious pluralists. The plurality of religions has not led religious exclusivists to revise their conviction about the relationship between truth and salvation and religions. They believe that truth and salvation can be found only in one religion. Other religions, as far as they differ from the allegedly genuine religion, are counterfeit and unreliable and, consequently, salvation and happiness cannot be bestowed on their believers by such unauthentic religions.
Inclusivists, on the other hand, acknowledge the possibility of some degree of truth and salvation for other religions. However, they hold the belief that God has manifested Himself completely in only one religion. Other religions, notwithstanding, may benefit from a low degree of God’s manifestation. Religious inclusivists and exclusivists, as it has been clearly seen, share the idea of the exclusivity of truth and salvation in only one religion. The only difference emerges when inclusivists recognize a slight degree of truth and even salvation for other religions, while exclusivists deny that.
The third group among supernaturalists is religious pluralists. According to religious pluralists all major world religions, such as but not confined to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism are, in a sense, valid and more significantly, it is not the case that, so far as truth and salvation are concerned, one religion is superior to other religions and others are inferior. According to, for example John Hick, one of the pioneer philosophers defending religious pluralism, All major world religions, to the extent that rescue their believers from “hatred, misery, aggression, unkindness, impatience, violence and lack of self-control” and grant them “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” are equally valid.
In this short lecture I will not be able to evaluate the above-mentioned attitudes. The aim of this lecture was only to draw the attention of respectable religious leaders of major world religions to the significance of the theoretical debates on religious diversity. Without getting involved in such debates it is highly unlikely that religious leaders can be successful in dealing reasonably with globalization and religious diversity.
May Allah bless all of us
السلام علیکم و رحمة الله و برکاته