apologetics, philosophy, Religious Diversity

Religious Diversity: What’s the Problem?

Religious diversity is one of the greatest challenges found by people of any faith in our pluralistic society. There are so many things to consider about this subject that there is no way to adequately cover it in one post.

First we must ask ‘what exactly is the problem of religious diversity?’ Is there really any logical problem to their being more than one religion in existence?  I think the answer to this objection, if it is any objection at all, is simply to answer that, as in other areas of life, the fact that there is a broad array of beliefs about a subject does not mean that all are false or that the subject is unknowable.

Is the problem, then, instead specific to religions which claim exclusivism? Is it true that all religions have truth in some way, and that those which claim to have the truth are fundamentally flawed in some way? This, again, doesn’t seem to follow from anything. The fact that there is a plurality of opinions over the Divine (or whether there is a Divine-thing-being) alone does not justify the assertion that all religions are somehow about the same thing or that none are true. Nor does it imply that religions which claim to have the only way are incorrect. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of structured argument here.

Often, this problem is focused around a specific religion; namely, Christianity. The problem is posed in the following way: If [traditional] Christianity is true, then Jesus is the only way of salvation. What then, of those “good people” who are not Christians? What of the faithful Buddhist, Hindu, or Zoroastrian? Would the loving God of Christianity condemn these to hell?

This is the problem posed in its most powerful form, in my opinion. Religious diversity doesn’t itself function as a defeater for theistic belief. Instead, it can pose a problem to exclusivist Christian belief. This is the problem upon which my next posts will focus. Broadly, I will address the other attempted defeaters above throughout my posts on religious diversity, but it is the exclusivist Christian position around which I will focus. This is the position to which the problem of religious diversity poses the greatest problem (note that any religion which features exclusivism will also face this problem).

Let me briefly offer the outline of what will be my expanded response:

1) Jesus is indeed the only way to salvation (John 14:6)

2) Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the possibility of salvation to all people, on the condition of faith (Romasn 3:21ff)

3) People are judged by the knowledge they have (Romans 2:12ff)-This is the key point. The distinction between ontological (availability of) and epistemological (knowledge of the means of) salvation must be drawn.

4) The salvation provided by Christ is ontologically necessary. The key issue is of its epistemic necessity.

About these ads

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

22 thoughts on “Religious Diversity: What’s the Problem?

  1. >does not justify the assertion that all religions are somehow about the same thing or that none are true

    In my view, the religious diversity problem doesn’t say this. It says that if the faith mechanism is allowed, then there is no way to adjudicate claims. One or more of the world’s religious claims might be true, we just can’t tell. They stand on equal footings.

    This is the one clear advantage of Scientism. Science converges on a common belief; religions diverge to multiple, incompatible beliefs.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 7, 2010, 11:45 AM
    • My main problem with your assertion is that you say “This is the one clear advantage of Scientism. Science converges on a common belief; religions diverge to multiple, incompatible beliefs.”

      My problem is that this is demonstrably false. Clearly, you are free to believe that scientism is true. But what of those who wholeheartedly reject science. What of, for example, a Zen Buddhist who strives to escape the illusion of logical reality?

      All you are doing is asserting that everyone thinks scientism is truth-oriented, or, that science “converges on a common belief”. But this assertion is plainly false. I challenge you to justify it, though I know you cannot. Therefore, your statement that scientism is somehow superior to religions must be rejected, based on your own reasons for accepting the premise. Scientism is not a common belief.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 7, 2010, 12:27 PM
  2. Apologists always end up where they started.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 7, 2010, 2:04 PM
  3. The point is that you must always return to your foundational beliefs. In science, we never know where we’ll end up,. Scientism isn’t a belief, it is an expanding set of methods. We can do science without making any ontological claims at all. Because of science, you will have doctors and medicines to help you when your prayers aren’t answered.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 8, 2010, 10:00 AM
    • I see you have backed off the commonality of scientific belief. You said, “cience converges on a common belief” and have now asserted that it isn’t a belief. Which is it? And if it makes no ontological claims, then you surely cannot use it as a worldview to wield against metaphysical claims, which you have done.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 8, 2010, 10:03 AM
  4. We aren’t in opposition, we’re just in different camps. I don’t have to comment at all on your metaphysics, it’s just irrelevant to science.

    There will never be a way to adjudicate between differing foundational claims. That’s what foundational means. I just think mine are better, you think yours are better. Everyone gets to decide for themselves.

    What I like about science is that it allows humanity to converge on a common worldview congruent with nature, without filling in the blanks.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 8, 2010, 10:15 AM
  5. Yes, that’s more precise. Science would be a better choice if it were a common worldview.

    Of course, any world view could be commonly held, but no other worldview would be as congruent with nature as a scientific one. That’s something I value. You value ‘Yahweh/Jesus is true’, so you always have to return to that belief.

    Apologist thinking is simply unacceptable in nearly every area in our culture, except religion. In a courtroom, you can’t start with a verdict, then show why that verdict is the correct one. You really have to start with the possibility of reaching another verdict. The Christian realm is a kangaroo court.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 8, 2010, 10:24 AM
    • Interesting, then, that you start with the claim that all there is is nature, and then reject any evidence outside of that.

      Another point I absolutely must make is that you have indeed made scientism into a worldview. The problem with this is that you also seemingly deny that this has metaphysical implications, which it absolutely does. For example, if scientism as a worldview is true, then all there is is the physical universe. This is a metaphysical claim, because it makes the statement “There is no non-physical thing”, which is a metaphysical claim. Yet scientism itself cannot even explore the question “Is there a non-physical thing?” because it does not have the tools to do so. As a worldview, then, it seems bankrupt. It cannot even consider the questions it seeks to avoid.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 8, 2010, 10:35 AM
    • Another point I have is that apologetics is defense of the faith. Of course it is going to argue starting from the stance that Christianity is true. But then, apologetics is not the reason I accept Christianity. I turn to philosophy of religion, properly basic beliefs, and the like for justification of theistic belief. Apologetics is, by definition, offering a defense–in other words, when objections are raised, we answer them. Why should we be forced to assume Christianity is false or neutral in order to defend it? I think you’re equivocating belief with defense of the belief. Take your courtroom example. What apologists are doing is not starting with a verdict, they are acting as the defense lawyer–defending the innocence (veracity) of Christianity.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 8, 2010, 10:52 AM
  6. >you start with the claim that all there is is nature, and then reject any evidence outside of that.

    That’s not the case. Science doesn’t tell us about Reality. It concerns what we can justifiably say about reality. “All there is is nature” may be true, but we can never say it with 100% certainty, since we can’t assay the totality of existence to check it.

    Science willingly limits itself to phenomena that are detectable, because making claims beyond that is unjustified. If Yahweh can produce something detectable, we’ll talk. Until then, we can’t say he’s not there, just that we can’t say anything about him. Just like the Easter bunny.

    >“There is no non-physical thing”

    Some scientists probably believe this, but I am agnostic about it and we don’t need to go that far. Being intellectually conservative, I am happy to say I don’t know if non-physical things exist. And you don’t, either.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 9, 2010, 11:22 AM
    • And so I must ask: What exactly your point is in regards to scientism?

      We’ve already demonstrated that, contrary to your previous claims, it is not a view shared by all mankind.

      We’ve demonstrated it is unqualified for making metaphysical claims.

      We’ve therefore shown that it is incapable of being used against theism.

      So what exactly is your point?

      “If [YHWH] can produce something detectable, we’ll talk. Until then, we can’t say he’s not there, just that we can’t say anything about him. Just like the Easter bunny.” [By the way, out of respect for our Jewish friends, please restrict talk of God to YHWH.]

      This, again, seems question begging, as there have been people throughout history who have indeed detected YHWH’s presence. This, of course, isn’t to mention the recent ID movement, evidence from cosmology, physics, etc. (see Spitzer’s “New Proofs for the Existence of God” for a wonderful analysis of new arguments for God based on physics/cosmology). But then, it seems to me that this is just your own bias showing through here. It would be an easier world if there weren’t any God, for some people.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 9, 2010, 12:11 PM
  7. >What apologists are doing is not starting with a verdict, they are acting as the defense lawyer–defending the innocence (veracity) of Christianity.

    Good point.

    You are still unqualified to act as a judge. You’re not persuadable by evidence. Any number of things would persuade me that Yahweh is true.

    I’m a former Christian. If anyone has the God gene, it is I. I was saved, I loved Jesus and I wanted as many people as possible to know Him.

    As I grew up, I saw that Jesus’ gift wasn’t for everyone. How could a good Muslim boy find Jesus? Leaving Islam is punishable by death and he trusts his parents. He’s as grateful to be a Muslim as Christians are to know Jesus. It’s absurd that good, loving people would be punished or cut off for believing what their parents tell them, particularly if they die when they’re 12.

    If Hell is full of 12 year old Muslim children, I’ll go there to serve water. Any good Christian should, too.

    Ultimately, even if Yahweh is real, we would have to rebel against him out of concern for each other. I don’t think he is real for scientific and logical reasons, but moral and humanitarian ones seal the deal.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 9, 2010, 11:27 AM
    • Your concept of hell and God is rather lacking, especially from a former Christian. It is perhaps a reflection on the need for good, Biblical education for Christianity today. For, as I’ve stressed before, people are judged by the knowledge they have. Romans 2:14-16 “(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” Your example of the Muslim boy therefore falls apart. This little boy is a “law unto himself”, judged by the knowledge he has. The knowledge you explicitly says he lacks is that of Jesus Christ. Yet Paul himself says that then this little boy is judged by what he does know, which is to know and worship God. It is like the scene which C.S. Lewis writes in The Last Battle, in which a man who worshiped Tash his whole life is saved by Aslan, for what the man worshiped as Tash was, in reality Aslan, he had simply not the knowledge that it was Aslan.

      This is my critical point in the post we’ve been commenting under–it is not epistemic salvation in Christianity, it is ontological. The epistemic part is necessary, but lenient, as we find in Romans 2. Your example, rather than serving as a case of God’s injustice, serves as a wonderful case study of how to apply Romans 2–this little boy would be in “Aslan’s Country”–in heaven–judged not by what he didn’t know, but by what he did know.

      Your version of YHWH is unscriptural and unfounded. You rebel against a god who is not God, a YHWH who is not YHWH. The real God reveals the truth in Scripture, and, again, Romans 2 illustrates this wonderfully.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 9, 2010, 11:47 AM
  8. >Your version of YHWH is unscriptural and unfounded.

    Perhaps. If you’re right, there are billions of misinformed Christians. And as always, your points are weakened by your bias. “Of course JW has an answer for that. He has to or his world falls apart.” No one believes defense lawyers. They’re just saying what they have to say.

    My defection is based on dozens of concerns, not just this one. Ultimately, I just don’t think he exists. The fact that I’m glad he doesn’t is beside the point.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 9, 2010, 11:56 AM
    • Don, I think your physicalist dogmatism gives you a bias too. That’s a difference between the average apologist and non-theist–at least the apologist admits there is a bias there. All people are biased. It’s just a matter of which way the bias leans.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 9, 2010, 12:04 PM
  9. Let’s say the boy is 14 or 16 or 18, has studied Christianity and has rejected it. It is still unjust to punish him. If faith is a virtue, then he is simply doing what good Christians do. The accident of his birth should not work against him.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 9, 2010, 11:58 AM
  10. >This, to me, is the height of chauvinism.

    I’m not claiming to be free of bias. I am biased toward the good of humanity and the natural world. When an idea, religious or otherwise, works against either of those, it is morally necessary to reject it.

    Your view is satisfying to you, mine is to me. Everyone gets to choose, but beliefs have consequences.

    I’m just a concerned human. Of course people can believe whatever they want and no one wants to limit religious freedom. But beliefs have consequences. “God is Love” and Hell don’t mix. The fact of human suffering rules out an omnipotent, loving god. Faith itself is a free-for-all that in many cases justifies bad behavior.

    These are pinch points that normally get glossed over. If we want our beliefs to be humane and make sense, we have to address them.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 9, 2010, 12:14 PM
    • ” “God is Love” and Hell don’t mix. The fact of human suffering rules out an omnipotent, loving god. Faith itself is a free-for-all that in many cases justifies bad behavior.”

      Assertions without argument. I see no reason for accepting these whatsoever.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 9, 2010, 12:19 PM
  11. >Assertions without argument. I see no reason for accepting these whatsoever.

    How many times do I have to say it? I am not addressing you or trying to persuade you. Your starting point is that you will not change your position. You were clear about that from the beginning. So, you are really an automaton, arguing in lockstep with Christianity. The only way you can grow or modify your position is to learn more about Christianity. That’s fine, it just disqualifies you from meaningful (to me, at least) discourse, including Philosophy. You will always only say what is in the best interest of your faith.

    Arguing with apologists is like arguing with a book. It’s fruitless; that’s why I don’t do it. I’m addressing your readers. For them, lets take a look at what JW is saying:

    >“God is Love” and Hell don’t mix.”
    Does this really require explanation or argument? I think the burden of proof is on Christians to relieve the tension between these doctrines.

    > The fact of human suffering rules out an omnipotent, loving god.
    The ancient Greeks knew this. Epicurus:

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    >Faith itself is a free-for-all that in many cases justifies bad behavior.

    JW’s Christianity and Muslim honor killing rest on the same foundation, faith. If faith is a valid way to obtain knowledge, we have no way to say one is wrong and one is right.

    Posted by Don Severs | September 10, 2010, 3:02 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,458 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,458 other followers

%d bloggers like this: