“If you were born in India, you’d probably be a Hindu.” “What of those sincere believers in other faiths, are you suggesting they are wrong?” “Jesus is just one of the many ways towards salvation/bliss/righteousness/etc.”
These are the types of “bumper sticker” quotes Christians often get in our pluralistic society. I’ll be focusing on only one of the many problems with views such as these:
The argument against theism from religious pluralism rests on the implicit assumption that all religions are equally veridical.
The religious pluralist (or the objector to religious belief) who uses arguments like these unjustifiably makes the assumption that all religions are on equal ground (epistemically–on equal footing in the realm of knowledge). That this assumption is made is fairly evident, but we can illustrate it with a thought experiment (ignore some of the disanalogies–this is for example only):
Suppose Bob believes that he is reading a book, An Introduction to Philosophy. Now, suppose Steve else comes along and says “You can’t be sure that you’re right in your belief that you are reading An Introduction to Philosophy–after all, there are billions of people who read books which are not An Introduction to Philosophy. And they think they know what they are reading. How can you be sure that you are reading An Introduction to Philosophy? You may be reading a book on psychology, or a novel!”
Bob responds by saying, “Well, I can look at the cover and see the title. I can open it up and see the ISBN and confirm by searching for the ISBN online that it is only tied to An Introduction to Philosophy. The contents certainly seem as though they would match a book of that title. Also, I know the authors name is Jane Doe and this is the only book she’s ever written.”
The key point is that Bob has some very good reasons for thinking that he is reading An Introduction to Philosophy. Steve’s objection assumed that there was no way to determine what book Bob was reading.
Religious pluralists often do the same thing. They ask “How can you know you are right?” or “How do you know yours is the only true religion?” The assumption seems to be that there are no criteria for determining whether one religion is to be favored over another (again, using these terms in an epistemic sense–the sense having to do with knowledge). SO, let’s revisit the scenario:
Bob is sitting contemplating the universe. He’s a Christian, and Steve knows it. Steve comes along and says “Bob, how do you know you’re right? The Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Muslim all think they are just as right as you.”
Bob responds, “Well, I think there are very good reasons to think Christianity is true. There are cosmological, teleogical, and ontological arguments which I believe are quite successful. If they are successful, Buddhism and Hinduism are wrong. And I think the Gospels are quite reliable due to the standard historical criteria such as the principle of embarrassment and multiple attestation. But if the Gospels are reliable (and Jesus died and rose again), then Islam is wrong too. So I don’t think those other religions are on equal footing with my own faith. Christianity seems to me to have the most explanatory power.”
The assumption that all religions are on equal footing seems patently false. Why should we think that Hinduism = Buddhism = Islam = Christianity = Jainism (etc.) when it comes to whether or not we can evaluate their truth? The religious pluralist simply assumes we cannot. However, in light of the evidence for Christianity, it seems the world religions are not all on equal epistemic ground.
Finally, the pluralist objection assumes that it is, itself, on a higher epistemic ground than its rivals. The pluralist believes that, while all religions are equally veridical, pluralism itself is true. Yet pluralism’s truth entails the falsehood of large portions of theistic, pantheistic, and atheistic belief. Pluralism must chop away the incompatible components in the world’s religions in order to make way for a distorted view of reality. What reason do we have for holding on to pluralism when we have much better reasons to think Christianity is true?
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.