¶ … PLURALISM BEST FOR SOCIETY?
Diversity and Pluralism
Is Pluralism the Best Outcome for Society?
Is Pluralism the Best Outcome for Society?
Diana Eck (1997) takes great pains to distinguish between diversity and pluralism, as it relates to the religions practiced in the United States. The word 'diversity' simply means that Americans practice more than one religion, but a religious pluralism implies an ongoing effort by each faith to engage with each other to negate the negative outcomes often associated with diversity. For example, Eck (1997) list three philosophies individuals may turn to when faced with religious diversity: exclusion, assimilation, and pluralism. An exclusionary philosophy demands that members of other religions, should they desire a life in America, strip themselves of their religious affiliation if it differs from the dominant religious faith in America, i.e., Christianity. A person supporting an assimilation philosophy would welcome diversity, but only if immigrants promised to quickly adopt a Christian faith after settling in America. By contrast, a pluralistic philosophy not only welcomes diversity, but also invites non-Christian faiths to engage in the American discourse without losing their unique identities.
Eck (1997) argues that religious pluralism in America is the ideal outcome, based in part on the negative social outcomes that can occur when diversity is treated using exclusion or assimilation. Diversity, unfortunately, can exist side by side with intolerance....
Religious ghettos, for example, have existed in the U.S. In the past. Religious tolerance alone, according to Eck (1997), is not enough to create a pluralistic society. Direct and purposeful engagement is required, with the goal of acknowledging, accepting, and valuing diversity. Pluralism requires the recognition of the common ground rules encoded in the First Amendment, while bringing to the table both differences and similarities in beliefs and practices. Striving for a religious pluralism therefore requires learning about and accepting differences, which will result in the creation of a more complex and richly-textured society. Eck (1997) sees no downside to this goal.
A slightly more pessimistic view of pluralism was presented by Thomas McFaul (2006). His treatise on religious diversity and pluralism also used three outcomes: exclusion, pluralism, and inclusivism. His definition of exclusion mirrors Eck's (1997), however, pluralism from his perspective is the practice of learning how to tolerate and accept each other's differences. The outcome of religious pluralism is a more productive society as the destructiveness of exclusion is actively negated through tolerance. This would be possible if religious leaders identified and emphasized the common ethical principles espoused by the world's religions. In contrast, Inclusivism strives to move beyond pluralism to discover a common worldview. This is accomplished by seeking a common greater Truth, thereby rendering religious differences irrelevant.
Both Eck (1997) and…
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