Responses to Religious Diversity




Conrad, Ralph Linded

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Thesis question: Which of three theories of possible responses to religious diversity (religious exclusivism, religious pluralism, or religious relativism) is the better position in which to face the increasing religious diversity in 21st century America? Guided by William James’ pragmatic model, I have examined some possible practical consequences of a shift from a religious exclusivist view as represented by Alvin Plantinga to either a pluralistic religious view as represented by John Hick or a religious relativistic view as represented by Joseph Runzo. I selected four practical consequences for the individual religious practitioner and two practical consequences for the religious community. The primary goal of the practical consequences is to facilitate a peaceful environment and relationship for diverse religions and their practitioners.

I choose the following six practical consequences to evaluate for a specific historical religious community: contemporary American Christians.

Consequences for Individuals: • Giving due to others’ rights and thus facilitation of a strong working relationship with members of other religions • facilitation of attitudes of trust and goodwill • facilitation of friendship, camaraderie, hospitality, empathy, and compassion • facilitation of intellectual humility

Consequences for Groups and Societies • facilitation of societal cooperation and peace • facilitation of social justice including justice as giving due to religious freedom and citizens’ rights and basic liberties

After comparing and contrasting how each of the three theories’ responses to religious diversity might fare, I conclude that a pluralistic position might be the better position from which American Christians can respond to religious diversity in the contemporary world.



religious diversity, religious exclusivism, religious pluralism, religious relativism