Pluralism: Together but not the same

There has been much discussion of pluralism in this publication over the last few issues, most of which has arisen from an article written by sophomore Matthew Kuboushek. I believe his argument and proposal have both been misunderstood. I wish to both correct these misunderstandings and defend his argument, as well as make my own proposal.

Kuboushek’s proposal is that each religion ought to be able to make absolute truth claims and that the honest debate flowing naturally from this should be encouraged. He defines pluralism as the idea that all religions ought to not be critiqued, or at least defended as equal, which interferes with said honest debate. Kuboushek says nothing about infringing on freedom of religion or discriminating based on religion, just that we ought to call a spade a spade even when we are discussing religion.

Two responses were published in the Oct. 13 issue of The Lorian, each of which offered a different refutation of Kuboshek’s argument. One, “The problem with religious purism,” by alum Jim Earles, argues that since there is no incontrovertible proof that any one religion is true, each religion could be said to be true enough and that, “The human family is too large and diverse for one religion.” In senior Casey Flack’s article, “We are better together,” Mr. Flack claims that argument and debate only increase division in the world and do not bring us closer to the truth.

First, not all religions are equally true. They cannot be. While there may be not be incontrovertible proof regarding any of them, they make contradictory claims. For example, Christianity claims Jesus is the Son of God, while all other faiths claim he is not the Son of God. Jesus cannot both be the Son of God and not the Son of God; either Christianity is right or all other faiths are, at least in this regard. There cannot both be one earthly life followed by either damnation or eternal life, as Christianity claims, and a reincarnation resulting in multiple earthly lives followed by something else, as Hinduism claims. (Forgive me, I am no great scholar of Hinduism.) Either Christianity is true or Hinduism is; they cannot both be. Notice, I neither claim that Christianity is true nor that Hinduism is, I merely assert that they cannot both be true. Furthermore, religions can all be true where they agree and that agreement is in the truth. For example, many religions espouse some form of the Golden Rule; they can all be true in this regard.

Flack claims that arguing about religion is disrespectful and places the self above others. I disagree. Flack places this argument in the context of the ‘self’ as a possessor of special knowledge. This has not been the case in my debates with Kuboushek, in which we both have conceded points to the other while not only maintaining but strengthening our friendship. While it may seem impossible to have a charitable debate in the current political climate, I can assure you it is possible. Villainizing and polarization do not have to be byproducts of debate if we refuse to let them be. Furthermore, love requires working for the good of the other, including their betterment in the next life. I know that if I should avoid eating beef in order to have a better next life, I would certainly want my hypothetical Hindu friend to tell me so. I may not believe him. I may be irritated by him. But I would appreciate his concern.

Earles insists that this time spent arguing is not spent in the sincere practice of our faith, but I disagree. My own Christian faith, if none other, requires me to love the other and to will their good, which includes their salvation. I think, though, that Flack and I are closer to an agreement than we realize. Flack even quotes Eboo Patel, saying, “We have to save each other.” And I believe that concern, that desire to save each other, ought to be at the heart of any debate about religion.

I propose that we should acknowledge that, while we are together, we are not the same. We should not be afraid to use absolute truth claims while debating and discussing religion. I believe that it is possible to do this while respecting all, and I think that Flack and I generally agree that respectful dialogue is preferable to open strife. I simply believe that our differences must be as much a part of this dialogue as our similarities. Most importantly, I believe that we must acknowledge the value of the other in all of our interactions.

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