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Religious Pluralism

As I signed up on-line for spring courses at NOVA, one class description simply read "Religions in America".  Well, that's curious.  I knew the prof.  I'd taken "Religions of the World: Eastern Traditions" and "The Life & Teachings of Jesus" with her.  I sorta knew what to expect.  Okay then.

At the first class when we received the syllabus, there was more to the course description.  "Religions In America surveys manifestations of religion in the American experience.  It emphasizes concepts, problems, and issues of religious pluralism and the character of American religious life."  I thought I had an inkling as to what this might be about. 

The syllabus had some on-line resources cited for research purposes.  One took me to The Pluralism Project (at Harvard University) where I found this introduction to religious pluralism:

What is Pluralism?

The plurality of religious traditions and cultures has come to characterize every part of the world today. But what is pluralism? Here are four points to begin our thinking:

  • First, pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Diversity can and has meant the creation of religious ghettoes with little traffic between or among them. Today, religious diversity is a given, but pluralism is not a given; it is an achievement. Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.
  • Second, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Tolerance is a necessary public virtue, but it does not require Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and ardent secularists to know anything about one another. Tolerance is too thin a foundation for a world of religious difference and proximity. It does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves in place the stereotype, the half-truth, the fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly.
  • Third, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. The new paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.
  • Fourth, pluralism is based on dialogue. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the “table” will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table -- with one’s commitments.
—Diana L. Eck

Today the books I ordered for class arrived.  Good thing.  I have two chapters to read before Thursday night's class.  As I started into A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation by Diana L. Eck, two thoughts just flew across my radar: 

             " ... One Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All"  AND  "In God We Trust".

Hmmm.  This class should be interesting.  I have a feeling it may rock my world.  I'm really looking forward to this.