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8 Has Normative Religious Pluralism a Rationale? Keith E. Yandell In what follows, I assume that there actually are religions.1 What we call religions are not simply scholarly artifacts. This assumption is shared by religious pluralism, both descriptive and normative. If there are not, religious pluralism must be at least radically recast. I am not assuming that there is an essence of religion, but merely that there are self-identifying communities that center at least part of their lives around institutions, rites, rituals, and ceremonies that are shaped in terms of beliefs about a certain sort of matter that I will describe in terms of diagnosis and cure. A religion, I suggest, offers a diagnosis of some deep spiritual disease that plagues us all and proposes a cure for that disease. Religions can be differentiated by reference to what pairing of disease and cure their adherents embrace. The diagnoses and cures assume, or are offered from the perspective of, a set of metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical claims—with ethical being broadly construed as “concerning values.” Thus, each religion, at least implicitly, accepts some view in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.2 These claims are either true or false, and typically adherents of a religion suppose that those accepted as normative in their religion are true. While there have been challenges to this general account of things, I believe that—with sufficient fine-turning that cannot be done here—this account is true. A religion, we have suggested, gives a diagnosis of a deep spiritual disease that plagues us all and proposes a cure for it. Devotees of a particular religion are those who accept that diagnosis and seek that cure, and that are serious about doing so. For any religion R, there will be people who participate in R’s institutions, rite(s), practices, and ceremonies who do so from social, familial, political, cultural, or economic reasons or simply from habit. These are not 163 devotees, but they belong to Rdom (e.g., Christendom), Rism (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism), or the like. Our focus will be on that to which the devotees are devoted—that to which the adherents adhere. Since the diagnoses and cures differ, and the status of something as cure depends on its providing healing from the disease, religions differ in ways that are significant to their adherents.3 Conversion to another religion, or abandoning a religion for some secularism, is a major change. It is like switching to a different treatment for a different illness or stopping going to doctors altogether when one’s major prior focus had been on the success of the treatment—only more so. There are theories of meaning and justification on which what seem, and purport to be, religious claims, actually express nothing either true or false. These, I take it, are utter failures.4 The view that all of our concepts are abstracted from sensory experience and can only be applied to the sort of things that were experienced in the process of our abstracting them cannot even explain what the view is intended to be—namely, a theory of meaning. This is so for Hume’s less formal and logical positivism’s more formal attempts. Thus, again, I take it that there really are religious views of the world, and—like any other sort—they are either true of false. Strictly speaking, the propositions that make up such views are either true or false, and in any religion, there may be some of each. That said, my concern is with normative religious pluralism, which rides piggyback on descriptive religious pluralism. Descriptive religious pluralism simply reports that the different world religions teach different, and logically incompatible, things; their teachings are either logically contradictory or logically contrary to other teachings. Normative religious pluralism proscribes what we are to do with the facts that its distinct descriptive cousin reports. I take it that no one without a large ax to grind will deny the truth of descriptive religious pluralism. For the remainder of this essay, by pluralism I mean normative religious pluralism. The Controversial Content of Normative Religious Pluralism Since it seems often to be supposed that pluralism is simply a reaction to the comparatively recent detailed knowledge of other religions we now possess, it seems to me proper to remember some other features of pluralism’s conceptual environment. Pluralism arose in a context in which controversy concerning the reliability of historical reports regarding what Jesus did and said plays...


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