Is it okay to coexist?

Juan Casas, Courier Staff

Since the dawn of humanity there has always been one question that has haunted our species since we first discovered the wheel, is there a God?

Last night professor of philosophy at university of Indiana, Tim O’Conner, attempted to give his own answer and he did not disappoint. According to O’Connor, it is reasonable and morally acceptable to hold onto your own religious beliefs, as long as you respect that others may not share your opinion. Indeed, it is refreshing to see and hear a presentation of why it is okay to reject strict pluralism.

Religion and philosophy date back even before the time of Christ. Yet, the theory of strict pluralism is relatively new. Strict pluralism is the belief that each major religion, from Christianity to Hinduism, is all pieces of a larger puzzle. Each religion is only a small glimpse of the truth, the “Ultimate Truth” or the “Divine Plan.” There has been growing acceptance of this doctrine by the public, since about three to four decades ago. It is easy to see how this idea can be appealing to people who want an unbiased look on religion.

It is easy to accept because on the surface it appears to be unique, in that it attempts to bring into a collective or otherwise competitive theologies of the time, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and many more. Strict pluralism is based on two primary principles. First, that if you cannot convince others who are debating in good will and who are rational and relatively well informed about your own opinions or religious beliefs, then to maintain your beliefs after this is arrogant. Yet, O’Conner explained that this principle must also be applicable to strict pluralism, and if it is then it quickly becomes self-evident that strict pluralism can’t stand against its own founding principle. For example, if pluralists can’t convince traditionalists that pluralism is correct, which they cannot, then by its own parameters based on its founding principle, it would be arrogant for pluralists to exist after failing to convince traditionalists. Second, strict pluralism holds that it is not only arrogant to retain your beliefs after failing to convince others but it is also irrational.

Once again, strict pluralism is snagged in its own web. If pluralists cannot convince traditionalist Christians that all religion is interconnected then to continue to be pluralistic is by default irrational.

O’Conner uses a well-known parable about three blind men and an elephant to clearly indicate how pluralistic ideology can falter under proper scrutiny. The idea goes as follows, three blind men are touching different parts of an elephant, one holds the trunk, the other the foot, and the last one holds on to the beast’s stomach.

Each blind man swears up and down that they know what they are holding, one says a snake, another says a tree, and the last one says a large painters canvass. As illustrated, it is easy to see how pluralists can feel they are correct, the problem with this is that the pluralists hold themselves to be the only person in the room who can see the elephant, and that is how they know that the Christian, Muslim and Hindus are only holding onto parts of the Ultimate Truth. This belief is contradictory because pluralism in itself admits that no one can know the entire truth, thus in the parable of the three blind men and the elephant, the pluralist would just be another blind man guessing what they are all touching. Hence, without the overall knowledge of the truth it is by default incorrect.

Another reason why O’Conner argues against strict pluralism is its limited view of the world. Traditionalists like Christians and Muslim use their religion to shed light on the universe, they have a very ample understanding why things happen, albeit one based on faith. For example, Christians believe that if you follow Christ you will enter heaven, while other cultures believe in something similar. While pluralists simply admit they do not know what happens, this then creates a theory that doesn’t really help explain anything relative to the questions that religion aims to understand.

Finally, the main reason strict pluralism is faulty is because it is logically unsound, contradictory in nature and overall obscure.