In contrast to pluralism and relativism is a third response to the conflicting truth claims of the religions: exclusivism. The term is used in different ways in religious discourse, but a common element is that the central tenets of one religion are true, and claims which are incompatible with those tenets are false. Another common and related element is that salvation is found exclusively in one religion. Regarding the truth claim, for example, for a Muslim exclusivist, Allah is the one true God who literally spoke to the prophet Muhammad in space and time. Since that is true, then the Advaita Vedantan claim that Brahman (God) is nirguna —without attributes—must be false, for these two understandings of Ultimate Reality contradict one another. The same is the case for all religious exclusivists; since they take their religious claims to be objectively true, the contrary claims of other religions are false. This does not mean that exclusivists are not self-critical of their own beliefs, nor does it rule out the practice of dialoguing with or learning from religious others. But it does mean that religious differences are real and that there are intractable disagreements among religious traditions. Religious exclusivism (of which Alvin Plantinga is one prominent example) has been the most widely held position among the adherents of the major world religions.
Copyright © 2010 Tim Holt. All Rights Reserved
If British Empiricism combined skepticism towards religious dogma with a largely friendly attitude towards faith, the atmosphere dramatically changed once the movement crossed the channel and developed in 18th century France . Deism was first introduced in England by Lord Herbert of Cherbury and was meant to define the rational features of religion in order to overcome factionalism. French deists like Voltaire , on the other hand, developed views that relegated religion to an intellectual exercise with an added social function (there had to be a logical First Cause to the world, and such a belief was also needed to maintain social stability). Later thinkers like Denis Diderot and Helvetius made the step to full-fledged atheism , rejecting even the rationale supported by the deists. Natural theology had become a way of rejecting theology based on revelation, rather than supporting it. Eventually, it too was abandoned.
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