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Religious Pluralism: The Necessity of the 21st Century

Religious Pluralism

The questions of religions and their compatibility with one another tend to become more important nowadays. The reason is that the current world is more global, and people with different religious and cultural backgrounds communicate with each other on a daily basis. Therefore, they need to understand whether the ideas expressed by the protagonists of various religious are similar or antagonistic. The current paper examines the problem in detail relying on Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and other religions. Such examination is especially important in the 21st century as various interpretations of different religions exist, and some people may interpret some religions in a way that promotes violence or aggression against the representatives of other religions. The given paper shows that the fundamental principles advocated by all major religions are similar, and religious pluralism is the urgent necessity of the current historical period.

Modern people need to have the common ground for solving their problems and concerns because religions allow promoting not only basic legal norms but also moral behaviour and choices (Smith, 2009). It is also highly important because strict legal regulations cannot organise properly all aspects of society. People need to act in a way that is consistent with the interests of others. In such way, the social harmony can be reached. Therefore, it is necessary to specify those aspects that can create a common ground for people of different religions. They should be universal for all people without any exception and considered as being just by all of them.

It seems that the first foundational principle is non-aggression in relation to other people. No one should have any legal or moral right to initiate any form of aggression against others. Such idea is supported explicitly by all major religions. Christianity promotes the ideas that people should not kill each other and other similar principles (Mason, 2015). Islam is also a peaceful religion that promotes peace in all aspects of life despite some incorrect interpretations of Islam claim that it promotes violence to the representatives of other religions. Buddhism also does not tolerate aggression and promotes the achievement of the state of “awakening” through regular spiritual practices and reaching the harmony with the entire universe. Confucianism does not tolerate aggression in any form. Hinduism advocates the principle of ahimsa that includes not only the prohibition of killing but also implicit forms of aggression against others. Considering the fact that all people have some eternal elements of spiritual energy, no one is allowed to violate the divine order. Thus, all major religions recognise that non-aggression and peaceful cooperation are the basic principles that should be followed in all life situations.

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The second principle is the respect for other people and their views. It is the extension of the first principle as it creates additional moral obligations. The first principle per se does not resolve all potential social problems as people can be both non-aggressive and immoral simultaneously. For example, they cannot initiate aggression towards others but still remain dishonest or impolite. Such sphere cannot be regulated by legal norms, but religions and morality can encourage more responsible modes of behaviour. Christianity supports such principle explicitly as it encourages all people to behave in a way they prefer observing in relation to themselves (Mason, 2015). Due to the fact that all people want to see the respectful attitude, they have to adjust their behaviour accordingly. The request of universality formulated by Christianity seems to be well-understood by people. Islam promotes tolerance to the views of others, as well. The conversion to Islam is possible only in a voluntary way and if a person comprehends fully all major ideas of Islam. Buddhism also supports tolerance as it realises that all people are non-perfect, especially before reaching the state of “awakening”. Confucianism stresses the need for respecting others, especially elderly people (Cooke, 2011). Hinduism suggests that all people should experience the process of spiritual development, and any forms of aggression are inadmissible.

It is also possible to formulate the third principle to create the coherent framework. The third principle is that one has the right but not the obligation to use force in response to the aggression initiated by other people. Such principle refers to the situation when other social members violate the first principle and are unable or unwilling to cooperate peacefully with others. In this case, any individual should have the legitimate right to use force to minimise the observed aggression. At the same time, he/she should be free to use the right or not. For example, Christianity encourages accepting other people’s misbehaviour and not to respond in a similar way (Mason, 2015). Islam advocates the responsible attitude towards improper behaviour of others. Buddhism suggests that aggression can only lead to additional sufferings. Confucianism supports the use of force only in cases where there are no other alternatives for promoting justice (Cooke, 2011). The supporters of Hinduism have different opinions regarding the consistency of self-defence principles and ahimsa.

In general, it is evident that the major principles and ideas advocated by all major religions in relation to aggression and the proper human conduct are very similar. All of them stress that there are no better alternatives than a peaceful cooperation among all people. It is necessary to act in accordance with the universal moral law and do not have unjustified claims or expectations in relation to others. Such modes of behaviour can be consistent only if they reflect people’s internal belief in the just social order and their eagerness to act according to God’s will.

Taking into account the above issues, it seems that non-aggression should be considered as being “non-negotiable” by all social members in all countries of the world (Mason, 2015). Despite the existing cultural and worldview differences, all people should respect the integrity and property of others. Therefore, all forms of aggression and violence are inadmissible. It can be the only non-negotiable principle as it establishes the framework for the mutually beneficial cooperation in the given sphere (Jacobs-Vandegeer, 2014). In relation to the ways of implementing such principle, various options are possible. In this context, all ways that are mutually beneficial for all parties involved can be tolerated and encouraged.

In order to promote the above principles consistently, it is reasonable to use the following teachings. The first one is the existence of the universal order (Mason, 2015). It means that all people are subject to the same universal principles and moral norms. All monotheistic religions, such as Christianity or Islam derive the given principle from the existence of one God. Other religions (Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, etc.) support the cosmological order but also recognise that the universal order exists (Cooke, 2011). The second one is the existence and a high significance of the soul (Mason, 2015). All religions recognise that humans have the soul, and it is eternal and cannot die. Thus, they encourage people to be concentrated on behaving morally according to the principles of justice and ethics.

The third issue is that God is inside all people. It means that they are in contact with God through their own personal experience. Therefore, people should use both reason and their internal experience for comprehending the essence of God and the moral behaviour. Even non-theistic religions, such Buddhism and others, recognise that people have the internal source of moral actions and choices. The fourth one is the ability to comprehend the hidden spiritual information and knowledge (Cooke, 2011). It means that people can use their reason, experience, the internal knowledge, and sacred texts for forming the correct understanding. At the same time, all religions recognise that human intellectual capabilities are non-perfect, and they should devote all their lives to exploring the hidden religious messages. However, all their efforts will be remunerated correspondingly. In such way, all religions promote the specific lifestyle. It should be based on the desire to work hard, if it is necessary for fulfilling God’s will.

The fifth principle states that the whole humanity constitutes the unity (Jacobs-Vandegeer, 2014). All people share the most common characteristics and should move in the direction created by God. All individuals have the common interests, and if they want to enjoy the eternal life, they should cooperate with each other. Thus, they should not consider each other as competitors but as members of the same family in a broader sense.

It seems that some common rituals and feasts can be shared by the representatives of different religions to promote tolerance and intercultural dialogue. The first ritual is parades, which people may use to demonstrate their diversity and unity. They refer to the public celebration of some common and important events (Mason, 2015). In this way, people with different backgrounds and views may feel as being the part of the broader union. It is highly important for promoting the feelings of tolerance and mutual trust. The second ritual is the organised physical exercises (for example, some modification of hatha yoga) that can be fulfilled by different people. Consequently, different people can fulfil the same exercises and comprehend that their similarities exceed their differences (Jacobs-Vandegeer, 2014). Moreover, the fact of fulfilling some common work will unite people even at a sub-conscious level.

It is also possible to celebrate New Year’s Day by the representatives of different religions. Considering the fact that this feast is only indirectly related to the religious background, it does not impose any restraints on the members of various religious groups. Moreover, every New Year is associated with additional expectations and hopes, and it is the optimal environment for developing some mutual understanding of the external reality. As a result, people can be more open to creating new forms of strategic partnerships that are based on tolerance towards the representatives of all religions.

It may be concluded that religious pluralism is the objective necessity of the 21st century because it reflects the existing diverse world. Although the major religions have some differences, they demonstrate the common understanding of the most basic and fundamental principles. It creates the proper foundation for the strategic cooperation and collaboration between the representatives of different religious groups and cultures. The principle of non-aggression should be “non-negotiable”, i.e. it should be considered as being absolute and not include any exceptions.

The deep investigation of religious beliefs also shows that the main aspects regarding the role of the soul and God in human lives are common to all religions. All of them recognise the prevalence of the spiritual life over the physical one, as well as the ability to comprehend the major religious issues with the help of reason, faith, and one’s internal experience. It is necessary to promote such positive tendencies through parades and the complexes of physical exercises. The common celebration of New Year’s Day can also be productive and effective from the perspective of uniting people. Such cooperation can be enriching and contribute to the development of society in general.