Religious Pluralism’s Humility Is God’s Will


For almost all of the 20th century issues of nationalism and socialism engaged the hearts, minds, and activities of large numbers of people throughout the world in ways that were both positive and negative. In the last two decades the rivalry and conflicts of these two ideologies have been in decline, and a world-wide religious revival is now occurring. Few can doubt that political-religious ideologies and movements in the 21st century can and will be both liberating and destructive for many societies as well as many millions of individuals.

People, organizations, and movements who are fully committed to contributing to a world at peace, and who are equally committed to respect both our own religion and our neighbor's, will need to do all we can to promote interfaith religious respect through the advocacy of humble religious pluralism as the will of God.

Religious pluralism as the will of God is very different from religious, moral, or cultural relativism. Relativism teaches that all values and standards are subjective, and therefore there is no higher spiritual authority available for setting ethical standards or making moral judgements. Thus, issues of justice, truth, or human rights are, like beauty, just in the eye of the beholder.

Most people, especially those who believe that One God created all of us, refuse to believe that ethics and human rights are simply a matter of taste. Religious pluralism as the will of God is the opposite of cultural or philosophical relativism.

The fundamental idea supporting religious pluralism is that religious people need to embrace humility in many areas of both politics and religion. All religions have always taught a traditional anti self-centered personal egoism type of humility. Religious pluralism also opposes a religious, philosophical, and self-righteous intellectual egoism that promotes a tendency to turn our legitimate love for our own prophet and Divine revelation into universal truths that we fully understand and know how to apply.

Religious pluralism teaches that finite humans, even the most intelligent and pious of them, can not fully understand everything the way the infinite One does. This is true, for every human being, even for God's  messengers themselves.

When prophet Moses “who God spoke with face to face, as a person speaks with a friend” (Exodus 33:11) asks to see God face to face, he is told, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see My face and live.” (33:20)

Similarly, in the Qur'an prophet Jesus admits to God, “You know everything that is within myself, whereas I do not know what is within Yourself”. (5:116) In  the New testament when prophet Jesus is asked, in private, by his disciples, “What will be the sign for your coming (back) and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus warns his disciples about all kinds of upheavals and false Messiahs that will come. Then Jesus concludes by saying, “But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the son: only the Father”. (Matthew 24:36)

A similar statement was made by Prophet Muhammad when he was asked, "Tell me about the Hour." He replied: "The one questioned about it, knows no better than the questioner." (Muslim book 1:1&4)  And Prophet Muhammad taught the general principle of epistemological humility to his followers when he said, “I am no novelty among the messengers. I do not know what will be done to me, or to you.” (Qur'an 46:9)

If, even the messengers of God humbly admit that they do not know the answers to many questions, how much more should we ordinary believers refuse to claim to know it all? When it comes to religious truths, we can see them, but only in part. The part we can see derives from the prophets and the holy scriptures that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been blessed with.

As the Qur'an declares, “Every people has a direction towards which they turn; so compete together wherever you may be as if in a race towards all that is good. Surely Allah will bring you all together.” (2:148) Religions are to compete with one another, but not by claiming to be in possession of a better or higher truth. Religions should compete in doing good deeds. This is a test of the commitment and effectiveness of each community leaders, and the sincerity and devotion of each religion's followers.

Competing in doing good deeds is a test for us as sincere believers. It is not a test for determining which religion has the truest truth.

Therefore, God made us into many nations, and many religions. “For each We have appointed a clear way of life and a comprehensive system. If Allah had so willed He would surely have  made you a single community: but (didn't) to test you by what (Scripture) He granted you. So, compete together as if competing in good works. All of you will (ultimately) return to Allah and then He will make you understand what you have differed about.” (5:48)

Only after resurrection, at the time of final judgements, will humans be able to understand the full meaning of their various sacred scriptures, and the truths contained in the differences between them. In this world, God has determined that religious humility should rule.


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