Religious Symbols

RELIGIOUS PLURALISM
the Soul of One God

Religious Pluralism is epitomized in the view that all major religions are just different perspectives on the same God. This common sense idea appeals intuitively to many believers because it is quite true, when you look beyond characteristic distinctions. For the sake of all, it deserves to be taken seriously, as a potential blueprint for peace, whether or not we can ever really 'prove' that it is true. As the great idealist philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, practical reason requires us to "act as if God exists."

For it is not God (whose will it may however be), but pure reason that gives us the prime moral directive, which boils down to: Act only as you would have everybody act. At the same time, practical reason tells us that it is only from the rational systematic unity of One God (creating all humankind equal); that we know unequivocally that morality must take a universal view.

In the past, religious misunderstandings have caused immense grief, but civilization is rapidly approaching the point where the very survival of the world depends on overcoming anti-social religious conflicts, and the negative impacts of increasing population on the planet. The human race can no longer afford religious strife that divides people and disturbs urgent cooperation on mutual issues such as conservation and sharing of resources, combating climate change, stimulating healthy economic growth, etc.

Peace in the world requires peace among religions. Integral religious pluralism is a necessary paradigm shift whose time has come.

The diversity of religions may be rooted in the diversity of the divine life itself. Pluralism claims that religious differences are best seen as the ways in which different cultures have perceived and interpreted messages and representatives of God. However, the religions which have sprung from them are not necessarily the perception of many different Gods. It is rather more likely that the One and Same God may pervade most of them, casting multiple expressions of his multi-dimensional nature.

Religious pluralism is premised on the significance of real spiritual differences as a source of vibrancy and strength - same God, but slightly different flavors and distinct characteristics. Pluralism is the engagement not the abandonment of distinctions. Diversity is healthy and something to be celebrated. As well as being democratic, Pluralism also has the virtue of being a universal moral worldview.

Not God, but pure reason dictates, and practical reason authorizes us to assume the prime moral directive expressed personally in the Golden Rule, which is universal among all major religions; and more generally in the One Categorical Imperative, enunciated by the great philosopher.

Kant's moral argument may be stated quite simply: God is not directly apparent in the phenomenal material world, but may exist in a noumenal spiritual realm. Since humans can 'know' nothing directly about the noumenal realm, the existence of God cannot be 'proven' beyond a doubt. However, to account for moral feelings of conscience, the existence of 'objective' moral law, and the rationality of pursuing the highest good (universal morality as a means to greatest happiness) we must assume the existence of God.

It is for the highest theoretical and practical reasons of systematic unity that we will that the maxim of our actions should conform to a universal law. This objective moral law - the categorical imperative - is expressed personally in the Golden Rule; Do as you would be done by others. In regard to any action of moral significance, this rule prompts the personal question: "How would you like it if somebody did that to you?" In more general terms, the universal categorical imperative boils down to; Act as you would have everyone act, which suggests the universal question regarding the morality of any contemplated action: "What if everybody did that?"

Part of the argument is that if there is no ultimate standard of morality (no God), then our constructs of moral reason have no basis, other than our feelings about their goodness. Then, moral maxims must be a matter of taste and muddled reason; and then there is no sound foundation for world-wide law and justice. But if there is no absolutely universal basis for morality (that most people can at least dimly sense and recognize), then mediocre maxims become acceptable (e.g. When in Rome do as the Romans do... Look out for number one, and devil take the hindmost... etc.). Then ultimately, even anti-social maxims bespeaking elitist attitudes are no longer not questioned, but are respected, and even celebrated by some (e.g., David Hume's famous moral question: "Why should I not prefer the destruction of worlds, to the scratching of my finger?" - What's it to me?).

Thus, we conclude that we must assume that there is One God upholding the absolute universal law of justice, mercy, and ethical behaviour; which is expressed in the personal Golden Rule (taught by Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and many others), as well as in the universal moral law of the One Categorical Imperative enunciated by Kant. This is the common denominator of the highest expression of objective morality, and we take it from Hegel that the highest idea is the absolute of its kind, and the Absolute of all kinds is God.

In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute Creator, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator) - Unconditioned Absolute Spirit of All That Is. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept embracing three fundamental human attitudes.

Jesus came to proclaim spiritual liberty, encouraging free personality and spiritual originality, within the broad limitations of spiritual unity. Christianity and Hinduism have brought us a threefold concept of One God. But, just as Jesus/Krishna may be regarded as the universal Supreme Being, so Buddha/Lao Tzu may be seen as apostles of the mysterious Holy Ghost or Infinite Spirit, and Muhammad/Moses as messengers of the almighty Creator.

Samuel Stuart Maynes
stumaynes@hotmail.com