Religious Pluralism (A hypothetical dialogue)
P: So, you are a believer in God, eh? That’s awesome, I believe in God as well.
C: Yeah, yeah. I really wanted nothing to do with God until late in high school, then I started to take Jesus Christ seriously. From there, got got a hold of my life and started changing my habits and desires.
P: Oh, you’re a Christian. Right on, I really like talking to Christians. They have interesting perspectives on God.
C: What are some of the interesting perspectives that Christians have?
P: They tend to have a big view of God. I like that they consider God to be a creative force who is interactive with them. I have met several deeply spiritual and devoted Christians. I appreciate this about them. It spurs me on in my spirituality.
C: Is there something you tend to not like about Christians?
P: I think their view of God is too narrow. I think they struggle with trying to please God by stating a list of specific doctrinal truths. But God is not into these truths phrases; he is into people uniting under a banner of love. If Christians held off on their dogmas, they could leave a lot more room for unity and acceptance amongst various peoples.
C: You open up a lot of possible conversation right there. Do you mean to say that certain things cannot be said to be definitively true about God?
P: Kind of. I’m saying that the total concept of God allows for varying perspectives.
C: Interesting. So if one person says that God is a spirit and another person says that God is not a spirit, but a human body, can they both be right?
P: I know you’re going to think it looks like a contradiction. It’s not, though; it’s just the idea that God can manifest himself – or herself – differently to different people.
C: I’ll grant for the moment that what you say is a possibility. Maybe everybody’s idea of God is right, and God is just manifesting what he thinks people will embrace. So this could be listed as a possibility, I’ll bet you don’t live consistently with this idea.
P: Oh, I think I’m pretty consistent with it. But go ahead, explain what you mean.
C: All right, thanks for hearing me out…. You know what I look like, what I sound like, and my general personality. If we met up tomorrow, you would know when I walked into the room, would you not?
P: I think that’s right. I might mistake someone else for you here in there, though.
C: You might, but upon closer examination you would be able to tell whether or not it was really me.
P: OK, I’ll grant you that. But you’re also not an invisible, omnipresent being.
C: No, but I do have certain identifiable attributes… And isn’t that what it means to exist? How can something exist without having identifiable attributes?
P: I’m not saying that God doesn’t have identifiable attributes. It’s just that God is not overly obsessed with us having those down perfectly.
C: What is one of the attributes of God?
P: I think basically everyone agrees that God is love, or at least supremely interested in love.
C: Don’t be so sure. Taoists might say that God is a balance of good and evil. Some Hindus might say that God is neutral. even the world’s second largest religion – Islam – might say that God demonstrates both love and hate, both truth and dishonesty. So by saying that God is love – or supremely interested in love – you actually call many religious views of God wrong.
P: I try not to use black-and-white terms such as wrong and right. They might only have a small difference in their perspective. But God appreciates their effort and rewards them accordingly.
C: Look, you already agreed that you could identify me if I walked into a room. This is because I have certain distinguishing characteristics. If I did not have certain characteristics, then you could not know that I existed. What I proposed to you is that if God does not have certain distinguishing characteristics, then what you say you believe in does not really exist. It’s like saying, “I believe in circles that are squares, or the number two that has the value of three.” Such things cannot exist… And such a God as you propose cannot exist.
P: Hey, I understand that your view of God requires you to believe such things. But I would argue that my view of God is more open and no less correct. If it is the way that I see God, then nobody can really say that it is wrong in my case.
C: What you’re really suggesting is that your view of God is more correct than mine, let’s just be honest about that. And if that’s the case, then you really do believe that some ideas about God are wrong and some are right. Do you think that it is more correct to say that God embraces the whole multitude of religions than to say that God is the Christian God only?
P: I just think we are both trying to figure got out, and that he will reward us both…
C: It’s really just a yes or no question. Do you believe that it is more correct to say that God embraces the multitude of religions and then to say that he is the Christian God only? Yes or no.
P: … Yes. It is more correct in that it takes into account more of who God is. But it in no way implies that you are wrong.
C: You are saying that my claim that the Christian God most closely resembles God’s actual nature is also a correct statement. Since my statement is true and your contradictory statement is true, I would again argue that you have a view of God which requires contradictions. If the attributes are not identifiable – implying that they are contradictory – then such a God cannot exist. Therefore, the God that you say you believe in does not actually exist.
P: Well, I obviously disagree with that.
C: Is there a flaw in my logic? Or do you disagree with one of my premises?
P: I disagree that a contradiction is implied. It is not God being contradictory in nature, but God displaying himself differently in different occasions.
C: Fair enough. But you don’t live this way. If I were to walk out of the room and an 80-year-old woman walked into the room, you would know that the 80-year-old woman was not the same person as me. She could even walk in claiming to be me, and you wouldn’t buy it for a second.
P: That maybe true, but you’re not God.
C: Right! And how much more consistent would a perfect being be in his character and attributes than a flawed and fallible human?
P: Hey man, like I said, I enjoy talking with Christians and hearing their perspectives. This has been a nice challenging conversation.
C: Hey, I appreciate it. Let’s talk more about this soon.