The Solution: Religious Pluralism

In the course of this article, we will attempt to understand the fragments of the religious pluralism which was propelled by John Hick, who was influenced by Immanuel Kant in his postulations. We see a clear motivation being significantly drawn from Kant’s readings in the writings of Hick on pluralism. We start in the words of Immanuel Kant: “Religion is the realization of all our duties as the divine commands”. Let us understand the essentials of this theory in order to comprehend things into its right perspective and solve the problem of religious diversity through this mature philosophical response.

Hick initiates his inquiry into this essential aspect with the point that, there are many different religions in the world and they all are having one common underlying feature, i.e. of the transformation, from self-centeredness to reality-centeredness. As he contends, “This is happening throughout all the different religious traditions in the world. This means that, there is not one but ‘plural’ way of attaining salvation and liberation”. It becomes obvious to take the reference of Kant wherein he contends that, “Phenomena” is the things as experienced by the humans given the categories of one’s mind; the side wherein the things as they appear to us. In the case of “Noumena” it is the things as they are. In this case, salvation becomes the portion of noumena and ways of achieving becomes the portion of phenomena.

Hick believes that how people experience things is based on the interpretive concepts through which one understands the things and objects differently. He extends his argument by citing that, people understand or experience it as (1) personalistic thesistic notion, for example: the allah or yahweh, or the trinity; (2) in impersonal pantheistic notion, for example: the nirguna brahman; additionally, some people experience it in (3) non personalistic notion, for example: the nirvana state. Moving ahead, he asserts that, through the jain parable in indian philosophy wherein we find the reference of the elephant and blind men who were asked to determine how is the elephant- its shape, size so on and so forth, out of those blind men, the who was touching the trunk of the elephant had different saying about the elephant from the one who was touching the limbs or legs or tail or ears of the same elephant; this clearly tells that how they all were telling about the same animal through different perspectives and different sides and all were right in their assertion- just the way, as in the case of Wittgenstein’s example, of a painting of a duck-cat; in this image the one who saw duck and others who saw a cat- they all were right in their responses to assert what was the painting about.

Similar is the case with religion as well, we all are hailing from different religious sects and we have different perspectives about that one infinite reality- the reality which is not bounded by any limitations which are not created by his own will, the reality which is not limited or constrained by anything at all; we are talking about the same reality through the different lens of religious interpretations and religious experiences and by different doctrines, all of which, according to John Hick are true and valid equally.

This idea has been bitterly criticized by range of academicians and philosophers alike for the following reasons which are believed to be the negative loopholes and product of the critical investigation initiated on this idea, and they are as follows:

(1) It only produces logical contradiction- in the sense that at one point Hick says that his idea is that of wherein all the religions are equal in matters of producing great saints, nobel teachings and equal in their claims, but what about the case of Satanism then? Additionally, even hick is found to be saying that his idea is superior and more true than any other idea- if this is the case, then how can he assert that no religion is superior in the matter of producing ideas, or saints? How can come out of this apparent self-contradiction? What is the way out of this logical inconsistency they ask.

(2) It has been argued that pluralism could only lead a person to skepticism- in the sense that, how can we be sure that the ideas and knowledge produced and nature of god is supposed to be actually true and it is not merely a figment of a person’s imagination- or his psychological ideas? This only pushes a person in the wrath of skepticism.

We can conclude by the aforementioned pointers that this idea is not another theory in the level of theology and religion, but rather, it is, more appropriately, a higher order activity. It is dealing with religion in a non hegemonic way and having a liberal stand on conflicting points of views. He is trying to produce the image of god which is neither personal nor impersonal through this theory as has been contended by John Hick himself: “These traditions are accordingly to be regarded as alternative soteriological ‘spaces’ within which, or ‘ways’ along which, men and women can find salvation/liberation/ultimate fulfillment” (An Interpretation of Religion, 2d. Ed. 240). Thereby, we have understood how the omniscient god- who is having all the knowledge of past, present and future of the events of the universe and whose knowledge is proper, pure and unlimited; we have seen how this aspect of tremendous importance for humankind has been interpreted by John Hick.

Hick John; An interpretation of religion.
Kant Immanuel; Critique of pure reason.
Hick John; Introduction to philosophy of religion.

Previous articleBrahmanhood difference in Shankara and Ramanuja
Next articleJohn Hick and problem with religious philosophy
B.A Philosophy (Hons.) from Hansraj College, University of Delhi


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here