Contra Hick : epistemology of faith and belief
Modern societies are for the most part pluralistic in their compositions and world views. As such, we are given a variety of possibilities to embrace in our everyday lives and social interactions. The plethora of religious choice is a prime example of societal pluralism. John Hick is an eminent proponent of religious pluralism. His adoption of the religious pluralist stance arises from his experience and observations of various religions and their practices wherein he has noted similarities in the development of moral individuals in spite of vastly different and exclusive truth claims made by their religious systems. Hick, in a huge leap of faith, believes these similarities among such great differences must indicate a unitary source of revelation from a Transcendent Ultimate Reality to humankind sometime during the great Axial Age of human development more than two thousand years ago. Religious pluralism, in its Hickean formulation, is a call for individuals to not only abandon their religions’ claims to exclusive truth about the Transcendent Ultimate Reality but also to reduce religious dogmas to their essential elements and modify them in order to preclude contradictory assertions that would exclude other religious systems. The benefits would be to reduce or eliminate religious intolerance and claims to superiority; incidents of religious violence should also be expected to decrease. This thesis critically examines Hick’s thesis and finds that religion has a greater role to play in individual lives than Hick acknowledges. For those with weakly held religious beliefs, the call to religious pluralism may find appeal. However, for those with strongly held religious views, operating within religious structures that serve their needs and eschatological hopes, the adoption of religious pluralism of the Hickean variety may cause them to abandon something that is working well for them without replacing it with something of equal benefit. In the final analysis, I find Hick’s call to embrace religious pluralism to be unpersuasive since it is not in itself a religious system; it is, rather, a philosophical system which attempts to address the epistemological challenges associated with the myriad systems of faith and belief found within the great world religions.
John Hick, epistemology, faith, belief, pluralism, religious pluralism, exclusivism
Master of Arts (M.A.)