In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Religious Pluralism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Collections on Religious Diversity and Religious Pluralism
  • Religious Pluralism and Religious Diversity
  • Methodological Religious Pluralism
  • Religious Plurality and Toleration
  • Islam and Religious Pluralism
  • Key Works from Theology and Religious Studies

Philosophy Religious Pluralism
Victoria S. Harrison
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0406


Within the philosophy of religion, theories of religious pluralism are models that provide a philosophical account of religious diversity. They are not descriptive theories of religion, and the terms “religious pluralism” and “religious diversity” are not equivalent in the context of philosophical discussion. Theories of religious pluralism have been present within the philosophy of religion since the 1700s, when G. W. F. Hegel and F. D. E. Schleiermacher established the modern discipline on the understanding that the philosophical study of religion embraced all religions. Religious pluralism came to prominence within the philosophy of religion in the 1980s, with the work of the British philosopher John Hick (b. 1922–d. 2012) being seminal. During the 1990s, philosophical work on religious pluralism and related topics was dominated by the discussion among Hick, his supporters, and his critics. Hick’s theory of religious pluralism is still the most comprehensive and widely discussed in Anglo-American philosophy of religion. In his development of the theory, Hick engaged with and was often influential on work in other areas of philosophy, especially metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of language. This intersection of philosophical concerns continues to make the investigation of religious pluralism a focal point within the philosophy of religion. This article provides references to works that explain the wider methodological context of theories of religious pluralism. It then provides a section covering Hick’s major works on religious pluralism, as well as the most significant responses to his theory. Since the late 20th century, and in the light of the philosophical difficulties attending Hick’s theory, alternative theories of religious pluralism have been proposed. This article provides references to some of the most interesting proposals. The article then hones in on the interface between theories of religious pluralism and epistemology, providing references under these subsections: Religious Diversity and Epistemic Disagreement, Warranted Christian Exclusivism, and Religious Diversity and Religious Experience. Recognizing that some philosophers interested in religious diversity focus on its social, ethical, and political dimensions, this article provides references to the most significant philosophical works related to such practical concerns, insofar as they have a bearing on the discussion of theories of religious pluralism. A section is also provided on Islam and Religious Pluralism, since Muslim philosophers of religion have been especially active in this area. A final section provides references to some key works engaging with religious pluralism from the perspectives of theology and religious studies.

General Overviews and Collections on Religious Diversity and Religious Pluralism

Several monographs provide comprehensive introductions to the key philosophical issues raised by religious diversity, and situate discussions of religious pluralism within this wider context. Griffiths 2001 demonstrates that philosophical engagement with religious diversity requires that one address a range of philosophical issues that are usually dealt with in areas of philosophy outside the philosophy of religion. Basinger 2002 considers both intrareligious and interreligious diversity in a detailed philosophical treatment that covers many of the main issues. Although containing only one chapter directly on the topic of religious pluralism, McKim 2012 provides a helpful overview and philosophical assessment of the various positions that have been adopted in response to religious diversity. Many excellent collections of essays address religious pluralism. Sharma 1993 contains a good range of essays taking a variety of perspectives, some on John Hick’s theory of pluralism, and others addressing themes raised by Hick’s theory. Quinn and Meeker 2000 is a useful collection of essential readings capturing the state of the discussion at the turn of the 21st century. Griffin 2005 is a welcome attempt to move the discussion of religious pluralism away from an exclusive focus on Hick’s form of pluralist theory. Meister 2010 and the more recent Jonkers and Wiertz 2019 contain some substantial contributions and provide wide-ranging introductions to the methodological and pragmatic dimensions of the topic.

  • Basinger, David. Religious Diversity: A Philosophical Assessment. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002.

    Basinger surveys religious diversity both within and between some of the major world religions. He engages with the work of the leading contributors to the field, such as Hick, William P. Alston, Alvin Plantinga, and John L. Schellenberg. This is a useful text that provides an overview of the main lines of argument.

  • Griffin, David Ray, ed. Deep Religious Pluralism. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005.

    Inspired by the metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead, this collection of essays represents an early attempt to divert the philosophical discussion of religious pluralism away from its established focus on Hick’s pluralist theory.

  • Griffiths, Paul J. Problems of Religious Diversity. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001.

    An overview of some of the main philosophical issues arising from religious diversity. It is notable for situating these issues within the context of more-fundamental philosophical problems and disagreements.

  • Jonkers, Peter, and Oliver Wiertz, eds. Religious Truth and Identity in an Age of Plurality. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

    Fifteen chapters address different dimensions of the philosophical problems raised by religious diversity. Some chapters address pragmatic issues, whereas others focus at the level of methodology. The authors of individual chapters engage with each others’ ideas throughout the volume, making this more than just a collection of independent essays.

  • McKim, Robert. On Religious Diversity. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199774029.001.0001

    After a careful survey of the different positions often amalgamated under the headings of “exclusivism” and “inclusivism,” this monograph argues for a qualified form of inclusivism. The book contains a useful chapter on the notion of religious ambiguity.

  • Meister, Chad, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    This volume contains thirty-three articles, many by leading figures in the philosophical debate on religious diversity and religious pluralism.

  • Quinn, Philip L., and Kevin Meeker, eds. The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    A useful text for teaching. It contains a small but focused range of essays.

  • Sharma, Arvind, ed. God, Truth, and Reality: Essays in Honour of John Hick. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1993.

    Some of the twenty essays in this volume deal directly with aspects of Hick’s work, while others treat themes relevant to the broader topic of religious pluralism. The volume is notable for the variety of approaches it brings together.

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