Saturday, May 24, 2008

ten religious questions I hope to ask

I hope to spend a few hours with each set of people I meet, talking about topics related to religious diversity. Among the many questions I hope to ask are these core ten (list subject to revision):

1. How do you (or how does your tradition) explain the fact of religious diversity?

2. Do you view religious diversity as fundamentally good or bad? Why do you feel that way?

3. Would you allow your children to date and/or marry people of another religion? Why or why not? What's your opinion of mixed-religion households?

4. Would you allow your children to attend services/rituals of other religious traditions? Why or why not?

5. What should people of other religions know about your religion? What do people not of your religion routinely misunderstand about it?

6. Is religious diversity a problem requiring a solution (e.g., fusing all religions into one religion)? Why or why not?

7. What metaphor would you use to describe the relationships between and among all the major (and minor) religious traditions?

8. Is it better to be pluralistic, inclusivistic, or exclusivistic? Why?

9. Is "religion in general" a problem? Could we solve many or most of humanity's problems by simply getting rid of religious thinking and religious social structures altogether? Related question: why do the major religions, which preach virtues like love, compassion, honesty, etc., so often have histories marked by violence, oppression, and suffering?

10. Is there any hope for dialogue between two parties of different religions who believe (and perhaps practice) contradictory doctrines?



Becky said...

These are really fascinating questions. I'd be interested in some of the answers you've received. Are you going to put this together into a book?

scott said...

8. Is it better to be pluralistic, inclusivistic, or exclusivistic? Why?.

Do most religious people know what these terms mean?

Kevin said...


I think exclusivism and inclusivism are easy enough concepts to explain (have you checked out my YouTube videos, which are linked on my sidebar?), but pluralism is a can of worms, because it comes in so many varieties.

I can't tell from your question whether you yourself know how these terms are understood in religious studies circles. If you need an explanation, I can provide one. If not-- if you're already familiar with them-- that's OK, too. Please feel free to leave another comment or to shoot me an email.


Anders Branderud said...

“5. What should people of other religions know about your religion? What do people not your religion routinely misunderstand about it?”

I would like to recommend the following website: . Start with the “Christians”-page. It presents formal logical reasons that shows what the Creator’s purpose of humankind is. Most people don’t know that it is possible to prove that.

Anders Branderud

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for commenting. If it were possible to produce a cogent logical proof for the existence of the creator god described in the Tanakh or the Christian Bible(s), there'd be no controversy today. Most rational people would have accepted the proof by now. Unfortunately, arguing for God's existence isn't as easy as arguing for a tight correlation between heavy smoking and lung cancer, which is at least based on universally observable (and narrowly interpretable) evidence.

Alas, I don't have time for an extended religious discussion right now, but I'll note that "proofs" for the existence of God-- specifically, some sort of omnibenevolent biblical god, are little more than arguments, too easily susceptible to counterarguments that possess the same probative force. The problem for both the theist and the atheist often comes down to things like epistemology, doxastic practices, and questions of warrant and justification. The all-important question, What counts as evidence for this argument?, is answered differently by different interlocutors, thus leading, in many cases, to a dialogue de sourds.

Finally, this statement from the Netzarim website is a total misrepresentation of science and "eminent" scientists:

"No eminent scientist represents that our perfectly-orderly universe can be explained ex nihilo without a Prime Cause."

Completely untrue, and the evidence is easy enough to find: talk to "eminent" scientists, whoever they might be. Most will have nothing to do with the notion of a Prime Cause. Even the search for a GUT (grand unified theory) or TOE (the humorously named "theory of everything") in theoretical physics isn't motivated by the conviction that there exists a Prime Cause.

Science can't assume what it wants to prove. Assuming the existence of a Prime Cause, then "proving" its existence, involves circular reasoning and a good bit of linguistic trickery. I'd say: think for yourself. Avoid websites like Netzarim, whose arguments are, I can already tell, faulty from the outset.

Of course, as one philosopher (William Vallicella) notes, arguments rarely sway people, even when they're good arguments. This cuts both ways: the theist will shake his head sadly and pity the closed-minded atheist; the atheist will do the same. Whose side is right? Each side will answer, "Mine is!"