Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: A Chorus of Faiths: A Program That Builds Interfaith Youth Leaders

Activity 3: Religious Pluralism

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out Leader Resource 1, Religious Pluralism PowerPoint, and display as a poster.
  • Optional: Copy the text of Leader Resource 1 on sheets of newsprint and post for the duration of the program.
  • Optional: Download Leader Resource 1 to share as a PowerPoint presentation. Set up and test computer equipment.

Description of Activity

Participants explore the definition of religious pluralism.

Say, in your own words:

While many of us may already believe it is valuable for people of different religions to get along, it is helpful to think about what that really means.

In words that are comfortable for you, share these ideas about religious pluralism from Leader Resource 1, Religious Pluralism PowerPoint:

Pluralism is more than diversity. While diversity is good, it does not say anything about how diverse people interact. We can be diverse and segregated or diverse and fighting. Pluralism is when diversity is acknowledged and engaged toward positive ends by the diverse people. As religious scholar Diana Eck says, "Diversity is a fact, but pluralism is an achievement."

Religious pluralism is sociological, not theological. That means it is about how we live together and not necessarily what we think. We can disagree fundamentally about concepts like God, Hell, and creation, but still agree that we have to learn to live together well. This means atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious are welcome and an important part of religious pluralism.

For our discussions, we will say a religiously pluralistic community has three things:

1. Respect for religious identity, which means people respect the fact that religion exists and the manifestations of religious identity around them

2. Mutually inspiring relationships, which means people have relationships where they can fundamentally disagree about some things, but support and admire other things about one another across lines of difference

3. Common Action for the Common Good, which means religiously diverse communities get together to act for the things they commonly believe in such as ending war or poverty.

This vision of how religiously diverse people can interact is not the dominant one in the world. Some people believe that fundamentalists cannot get along with anyone, or atheists do not have morals, or people of different religions will always fight. But if we want communities that look like religious pluralism-with respect, relationships, and common action-we have to raise our voices to support and build this vision.

Either while or after you explain these elements of pluralism, engage the group in discussion with these questions:

  • Which news stories are about religious pluralism?
  • Where have you seen religious pluralism in your life?
  • Have you ever been in a room that was diverse, but not pluralistic?
  • Have you seen a good example of respect for religious identity? Have you had a relationship with someone who was different from you? Acted on something you both cared about with someone you, on some things, disagreed with?