Religious Pluralism

All religions are valid paths to a transcendent Truth or divinity (capital "T" Truth means it's an ideal--unattainable and yet real at the same time). Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Baha'i faith are all after the same thing. But across time, language, geography and history they find it in different ways. These different ways, beliefs and practices are philosophically compatible.

Wait a minute. Bull shit. Jesus is God. Muhammad is His only prophet. How are those compatible?

This is where Kant comes in (and John Hick's An Interpretation of Relgion). All of these "beliefs" are no more than beliefs; they are grasping at a transcendent world that we cannot reach, unverifiable speculations about the nuemenal realm; doctrine or dogma is not knowledge. Beliefs, by definition, can be wrong. Only knowledge can be truly incompatible with non-knowledge (error). Nobody can disagree with e=mc2. But "Jesus is God" is on the exact same epistemological level as "Muhammad is His only prophet." We simply don't know; thus we believe. Therefore, they are both equally valid ways of thinking about God. Because we will never know, they can both exist together just fine.

And that's okay.

Two people stand in front of a Van Gogh. It means this, one says. No, says the other, it means this! They both give reasons. Perhaps we should ask the artist? Well, he's dead--and would that even help? Thus we have two different meanings of a piece of art that are compatible and can exist together just fine.

When it comes to practice (ritual), religions are quite different. When it comes to metaphysical beliefs, quite different. That's to be expected. But when it comes to morals, very similar. The moral codes of the major world religions are all based on love, compassion, forgiveness. They are compatible. They ground virtue and suppress vice in amazing different ways. Sweep away the hypocracy and you are left with love as the bedrock of religion.

Pluralism is an expression of love for other people, yet this will not satisfy a lot of people. Religious Pluralism is not for people who get angry when other people talk about other beliefs. It's not for people who are offended by the existence of Islam, or who use religion to define what they are not (rather than what they are). It is not for dogmatic, intolerance, judgemental types. It's for people who love religion and take it seriously, who realize that they are Christian perhaps because they grew up in a Christian household or nation (and that's okay). It is for people who are humble, who have a lot to learn, who realize the transcendent nature of their beliefs and place their hope in them.


  1. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism in relation to the Trinity, please check out my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca, and give me your thoughts on improving content and presentation.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    For more details, please see: www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

  2. thanks for the comment Samuel.

    My first impression:

    wow, this is complex stuff. I must say it's mostly over my head and almost unintelligible (to me at least). I'm a very simple man and, as I get older, I tend to agree with the so called "ordinary language" philosophers - if you can't get your point across in ordinary, plain, simple speech, then you might just be blowing hot air. I have no room to talk. When I talk about some of Kant's ideas, I'm pretty sure people have no clue what I'm talking about. When talking about "transcendental" things or super abstract concepts like "Unconditioned Spirit" "Absonite Spirit", it's hard to make sense and language can be our enemy.

    My second impression:

    I'll check out your website. After reading part of your book, this sounds interesting. Your thesis - that all religions can be explains through the lens of Trinity - is elegant on its face, and deserves respect for trying such a grand theory. You sound exactly like a modern day Kant...reincarnation?

    I'll get back to you.

  3. Matt... As you are aware, I’m writing a book on Religious Pluralism and the Trinity. Copies of the draft are available, but the book has not yet been published, and it is still very much a “work-in-progress.” I’m revising it as I receive comments and feedback. Your constructive criticism will be much appreciated.

    If you read the Preview on my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca, you will see that I am merely expanding on what is already inherent (but sometimes obscured or hidden) in the orthodox concept of the Trinity. Despite apparent differences, the underlying similarities among religions suggest the possibility that they may all be merely different facets of the same multi-dimensional reality. The diversity of world religions may very well be rooted in the diversity of the divine life itself.

    I think that Genesis 1:26 (in the beginning), where God says “Let us make man in our image,” suggests that later on he might also have said, “Let us help humans make their religions in our image.” It is quite probable that the inspiration for human religions reflects the threefold psychology of One God in Trinity expression. On the face of it, God may be trying to tell us something about his multi-dimensional self, through the diversity of major religions.

    It is only common sense that the Trinity would reveal itself in three basic religious attitudes to the Absolute. Indeed, when we examine world religions, we see in the personalities they portray and the language they use, a reflection of one or other (or some combination) of the three divine psychological personae.

    In the past, religious misunderstandings have caused immense grief, but civilization is rapidly approaching the point where the very survival of the world depends on overcoming anti-social religious conflicts, and the negative impacts of increasing population on the planet. The human race can no longer afford religious strife that divides people and disturbs urgent cooperation on mutual issues such as conservation and sharing of resources, combating climate change, stimulating healthy economic growth, etc.

    Peace in the world requires peace among religions. Religious pluralism is a necessary paradigm shift whose time has come. Absent any better idea, the Trinity Absolute concept of One God in three phases or personae is the only adequate metaphysical vehicle necessary and sufficient for a real form of religious pluralism that is more than just lukewarm toleration and talking past one another.

    What do you think?

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

    1. Samuel: I think your thesis depends on a solid analysis of world religions, one that is not ad hoc, and especially one that Muslims, Christians and Jews can all agree with (not just Christians). I'm not saying it is ad hoc or anything. Have you pitched your idea to any Muslims or Jews by the way? Have they taken it well? This is a grand project that I'm looking forward to reading more about.

      I don't think your Trinity doctrine is the only hope for religious pluralism, but it may be the best one so far. As for me, I'm convinced with the simple metaphysical foundation that Kant and John Hick provide. As far as I can tell, they do not reduce to lukewarm toleration or talking past each other. They positively assert all religions as valid paths to the same transcendent Reality (or God). It has everything to do with Kant's phenomenal/noumenal distiction. Now it takes Kant a lot of philosophical work to convince us, to get us to accepting that "reality" is really 2 worlds: the phenomenal world and the noumenal world, perception/beyond perception, understanding/belief, science/religion, knowable/unknowable. Once you are convinced of this basic dichotomy, religious pluralism naturally follows. All religions are valid attempts at experiencing the transcendent, the unknowable, and the metaphysical. That is precisely why they are different. For the same reason there will never be "one true" metaphysics, or "one true" moral theory. They are speculations or mystical experiences about the transcendent. This encompasses even the "godless" religions like Buddhism (some forms of it).

      I also wholeheartedly agree that peace among religions is crucial to peace in the world.