Beyond tolerance: re-evaluating religious diversity

World Religions
We live in a world that is more connected than it ever has been. From the speed and ease of air travel to tweets that make uncovered news accessible. Cultures, ideas, and goods are traded throughout the world. As we interact with and learn more about each other, the religious diversity of the global village also becomes apparent.

For a long time it has generally been thought that the global trend would be towards more secular society. The advancement of technology and scientific explanations would make religious beliefs unnecessary and the pursuit of growth and development would make economics the common framework. In addition, within a cosmopolitan society religion would become more muted to uphold tolerance and peace.

In some ways there have been shifts in these directions, however, this article ( argues that religion still has a dominant role in personal values, political activities and global affairs as a whole. And indeed, the approach to religious diversity that has been employed over the last few decades is flawed – a significant shift is needed to move successfully forward as a global community.

Religion provides the principle framework through which the majority of people in the world develop their values, norms, guidance, and identity. In this way, it also serves as a major identifier across people groups from various countries and ethnicities. In a multi-cultural, multi-national, diverse world, religious affiliation forms the largest common collection of people.

It is therefore critical that healthy discourse and mutual understanding between religions is fostered to build an effective and cooperative global community. Especially since religious beliefs extend influence far from personal convictions; they impact family life, civic society, and have implications in human rights issues, socioeconomic issues, and political action.

If religion has such a powerful influence on the world, and it doesn’t appear to be abandoned in the modern world, then we cannot afford to ignore it. One only has to read the articles on this blog site to appreciate the myriad ways religion impacts society.

Most people agree that religion is an important aspect of global affairs, however, this article suggests that the treatment of religious diversity has been damaging for the global community as a whole. A focus on the differences and foreignness of others’ beliefs has led to divisiveness where all sides are battling to assert claims to truth and disregard to other beliefs.

If we re-examine the way we view religious differences, can we find a new view that celebrates the common ground of shared spiritual value? Can the global community come to a place that incorporates religious diversity while navigating the fields of homogenization/domination on one side and dissension/division on the other given that most religions claim a single path to truth?

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One thought on “Beyond tolerance: re-evaluating religious diversity

  1. We all know that changes and advancements are coming at a pace faster then ever before. And yes, for a time there was much speculation that these might render religion irrelevant and relegate it to the pages of world history. Ultimately for religion to become obsolete it’s not technology or science that needs to change though, it’s humankind. Even by the most secular arguments our pursuit of faith/religion is an attempt to address a deeply perceived need that seems to have been shared across humanity, today and throughout history.

    I find myself frustrated with the arguments that this century’s developments and advances are going to bring about this change in humans, where nothing that has happened to this point has had this effect. In making such statements we are, at best, failing to consider the span of history or, at worst, exhibiting the profound arrogance that came with modernity. To suggest that humankind is now intellectually superior to our ancestors seems profoundly arrogant and self-absorbed. We may know more about some aspects of this universe, what it contains, how it operates and what is possible than we ever have before, but I’m not convinced that knowledge actually makes us any more intelligent. Even if it does, as some would argue, that enhanced intelligence doesn’t appear to be leading us away from our pursuit of ultimate truth through faith/spirituality/religion.

    This yearning is still very much alive and active within humankind. It is part of our common humanity. Today’s advances that have connected us globally in unprecedented ways have not negated this yearning in any way but instead have served to highlight the need for us to grow past our fears and aversion to those who believe differently than we do so that we can come together. In Truth and Tolerance Ratzinger suggests that this diverse and yet shared seeking for ultimate truth could be the very thing we have in common, the point at which we can come together. He argues that in doing so we might be able to find a way “out of alienation and thus out of the state of division” and together seek “the vision of a common standard that does no violence to any culture but that guides each one to its own heart, because each exists ultimately as an expectation of truth.” (Loc. 687.)

    Perhaps in this common focus we might find a step towards answering what the article’s author identifies as ‘the crucial question’ – “How do we construe a sense of larger identity that does not demand homogenisation or does not lend support to dissension but can celebrate diversity?” (



    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. Kindle Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2004.

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