Thanks to Alexander Carpenter for finding this great video. Click here to watch and review the analysis: http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2008/06/25/pew_video_increasing_american_religious_comity
Although a majority of Americans say religion is very important to them, nearly three-quarters of them say they believe that many faiths besides their own can lead to salvation, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Most Americans also have a non-dogmatic approach when it comes to interpreting the tenets of their own religion. For instance, more than two-thirds of adults affiliated with a religious tradition agree that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their faith, a pattern that occurs in nearly all traditions. The exceptions are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, 54% and 77% of whom, respectively, say there is only one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion.
This is an interesting statistic. The question I have is whether or not this kind of thinking leads to a neutralization of religious belief. Is it an effort to minimize differences in order to get along, and if so, does it lead to abandonment of one’s own distinct beliefs?
This could well be the difference between the pursuit of religious pluralism in the fruit salad metaphor where each faith is distinct and has its own flavor versus a smoothie where it all blends together and the net effect is that each part means less. This includes the common elements of faith as well as the individual differentiated core elements of religious worship and thought, or those distinct practices that may require accommodation, whether this involves keeping a holy day or wearing religious clothing.
Part of celebrating religious freedom is the recognition that faiths can peacefully coexist even though they have mutually exclusive beliefs. In other words, you do not have to agree with somebody else’s view of heaven or what it takes to get there in order to honor their religious commitment and their faith. People should not feel pressured to agree that their beliefs are also correct if they do not share them, nor should they force their faith on others.
It takes a lot of work to maintain a welcoming environment in both law and practice for religious pluralism and diversity, but it is far better than the alternatives of neutralizing faith or favoring some beliefs over others.