Respecting religious pluralism doesn’t require disrespecting religion

Today, society is becoming increasingly multicultural. Due to the increasing connectedness of the whole world through communication and telecommunication, people are exposed to religious traditions different from their own. Amidst such multiculturalism, because the government is expected to be secular, the ideology of religious pluralism has become mainstream.

Unfortunately, in the name of respecting religious pluralism, the contemporary ethos often ends up disrespecting religion itself. This disrespect manifests primarily by relegating religion out of the public sphere to the arena of private belief. The mainstream intelligentsia treat all religious beliefs as subjective without any objective reality or even any objective criteria for evaluating their reality. Consequently, religious pluralism becomes a license for apatheism or even atheism. Most people, even if nominally religious, don’t practice their religion diligently, and many reject religion entirely.

The Bhagavad-gita (04.11) states that all people are on one path – the path of raising their consciousness to the spiritual level. Spiritualizing human consciousness means harmonizing it with the supreme spiritual reality, the one Absolute Truth known by different names in different traditions. Gita wisdom explains that our present materialistic consciousness is diseased consciousness, and spiritual consciousness is healthy consciousness. In spiritual consciousness is fulfilled our innate longing for lasting life, love and joy.

Different religions are essentially different treatments for healing human consciousness. Those who claim their religion to be the only true way are fanatical and violate religious pluralism. But going to the other extreme and deeming all religious belief subjective deprives people of any opportunity for spiritual healing. When we appreciate the common purpose underlying different religions, we can take diligently our chosen treatment while also respecting other treatments’ potency to heal others.

By thus seeing different religions as different lanes on the one expressway for spiritualizing our consciousness, we can respect both religious pluralism and religion.

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