Religious Diversity: What Is the Issue?

Some General Reflections from the Perspective of the Philosophy of Religion
  • Perry Schmidt-Leukel


Excuse me, but what’s the question? Isn’t religious diversity normal?” This is the title Rita Gross, an American scholar of religion, feminist, and practicing Buddhist, gave to one of her essays on religious pluralism. 1 One possible answer to her rhetorical question might be that not everything “normal” is unproblematic. Disease, for example, is certainly normal but is by no means unproblematic. We do not regard diseases as desirable; we try to avoid them, and once we get one, we take measures to get rid of it. Of course, what Gross has in mind is that a major part of the problem of religious diversity is the inability of the religions—or at least of some religions—to regard religious diversity as unproblematic. In this she is certainly right. 2 However, those religions may have a point. Why should they see religious diversity as unproblematic? As “normal,” sure. But hence unproblematic? This is far from clear. Critics of religion also consider religious diversity normal but not unproblematic. Therefore, we need to be specific about why and in what sense both religious people and their critics tend to regard religious diversity as problematic and to what extent their views have an impact on how to assess religious diversity.


Religious Belief Religious Tradition Religious Experience Religious Identity Religious Diversity 
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  1. 1.
    See R. Gross, “Excuse Me, but What’s the Question? Isn’t Religious Diversity Normal?” in The Myth of Religious Superiority. Multifaith Explorations of Religious Pluralism, Paul F. Knitter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005), 75–7.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I am much less confident on whether she is right in claiming that, by and large, religious diversity is of no problem to Buddhism. On this see P. Schmidt-Leukel, ed., Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions (St. Ottilien, Germany: EOS, 2008);Google Scholar
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© Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Joachim Gentz 2013

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  • Perry Schmidt-Leukel

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