Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism


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Thomas Banchoff

Pluralism states that having multiple viewpoints and groups strengthens the overall system, enriching its culture with a wider spectrum of ideas and building a deeper and more principled consensus in the political system. Pluralism is a fundamental principle of democracy, in which members of different groups with different viewpoints can voice their opinions and ideas.

Political Pluralism

Political pluralism is a complex idea. Virtually every country has to grapple with a history of inequality based on race, religion, gender, sexuality or cultural differences. Political pluralism is meant, not only to establish a system in which every person is valued equally, but to address lingering effects of an unequal past. Each of these are different types of pluralism that exist, allowing multiple entities to share their beliefs and power.

Religion at its best is a force for human improvement; at its worst, a source of violent division.


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Religious pluralism pursues the former and avoids the latter by acknowledging the value of multiple traditions and faiths. Virtually every society is pluralist to one degree or another. Differences in age and gender are unavoidable and differences of worldview, faith and political affiliation abound.

A VOICE AND A FORCE FOR LIBERAL EDUCATION

Examples of social pluralism are examples of situations in which those differences are celebrated rather than oppressed. As the world grows more interconnected and new ideas and movements arise, the concept of pluralism takes on new significance. The willingness to allow for multiple value systems and the ability to acknowledge the successes and flaws of each are both key skills for living in a global society.

For more philosophies of the 21st century, take a look at our article on globalization.

Pluralism and Democracy

Happy reading! By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Please set a username for yourself. People will see it as Author Name with your public flash cards. Political Pluralism Political pluralism is a complex idea.

Religious Pluralism

Many postcolonial countries, such as the United States, Canada, India and Brazil, developed pluralist policies after achieving independence. Such countries often establish constitutions that make all citizens, colonizer and colonized alike, equal before the law. Many cities in the United States and Canada have areas referred to as Little Italy or Chinatown, where people from those countries keep their cultural traditions. Many such communities formed as a result of anti-pluralist oppression, but they have endured and prospered while oppression has decreased.

When environmental groups decide that there is a need for a new law regulating some form of pollution, they seek compromises from chemical companies. People from the public voice their opinions, as does the Environmental Protection Agency and members of Congress.


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  • Any law that follows is a result of various groups speaking up and is an exercise in pluralism. Because it is so close to the Mexican border, the city of Tucson, Arizona exhibits many influences of Mexican culture even though it is not in Mexico. Other border towns exhibit a similar phenomenon, like San Diego, California. Road signs and other forms of official communication often show the pluralism of a given country.

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    In Canada, many official documents are legally required to be available in both English and French. In much of the Southern United States, governments and businesses issue official communications in both English and Spanish. Religious pluralism is everywhere in today's politics. Increased immigration flows, the collapse of communism, and the globalization of communications technologies have all fostered a wider variety of religious beliefs, practices, and organizations within and across democratic societies. This is true in both the United States and Europe, where growing and diverse minority communities are transforming the political landscape.

    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism

    As a result, controversies over such things as headscarves and depictions of Mohammed are unsettling a largely secular Europe, while a Christian majority in the US faces familiar questions about church-state relations amidst unprecedented religious diversity. Far from receding into the background, religious language pervades arguments around established issues such as abortion and capital punishment, and new ones such as stem cell research and same-sex marriage. In Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism, leading scholars from multiple disciplines explore these dynamics and their implications for democratic theory and practice.

    What are the contours of this new religious pluralism? What are its implications for the theory and practice of democracy?

    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism

    Does increasing religious pluralism erode the cultural and social foundations of democracy? To what extent do different religious communities embrace similar -- or at least compatible -- ethical and political commitments? By seeking answers to these questions and revealing religious pluralism as both a source of animosity and a potent force for peaceful engagement, this book offers a revealing look at the future of religion in democratic societies.

    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
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    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism
    Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism

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