A Pretense of Pluralism
I’ve already written about the concept of Religious Pluralism, but an article I read yesterday made it clear that I missed an aspect of pluralism in my previous article. The aspect that I neglected is the fact that under the idea of pluralism any faith system will be respected and accepted, except of course for a complete lack of faith. The pluralistic believer will accept the beliefs of a muslim, or a hindu, or even a new ager with complete equanimity, and yet will not miss a beat in discriminating against and excluding those who have no faith system whatsoever.
As an example consider the story of George Pratt, an 11 year old atheist from the UK. George was asked to leave his scout troop after he refused to take a pledge swearing allegiance to god and the queen.
Apparently one can not be a scout in England without having faith in some kind of supernatural power. The article makes it very clear that the kind of supernatural power doesn’t matter, just as long as there is one. One has to wonder how a theistic belief system helps a kid tie better knots, or start better camp fires. Of course that’s not really what it’s about. The requirement of a belief in god is so blatantly about the (incredibly dubious) concept that one requires a faith of some kind in order to be a moral and upstanding citizen.
Now in the case of the boy scouts, they’re a private organization and are free to set whatever rules they’d like. Do they discriminate against Atheists? Absolutely. Do I find this reprehensible? I sure do, however it’s not really my point.
The point I’m trying to make here is the hypocrisy involved in the idea of pluralism. The boy scouts would declare themselves a pluralistic and inclusive organization. They would and do trumpet the fact that they’re accepting of all faiths and yet they feel the need to discriminate against those who simply reject faith. In the United States poll after poll between the late 1950s and this year show that at least half of the population wouldn’t vote for a qualified candidate who happened to be an Atheist, but what’s more, they dislike, distrust, and disapprove of us. http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheistSurveys.htm
One question on a poll even demonstrated that 38% of those asked would be upset if their child announced they were marrying an Atheist. Does anyone doubt that the majority of these respondents would be some of the loudest advocates of respecting other people’s beliefs and vocal in their declaration that it’s wrong to discriminate against anyone for their beliefs?
The moderate who advocates pluralism hasn’t done anything incredible or overly inclusive here. They’ve simply shifted the focus from struggling (openly) against the various other systems on the block to focusing on their shared enemy, the non-religious. The acceptance and inclusion apparent in this point of view, it could be argued, is no more than a thin veneer of reasonability to cover a much deeper mine of divisiveness, and exclusion.