Religious Pluralism for a Pluralist Age

The election of Pope Benedict XVI and the global war on terror have brought unprecedented attention to the role of religion in our world. There has been particular interest (most specifically in the case of Islam) as to whether specific religious traditions are compatible with the institutions and values of liberal democracy. But focusing exclusively on what is believed and practiced overlooks a potentially far more important question: how religious precepts are believed and practiced.

Despite massive evidence to the contrary, many people – not least theologians – fear that we live in a secular age. But, far from being characterized by secularization, our age has witnessed vast eruptions of religious passion. The modern age is as religious as any previous historical period, and in some places more so.

One exception is geographical: Western and Central Europe have indeed experienced a significant decline of religion, which has become an important ingredient of European cultural identity. The other exception is sociological, comprising a relatively thin but influential international intelligentsia, for whom secularization has become not only a fact, but, at least for some of its members, an ideological commitment.

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