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Religious Pluralism and Diversity:

How people & groups react to differences in belief:
-Within a congregation.
-Within a denomination or tradition.
-Within a religion.
-Among different religions worldwide.

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This is the Religious Pluralism and Diversity section within the Religious Tolerance web site.

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About this section:

It discusses both religious diversity itself, and how people react towards such diversity.

Down through history, responses toward religious diversity have included:

  • The widespread extermination of Canaanites by Hebrew groups, as chronicled in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testaments).

  • The execution of Yeshua of Nazareth, a.k.a. Jesus Christ by the occupying Roman Army because the latter considered Yeshua's religious teaching to be seditious.

  • The burning times from the early 13th century to the early 19th century when people believed to be Satan worshipers and other heretics were burned at the stake in Catholic countries, and hanged in Protestant countries.

  • The religious wars in Europe during the early 16th Century to mid-17th Century between Catholics and Protestants. They resulted in the death of about one-third of the population of Germany and major loss of life in many other European countries.

  • The Nazi Holocaust which was a genocidal program directed primarily against Jews but with Roma, homosexuals, mentally challenged, and other victimized groups as well.

  • Frequent clashes, largely in the Middle East:
    • In the form of hate-motivated mass murder between followers of the Sunni and Shi'ite branches of Islam or

    • Between Muslims and followers of other religions in predominately Muslim countries -- often victimizing followers of other religions, primarily Christianity.

and, on a positive note:

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Quotations showing how people have sometimes treated others who hold different religious beliefs:

bullet Anon: "We have lobbed verses of Scripture, like hand grenades, into the camps of others, convinced that we, alone, have truth."

bullet Bill Clinton; during his 1997 Presidential Inaugural Address: "The divide of race has been America's constant curse. Each new wave of immigrants gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction, are no different. They have nearly destroyed us in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. They torment the lives of millions in fractured nations around the world. These obsessions cripple both those who are hated and, of course, those who hate, robbing both of what they might become."

bullet Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

bullet From a Boston Globe editorial: "A religion does not create murderers. The twisted human psyche does that when it forgets that the bedrock of all faith is love." 1

bullet Alan M. Dershowitz, an American lawyer, jurist, political commentator, and author of The Trials of Zion: "All religions and cultures suffer from sources that preach hate against the ‘other.’ Throughout history some have, tragically, practiced what their sources preached, while some have sought to dismiss or even counteract the hateful words of their sources."

About religious diversity:

The religious diversity in the world is immense.

According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many tens of thousands of faith groups (denominations, traditions, etc.). 34,000 separate Christian faith groups have been identified worldwide. 2

In terms of quality of life, the most important of all religious topics may well be how people, religions, cultures, and countries handle religious diversity.


We have one world, with multiple religions. Each religion has multiple divisions that are commonly called denominations, traditions, etc. Each division is composed of many congregations. Each congregation has many members.

We don't necessarily all get along well together. Even within a single religion, many times people will disagree about religious beliefs and practices. Sometimes the way we handle diversity leads to rejection and conflicts. It may even escalate to mass murders, war, and genocide.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Introduction to "religious diversity" <<< Please read this first
bullet The diversity of meanings of the term "religious pluralism"
bullet Conflicting quotations. How groups cope with religious diversity
bullet Conflicts involving religious pluralism
bullet Conflicts involving religious exclusivism
bullet Interpretations of John 14:6: one of the most quoted verses in the Bible about non-Christian religions
bullet Christians' beliefs about other religions
bullet Can non-Catholics be saved, according to the Roman Catholic church?

bullet Five books dealing with religious diversity


Essays by Rabbi Allen Maller:

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Recommended books, representing both positive and negative beliefs about pluralism:

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References used in the above essay:

The hyperlinks below were used to prepare the above essay, but are not necessarily still valid today.

  1. Anon, "Faith in Hate," Boston Globe, 2002-MAR-3, Page D-6. See:
  2. book cover image David B. Barrett, et al., "World Christian Encyclopedia : A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World," Oxford University Press, (2001). Read reviews or order this book

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Site navigation:

Home Religious Info. Basic Information > here

or HomeChristianity > History, beliefs... > here

 or HomeChristianity > Groups > here

or HomeChristianity > Relationships to other religions > here

 or HomeSpirituality > Religious tolerance > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-MAY-20
Latest update and review: 2014-AUG-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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