A Problem with Pluralism: Ancient Religions

In class (yes, as I type this), we’re studying pluralism, and I wanted to share with the world a question I asked my professor about five minutes ago:

As far as pluralism/Knitter’s “mutuality model” go, most proponents suggested that all religions have the same main goal.  John Hick, a Christian pluralist writer the gave voice to a lot of this stuff, suggests that the primary shared value is love.  Some might argue, as one of my professors (it’s a co-taught class) suggested, that perhaps love isn’t the correct main goal.  Muslims emphasize submission–that’s what “Islam” means.  Who’s to say that‘s not the #1 value religions share?  But let’s just pretend Hick is right.  Love is the most significant shared value among Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

My question is, what about ancient religions that don’t care about “value systems” or philosophy?  How can we say their primary value is love?  As I understand it, solely from my New Testament class with the beloved/notorious Bart Ehrman, most ancient religions were much less concerned with orthopraxy and orthodoxy.  They didn’t care about doctrine or morality.  They, rather, were about the here-and-now need to secure the favor of the gods that sustained their everyday lives–which makes sense, since life back then was short and harsh.

If religious systems have existed–even continue to exist–that perhaps acknowledge that love is a decent thing but put no emphasis on it because it’s not the point of their religion…  what is a pluralist to do with that?

Where we agree that religion has a common goal, we might be able to try to harmonize our different paths to that goal.  But if we disagree on the point of religion to begin with–who can reconcile that?

Now we’re starting to talk about a different brand of pluralism, the lesser-known “acceptance model” (as called by Knitter).  These people believe regular pluralists are actually “anonymous imperialists” because they’re not willing to accept genuine differences between religions.  In this class everyone accuses everyone of being an anonymous something, and it’s becoming rather amusing…

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