Calvin, after all, was not born until 1509). So the exclusivist’s religious beliefs depend onaccidents of birth, and this makes them arbitrary. Plantinga makes several responses to this lineof reasoning, but I wish to focus one in a particular.
Plantinga responds by pointing out that thepluralist’s reasoning, if it undermines exclusivism, undermines pluralism as well. Had John Hick been born in ancient Carthage, he would not be a religious pluralist. This response has come tobe known as Plantinga’s
(‘you, too’) response. To it, Hick replies that Plantinga is nottaking into account the fundamental difference between Calvinism (or, for that matter, any otherset of religious claims that is believed to be exclusively correct) and pluralism. While Calvinismconstitutes a set of religious beliefs, religious pluralism is merely a second-order
theory.Hick’s reply to the
response is quite brief. He does not tell us why a second-order philosophical theory is somehow exempt from the pluralist’s original argument. In theabsence of any such explanation, I can only speculate as to why this might be the case. Aplausible explanation is that the two sets of propositions that constitute Christianity andpluralism are different
of propositions. Perhaps the fact that our beliefs are products of where and when and to whom we were born undermines the confidence we should have incertain beliefs, but not the confidence we should have in others. But I will not investigate thisissue. For my purposes, the truth or falsity of this suggestion will not matter, because I argue thatreligious pluralism is not any different from Christianity in the way that Hick thinks is relevant.That is, I argue that religious pluralism is not simply a second-order philosophical theory(perhaps it is that), but rather it is, curiously, also a set of
propositions. In the nextsection I will present Hick’s theory of religious pluralism, and in the third section I will offer myassessment of it as a first-order set of religious beliefs.
II. John Hick's Religious Pluralism
Religious pluralism is a hypothesis proposed by Hick as an explanation of severalpropositions about the beliefs of the adherents of the world religions.
Hick first observes that theworld abounds with the adherents of the world religions. Secondly, he notes the "fact of religiouspluralism," namely that "there are many
traditions of religious life and thought"
[emphasis added]. Thirdly, he assumes what he calls the "basic religious conviction." Hick explains: "By the basic religious conviction I mean the conviction that the realm of religiousexperience and belief is our human response to a transcendent divine reality or realities."
Morenegatively, the basic religious conviction is the conviction that not all of religious experience isillusory. It is important to note that Hick not only assumes the basic religious conviction, but heassumes it in a particular form. Some of the adherents of the world religions will assent to thebasic religious conviction with the caveat that it is only their particular religion that is alegitimate response to the divine reality. Hick, on the other hand, assumes that the religiousexperiences and the beliefs of the adherents of all of the world religions are legitimate responsesto the divine.
This assumption is, of course, contestable, but I am willing to accept the version of the basic religious conviction that Hick assumes. Religious pluralism, then, is an attempt toexplain the three phenomena above. If the adherents of all of the world religions legitimatelyperceive the Divine Reality, then why are the world religions so different? We can understandHick’s answer to this question by first considering variances in ordinary sense perception.Hick relies on a basic model of cognitive psychology to explain the process of perception. This model is composed of three parts: sensation, organization, and awareness.