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Raquel Hardman

Professor Spendlove
RELS 2400-002
ePortfolio Synthesis Paper W/Reflective Writing
April 25, 2016

Religion and Pluralism in America Today
I chose to take Religious Diversity in America for two reasons. First, to satisfy
both my humanities and diversity requirement and secondly, I have always had an
interest in different religions. My best friend, for over 38 years, is a Catholic and I am a
Latter Day Saint. To say our childhood was full of fun and crazy antics would be to
understate how wild in the world and in our houses of worship we really were. It is a
wonder we both did not get kicked out. Side note, despite this we both turned out
wonderfully…with husbands and children intact! A perfect example of how two different
religions can produce similarly outstanding American citizens.
America is on a fairly good path to promote and safeguard pluralism in America.
America is developing a diverse environment in terms of religion. In our class we
learned you can be open minded and have a compromising position when it comes to
others and their beliefs. This does not mean you need to lower/raise your standards or
bend/change your beliefs. It simply means you should recognize others may and most
likely do think differently than yourself.
I found the discussion and reading of the ‘spiritual shopper’ very interesting. It
was fascinating to read about what defined a spiritual shopper and think of different

people in my life who may fit this definition. It was then interesting to me when we
discussed how the statistics proved people were moving around religiously and some
falling out of religion all together. Whether through the way they were raised,
associations in college, where their career took them or a midlife crisis. I agree with
spiritual shopping leading to a degree of a shallow understanding of religion, but I also
believe once a religion is settled on, one that fits the needs of the person, much of the
understanding can be regained or learned altogether. I also, much to my Professors
chagrin (I am sure), am okay with people having a shallow understanding of religion.
While I agree with “challenge makes your belief clearer,” - because for me this is
true and I do like to debate, I do not think everyone is ready for or up to a challenge.
You do not have to clarify your beliefs, explain why you do something, or come up with
arguments that make sense to someone, or prove what you believe with comprehensive
arguments to feel strongly about your religion. You can have a belief and not have to
justify it to anyone, even if it does cause someone a little strife. Pluralism can be
acceptance without an explanation or understanding. This being said, I do not think we
can allow for a religion to harm someone, but this should be a given.
Minority religions should be afforded the same level of tolerance and acceptance
as the more prominent religions. They too should be allowed to grow, expand and bring
people into their fold, which is why I support proselyting for any religion that chooses to
do so. I appreciated learning about pluralism and people having a “principled willingness
to compromise.” This principled willingness lecture stayed with me from when it was first
taught throughout the rest of the class. This is what life is all about; a wiliness to
compromise…in all relationships. Whether with a stranger or casual or personal.

Unfortunately it is true, certain specific minority religions are still stigmatized and
under constant scrutiny. For instance the Islam religion or the FLDS religion. All of
America has suffered since 9/11 and that act of terrorism has poisoned some people’s
minds when they consider a Muslim or the Islamic faith. This is very unfortunate. I pray
the lines of communication will remain open and there will be a continued effort to
restore some of the tolerance and acceptance that existed before America was attacked
by Muslim extremists. The FLDS religion has suffered greatly by the actions of their
leaders. Further, it is inexcusable that people are expected, women specifically, to know
there is a better life for them when oppression, shame and abuse is all they have ever
known to exist. People who show love, acceptance and a wiliness to serve should be
the only people women in the FLDS church encounter in America.
I enjoyed learning about the Rawlsian Theory or ‘justice of fairness’ in our
lectures, and while of course I think if everyone had a ‘veil of ignorance’ and was
unaware of where they would exist in a society we would not discriminate or allow for
unfairness, I struggled to apply it to religion. Religion is, by its deepest nature, an
incredibly personal and delicate matter. Something some people believe to be at the
very core of their existence and future. Therefore, it becomes something which cannot
be influenced or adapted to fit another person’s claims of conscience.
With this being said, Americans of all beliefs should interact with love, respect
and a possible willingness to compromise. They should look for places and times of
commonality to work and serve together. In chapter 10 of our reading in America and
the Challenges of Religious Diversity, the author Wuthnow writes;

‘Pluralism is our response to diversity – how we think about it, how we
respond to it in our attitudes and lifestyles, and whether we choose to
embrace it, ignore it, or merely cope with it.’
How we respond to pluralism is the key. We should not feel threatened by
another religion simply by the fact it exists. The majority of religions teach love and
understanding, these are not behaviors to be afraid of. We should think of diverse
religions as a positive thing. Through our Landscaping Project I was able to visit a
Catholic Church, a Hindu Temple and a Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. During each of
my visits I was able to be taught or watch, and in the case of the Jehovah Witnesses,
participate in their services. During each visit I was able to see beauty and love for
others. I did not have to part with a piece of my own religion or beliefs to recognize their
importance and place in America.
I believe America is becoming more diverse and pluralistic every day. Although
there seems to be a positive move towards tolerance, it is not arrogant to want to keep
your religious beliefs intact and at the forefront of your everyday life; including in how
you vote, where you live and who you associate with. Doing this does not speak of
intolerance or discrimination or exclusivity…it only means this is where you are safe,
comfortable and what you understand to be true.
I am in harmony with Freud and Marx and their defining of religion from our
lecture; “just an illusion or wishful thinking and the opium of the people” respectively.
Because I am okay with wishful thinking, working towards your dreams and doing things
that make you feel happy, and this includes religion. I realize they meant these
definitions to be derogatory and making light or poking fun at religious people…but that

is fine with me. I also agree with Jim Stone and his definition of religion from our lecture;
religion does “figure centrally in the satisfaction of substantial human needs.” Because
this is true for me.

Works Cited
Wuthnow, Robert. America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity. Princeton, NJ.
Princeton University Press. 2005. Print.