Hands conjoined is a common symbol of prayer throughout the world.
Hands conjoined is a common symbol of prayer throughout the world.

While interfaith movements and religious pluralism seem somewhat synonymous with one another, differences exist. Interfaith movements actively seek to establish better accord and understanding between faiths and to find resolutions in points of conflict. Religious pluralism strives for coexistence between various faiths as a collective ideal for a given society.

Bridging Gaps

To an extent, religious pluralism is the ideal that interfaith movements work toward. Differing faiths often disregard other faiths as erroneous or they misinterpret the tenets of such faiths. Such misperceptions lead to distrust, even hostility. Interfaith movements insist on focusing on the shared values and visions of various faiths as opposed to the many particulars that comprise a faith. For example, many interfaith movements between Jews and Muslims focus on their shared monotheism and their shared spiritual ancestry with Abraham.

Tolerance

Religious pluralism and interfaith movements share a compelling need for tolerance. Tolerance serves as an inherent key for both that opens the veritable doors of dialogue between faiths and provides an opportunity to quell political or historical grievances that can often be one of many obstacles. Tolerance also draws from the very tenets of the respective faiths by focusing on such common religious themes as humility and compassion.

The Role of Scripture

While religious pluralism defines other faiths as, essentially, separate, interfaith movements try to focus on commonalities between religious traditions. Scripture, for example, plays a crucial role in this endeavor. For example, all of the major faiths share the concept of the golden rule. In Judaism and Christianity: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18); in Buddhism: “Comparing oneself to others in such terms as 'Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,' he should neither kill nor cause others to kill” (Sutta Nipata 705); and in an Islamic hadith: “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."

Religious Pluralism in History

While interfaith movements have grown in prominence, especially in academic circles, examples of religious pluralism abound. America is a fantastic example of religious pluralism. People openly practice their respective faiths and have been doing so for many years. India is another example. Though hostilities exist between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, still, the three faiths have coexisted for centuries. One final example is Islamic Spain during the Golden Age of Islam, 610-1258 CE. Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in relative peace and harmony with one another and all three faiths thrived in intellectual endeavors.