Islam Versus Different Schools: Liberalism and Pluralism
Liberalism and reductive pluralism both present themselves in the guise of neutrality while in fact they both exclude various religious systems of belief and practice. In some cases we may applaud the exclusions. No one should object to the fact that religions in which Human sacrifice is a central part are stifled in liberal societies. While Hick is willing to allow for a hidden compatibility among a wide variety of beliefs, exclusivist beliefs themselves are to be rejected rather than reinterpreted. Reductive pluralism dismisses the exclusivist claims of any religion as nonessential, no matter how important in that religion's own tradition.
Neither liberalism nor reductive religious pluralism are religiously neutral. Both discriminate against religious views in which there is a strong emphasis on the practical social dimension of religion. This line of criticism has been leveled against Hick's pluralism by Ninian Smart, who points out that differences among religions in truth-claims are at least matched in importance by differences in practice-claims. A similar critique of the religious pluralism of W.C. Smith has been presented by Ali Quli Qarai, who argues effectively that religion has been understood as law no less than as faith in most of the major religious traditions of the world. Even if an ultimate resolution of truth-claims were a plausible suggestion, this would not resolve the conflict of' practice-claims. What is distinctive and important about religions is not only their particular systems of belief, but rituals, ethical ideals, and laws. If a religion is valuable and worth preserving, much of its value would appear to stem from its practical side. A freedom of religion which was limited to freedom to believe as one chose, but not necessarily to practice the ordinances of' one's faith would result in the devaluation of' religion.
A number of recent critics whose views are presented and criticized by Peter Donovan have taken note of the similarity between religious pluralism and political liberalism and reject both. Both involve compromise, accommodation, and the abandonment of tradition. Some conservative Christian thinkers contend that pluralism must be rejected because it threatens to undermine the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. As political liberalism undermines the political power of the Church, religious pluralism undermines its dogmas.