Philip L. Quinn and Kevin Meeker (eds.)

The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity

Review by Justin C. Maaia, 2002

Quinn, Philip L.; Meeker, Kevin; (eds.). The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 243 pp.

In the past, books on the philosophy of religion were required to treat only the issues surrounding the existence of the theistic God: traditional proofs for God’s existence, religious experience as proof of God, the problem of evil, and rational support for atheism and agnosticism.  However, with the now global awareness of many other types of religious beliefs besides theism, atheism, and agnosticism, the philosopher of religion is forced to contend with many more possibilities.  This books is collection of essays that attempts to treat these possibilities and the challenges that they pose to the philosophy of religion.

The volume begins with David Hume’s skeptical essay Of Miracles.  It then balances this essay with a piece by William Lane Craig on “middle Knowledge.”  An exposition of John Hick’s pluralism comes next, written by Hick himself.  This piece provides a focal point for the rest of the book, as many of the remaining essays react against or provide support for Hick’s thesis, or advance other possibilities such as religious exclusivism, inclusivism, and even polytheism..  Twiss, Smart, Ward, Eddy, Mavrodes, Basinger, and Plantinga are all concerned with the issues surrounding Hick’s thesis.  It is necessary to critically evaluate all of these positions with regard to religious experience, as the same issues arise whether one is  attempting a comparative study of religious doctrine or religious experience.

Three of the last four essays in the book are devoted primarily to the place of religious experience in the discussion of religious diversity.  In assessing religious experience, one must not only examine the philosophical implications of diverse beliefs, but also the issue of whether a person is justified in having beliefs based on religious experiences.  Alston, Schellenberg, and Wainwright treat this issue in their essays.

The editors help to string together these essays into a coherent discussion of the philosophical challenges of religious diversity.  Their introduction and brief commentaries assure that grand sweep of this discussion will not be missed by any reader, although the essays themselves hold together nicely.  Any student attempting to evaluate the phenomenon of religious experience needs to be aware of the philosophical issues surrounding both religious experience and religious belief in general.  Only by being informed about issues of truth and value can one then proceed to formulate a theory of religious experience, whether philosophical, phenomenological, psychological, sociological, or neurological.  This book is trustworthy source for acquainting oneself with these issues, as all of the contributors are well-respected by their supporters as well as their adversaries.