History has never before seen what we see now — true globalization. The internet connects people across cultures and nations in ways never before possible, air travel makes oceans of distance disappear within minutes, and our economies are so interwoven that when one country suffers, we all suffer.
Because humanity currently faces a growing number of dire worldwide problems — natural disasters, climate change, poverty, famine, water shortage, genocide, victimization, energy crisis, terrorism, health epidemics, and so on — it is necessary that we work together and almost every nation understands this. Across the globe, we need each other.
So what does globalization have to do with pluralism? This is an important point and crucial to understand: Religious pluralism makes “working together” through globalization possible. As long as we’re fighting about which prophet/messiah/doctrine is right, we will not come together to solve the world’s problems. But when all paths are valid, we ignore the differences and get down to work.
This seems like a good thing in many ways. Clearly our world needs help, and lots of it. We need all the resources we can get. (At this point in time it would be nice if some really smart person of any faith could figure out this oil spill crisis. Please? I promise not to try to convert you, or make you read Bibles while you work.)
Okay, back to the problem. Pluralism brings about a false sense of unity. Let’s use a trivial example: If you are my friend and we can’t acknowledge our differences for fear of rocking the boat, then our friendship isn’t a deep one. But as long as we avoid our differences at all costs, it may feel like we are best friends forever.
Pluralism is a boat that will capsize when rocked.
So we see already that anything divisive, anything that highlights our differences, is off-limits. We can talk about church or prayer, but don’t mention that Jesus is the Son of God. We can talk about Islam and how not all Muslims are extremists, but don’t ask for special treatment of the prophet Muhammad.
Without division we can pool our resources, so that when we do come together to accomplish something good in the world, we feel a certain sense of accomplishment. Of unity. Even though we believe completely different things, we feel “one” with humanity and this feeling can be powerful.
Perhaps it can even be spiritual.
Check out the video from Michael Jackson’s memorial service. Notice the many opposing religious symbols in the first song, “We are the World.” If you can hang around for the second song, “Heal the World” you will notice that the singers and the audience become increasingly worshipful, like something you might see televised on Sunday morning. Who are they worshipping?
To be continued…