Kierkegaard and the Paradox of Religious Diversity

Kierkegaard and the Paradox of Religious Diversity

Kierkegaard and the Paradox of Religious Diversity

Kierkegaard and the Paradox of Religious Diversity

Synopsis

Soren Kierkegaard famously critiqued Christendom -- especially the religious monoculture of his native Denmark. But what would he make of the dizzying diversity of religious life today? In this book George Connell draws on Kierkegaard's thought to explore pressing questions that contemporary religious diversity poses.Connell unpacks an underlying tension in Kierkegaard, demonstrating both universalistic and particularistic tendencies in his thought. Kierkegaard's paradoxical vision of religious diversity, says Connell, allows for both respectful coexistence between people of different faiths and authentic commitment to one's own faith.Though Kierkegaard lived and wrote in a context very different from ours today, this nuanced study shows that his searching reflections on religious faith remain highly relevant as globalization, immigration, and mass media have thrust us into a world where people of many various faiths necessarily interact with each other daily."Connell's long engagements with the problem of religious pluralism and with the writings of Kierkegaard come fruitfully together here.... A work of mature scholarship, filled with challenging and illuminating insights." -- Merold Westphal Fordham University

Excerpt

The group of problems related to religious pluralism certainly includes some of the major issues of our time, not just for theologians and philosophers of religion, but for any thoughtful person, especially someone committed to a particular religious tradition. How should a committed religious believer of one faith think about other faiths? How should such a person relate to those who profess a different faith or are committed to a different tradition? It is clear that the “secularization thesis,” which held that religion was destined to die out and play no significant role in modern culture, has so far not panned out. Religions and religious conflicts are at the center of many of the most recalcitrant human struggles all over the world. Although the cluster of problems connected to these questions has been much discussed in recent years, a good deal of the discussion seems to have reached a stalemate. in particular, the partisans of “inclusivist” and “exclusivist” views of other faiths often seem to be talking past each other.

Few people would, I believe, immediately turn to Kierkegaard for help in thinking about religious diversity, but this is just what George Connell has done in this work. Kierkegaard was certainly a religious thinker, deeply Christian as the series title implies. However, on the surface Kierkegaard does not appear to have much to say about other religions (with the notable exception of Judaism). Rather, Kierkegaard seems to write in the context of “Christendom” and mainly address people who at least think of themselves as nominal Christians. Countering this surface impression, however, is the striking fact that people outside of Christendom have shown and continue to show deep interest in Kierkegaard’s thought. It is worth noting, for exam-

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