About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1709 |
9 min read
Published: Dec 12, 2018
Words: 1709|Pages: 4|9 min read
Pluralism is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority, etc., coexist”, and Harvard writer Diana Eck emphasizes this idea in regards to religion in her two articles “What is Pluralism?” and “From Diversity to Pluralism”, but, is pluralism really that simple and attainable? Russell McCutcheon critiques Eck’s ideas on pluralism in his work “Our ‘Special Promise’ as Teachers: Scholars of Religion and the Politics of Tolerance” by stating that her view on pluralism is biased based on her position in society. Throughout this essay, these opposing viewpoints on religious pluralism will be discussed in reference to a debate on whether or not a statue of Baphomet should be displayed in front of an Oklahoma state courthouse per request of the Satanic Temple. This essay will also serve to explain how the Satanic Temple self-identifies in comparison to how other, more dominant groups label them to support McCutcheon’s idea that Eck’s views on pluralism are problematic.
Eck defines pluralism as “energetic engagement with diversity”. Eck believes that pluralism is “holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another” (Eck). She speaks about how mere tolerance is not enough, how tolerance allows ignorance to flourish. “It is too thin a foundation for a society as religiously diverse and complex as America’s” (Eck). She explains how pluralism does not require us to leave our own beliefs in the dust, but rather actively engaging with others’ beliefs while proudly displaying ours. McCutcheon believes pluralism is just “the friendly face of tolerance”. He believes that Eck is sharing her beliefs of pluralism from only her own perspective, which he believes is privileged and in control, rather than “politically oppositional or socially marginalized” (McCutcheon). McCutcheon believes that these groups are not the ones tolerating, but the ones being tolerated, therefore, they “do not set the standards for what gets to count as real commitment nor can they change their situation, even if they wanted to” (McCutcheon).
Eck believes the types of religions that are allowed to speak in the public square are all religions that don’t believe in exclusivity. However, the characteristics McCutcheon believes Eck would require for a religion to speak in the “public square” include “already operating by a set of sociopolitical values and rhetorical standards that make it possible, attractive, meaningful and compelling to ‘encounter’, ‘understand’, and ‘appreciate’ the other in just this manner, in just this context, for just this end” (McCutcheon). McCutcheon critiques Eck’s project by calling it “liberal sentiment” due to his opinion that pluralism is not as simple as Eck makes it sound using words such as “openness” and “commitment”. McCutcheon argues that under Eck’s standards for open engagement, “only a rather narrow party line of commitments will gain admission to this public square”. He argues that Eck speaks from a perspective of privilege, never having actually been religiously oppressed, which makes it easy for her to believe that religions can comingle so peacefully. “Seemingly benign discourses on tolerance therefore have subtle irony at their very core: they are discourses of the powerful” (McCutcheon).
In Oklahoma, the Satanic Temple wants its member’s voices to be heard and wants a statue of Baphomet in front of a state courthouse. After all, does the U.S. really display pluralist values if they do not let any and ALL religious voices have a say? The spokesperson of the Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, is outraged that the Ten Commandments are displayed in front of the courthouse when there are so many other religions in existence in the United States. This situation is controversial because of the large percentage of Christians in the United States and their belief that the Satanic Temple has evil intentions. To the Satanic Temple, Satan is “a rebel angel defiant of autocratic structure and concerned with the material world” (Greaves, VICE). This group advocates for religious pluralism within the U.S. “We’ve moved well beyond being a simple political ploy and into being a very sincere movement that seeks to separate religion from superstition and to contribute positively to our cultural dialogue” (Greaves, Vice). This religious organization should not be taken at face value, for an act of kindness in the name of Satan is still an act of kindness. If this is the case, then why are they and their wants discriminated against? McCutcheon weighs in on this question in “Our Special Promise As Teachers”
“Ask if the values that motivate the goals of tolerance, pluralism, and inclusivity are as unproblematic and as neutral as some colleagues seem to think” states McCutcheon, arguing that people like Eck make her pluralistic religious agenda seem so feasible. Eck believes, “people of every faith or of none can be themselves, with all their particularities, while engaging in the creation of a civil society”, and McCutcheon critiques her beliefs, stating, “tolerance is part of a normative discourse of dominance and is the trace of an ongoing sociopolitical contestation”. McCutcheon’s version of pluralism is more realistic, and therefore more correct. He explores Eck’s “public square” of belonging, and states that many religious groups would refuse to be apart of it, and that the ones who would agree are already the ones in power, causing no changes in society. While his views may be “practical and mundane”, Eck’s seem way less realistic.
One issue that stops pluralism from flourishing in the United States is the difference between how religious groups self-identify and how outsiders classify them. The Satanic Temple, for example, is classified by other religions as a group that advocates for evil, when, the Satanic Temple self-identifies as a group that uses blasphemy in order to distance themselves from traditional norms that they deem counter-progressive. In an VICE interview with the spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, Greaves states, “this Satan, of course, bears no resemblance to the embodiment of all cruelty, suffering, and negativity believed in by some apocalyptic segments of Judeo-Christian culture”. This classification by outsiders causes ignorance and does not promote pluralism. This particular group does not fit into Eck’s understanding of pluralism because so many other religious groups look down upon them, and, like how the idea of placing a statue of Baphomet in front of the Oklahoma courthouse seems ludicrous to many, this shows how this group is not allowed to “speak at the table”. If McCutcheon spoke about this situation, he would say that this group’s place in a pluralist society like America is a group that is being tolerated by the dominant rather than a group doing the tolerating of others.
In the VICE interview, Greaves states, “religious freedom applies to all, and the United States is a nation based upon religious pluralism” (Greaves, VICE). In regards to this, let’s explore what the Constitution has to say about religion. The “establishment clause” and the “free exercise clause” fall under the first Amendment, which “ensures a religious market in which religious organizations are neither supported nor regulated, and this combination of constitutional provisions may promote religious pluralism in the United States” (Jelen). One could argue that putting the Ten Commandments in front of a state courthouse is unconstitutional, because the government is not supposed to endorse any single religion in any way. Around the world there have been violent consequences of government endorsing a single religion, and America has worked hard to make everyone, regardless of their religion, feel as if it is okay to practice their beliefs. The issue here is that when the Satanic Temple asked to place their monument in front of the courthouse, there was much more outrage than when the Ten Commandments were placed there. This is not religious equality.
This group constructed itself to go against the governmental status quo and the have their voices heard through blasphemy. The function this concept serves is using the stereotypes such as evil and witchcraft that outsiders think Satanists participate in to grab attention in order to make political changes. “By asserting their rights and privileges where religious agendas have been successful in imposing themselves upon public affairs, could serve as a poignant reminder that such privileges are for everybody, and can be used to serve an agenda beyond the current narrow understanding of what “the” religious agenda is” (Greaves, VICE). Labels that outsiders place upon Satanists only narrow their own view of the world. Outsiders usually don’t research all of the good acts that members of the Satanic Temple do, and this is the opposite of pluralism. The Oklahoma state courthouse probably judges the religious group on face value, just like many others, when in fact there are many evil people from all different types of religions.
In conclusion, “since the middle of the twentieth century, courts in the United States have traditionally exhibited great deference to the free exercise claims of practitioners of unorthodox or unconventional religions” (Jelen). However, this does not mean that the government is open to displaying a statue of Baphomet in front of a state courthouse. Diana Eck wrote about pluralism in the U.S., stating, “pluralism requires the nurturing of constructive dialogue to reveal both common understandings and real differences”, and it seems as if pluralism was not a factor in the decision not to let the Satanic Temple erect such a statue. The Oklahoma courthouse and citizens probably took the Satanic Temple at face value, did not encounter them on an understanding level, and basically shunned them from having a voice. This kind of activity is what McCutcheon spoke about in his work, critiquing Eck’s “liberal” views on the matter. “In presuming a disengaged ‘public’ to which everyone automatically and equally belongs, and to which everyone wishes to belong, strikes me as already resolving in ‘our favor’ the issue of ‘the many’ long before every seriously entertaining it” (McCutcheon). He believes that the privileged people, such as the people of the Oklahoma Courthouse, will never be able to fully see eye to eye with the Satanic Temple, or any other religion for that matter, because they are the ones doing the tolerating, not the ones being tolerated.
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