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Dogma, praxis, and religious perspectives on multiculturalism

Abstract

Theological and religious thinking can contribute considerably to debates about culture in international politics. While students of international relations such as Elshtain, Rengger, Loriaux, Falk, and Connolly have begun to break down Enlightenment barriers to understanding theological ethics, the analysis of religious thinking and praxis by students of world politics more generally is lacking. Even much contemporary ’critical’ international relations remains dominated by Enlightenment worldviews that cast religious belief, thought, and action in overly essentialist terms. Religious and theological thinking need to be seen as evolving rather than reified. This article traces the development of debates about culture in general, and multiculturalism in particular, in contemporary religious thinking. It analyses several specific theological views on religious pluralism, from exclusivism to syncretism and apologetics. Each of these perspectives, like others before them, mirrors historical developments as well as trends in political philosophy in interesting ways. Thus, while much of our political debates over the role of religion remain mirrored in exclusivist analyses, contemporary religious thought provides new ways of thinking about the socio-political implications of the multiple systems of belief present in the world. It is thus critical to reincorporate the study of religious thinking into debates about the purpose of political community and the interaction between ethical thinking and historical praxis. © Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 2000.

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