In a series of blog posts I would like to research the meaning and relevance of a P2P (peer-to-peer) approach to religions and spirituality in our contemporary world. In a first post I would like to restate the P2P approach as I understand it, and give an overview of three attitudes towards religious pluralism, or this state of affairs where there is more than one religion or approach to spirituality available.
In a P2P approach information is not stored in at a single location with informees having more or less access to it. Rather, information is distributed amongst the informees with all bodies having equal access to it. (This is in principal. Actual access will depend on the individual’s capabilities to process the information.) This information can be of political, economic, or spiritual nature: P2P is a principle that focusses on systemic relations, and is therefore content-free.
The question that arises is whether P2P could be a viable alternative to current religious options in a world that is both multicultural and religiously pluralist, and has gone through modern and postmodern worldviews.
As far as religious pluralism concerns only three options seem to be available. The first option is religious exclusivism: my religion is the best one and holds the whole truth. There is no need for me to look at other traditions.The second option is religious inclusivism: I agree that other religions hold part of the truth but only my religion holds the whole truth. At best, the other religions are stages on the path towards my own religion. The third option is religious pluralism: each tradition has its own truths and they are all equally valid. However, these truths are only true for those who believe in them, and they cannot be safely translated into another tradition.
It is clear that these three options see religious traditions as islands separated by a sea of incommensurability (lacking the ability for comparison). The first two options hold an extra danger of missionary zeal to go out and enlighten the other traditions on the whole truth and correct their erroneous ways. The third option is respectful, has no inclination towards missionary zeal, but neither does it fully engage the other: the different traditions are respectful neighbours of each other.
In my next blog post I will discuss how the P2P approach takes a radically new direction on this matter.