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Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics$
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Richard Harries and Stephen Platten

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199571833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571833.001.0001

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Reinhold Niebuhr and the Problem of Religious Pluralism

Reinhold Niebuhr and the Problem of Religious Pluralism

(p.218) 15 Reinhold Niebuhr and the Problem of Religious Pluralism
Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics

Wilfred M. McClay

Oxford University Press

One of the most pressing challenges of our time is how different religions can live peacefully together. This chapter explores the contribution that Niebuhr's fundamental approach to conflict might make to this and identifies some insights which seem both illuminating and potentially helpful to the issue. It shows that the basis of Niebuhr's approach to pluralism is in fact deeply rooted in assumptions that belong to the Western Christian tradition: one is the conviction about the universality of original sin; the other is the imperative towards progress, albeit on Niebuhr's highly qualified form of understanding of such progress. This poses, in an acute way, the question of whether Niebuhr's basis for a fruitful pluralism can in fact exist without those religious assumptions, and even more somberly, whether religious pluralism is even possible.

Keywords:   Reinhold Niebuhr, pluralism, original sin

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