Embracing Pluralism

By Graham Glover

Most of you who will read this probably don’t consider yourself a pluralist. Although we’ve never surveyed the readers of the Jagged Word, I’m pretty sure most of you have a pretty rigid way of viewing things, from politics to theology and everything in between.

I’m no different. There isn’t much about my background, vocation, or overarching philosophy that would lead one to think I’m a champion for pluralism. But I am. And so should you.

Whether you consider yourself a pluralist, you benefit from a robust practice of it. That’s right, a pluralistic culture, with pluralistic attitudes is something that’s good you. It’s good for us all.

But how can this be? How can the acceptance of competing worldviews be good for society? If all claims to truth are just that, claims, what’s the point of believing in or supporting something? If it’s all relative, then nothing really matters. Right?


The robust presence and practice of completely different views only makes the claims one makes about their truth more viable. Absolute truth thrives best when it competes against those who stand in stark opposition to it – or any notion of truth at all. And this is the world in which we live – a world that believes in everything and nothing, and every conceivable combination therein. The only truth for the pluralist is that there is no truth. And it’s this pluralistic worldview that seems incessantly frustrating for the anti-pluralist.

Frustrating because it’s hard, sometimes impossible, to make claims of eternal truths these days. It’s difficult to take a position that suggests those who don’t agree with you are wrong. This is the antithesis of pluralism. Pluralism says everyone is right – or at least can make a claim for whatever they think right looks like.

Frustrating is probably an understatement. For the pluralist, every philosophy, every political system, and every theology is right. And wrong.

Which makes the endless cycle of frustration continue, with seemingly no end in sight.

But this is precisely why we who aren’t by nature pluralists should embrace pluralism. For in the never-ending banter among those who believe in everything and nothing, we have an opportunity to win the day. Our claims to truth, if reasonable and well argued, stand the chance to really mean something.

We all benefit from pluralism because we all have equal footing. There are no doors that are closed. Pluralists have opened them all. The public square is completely open for business. If you can’t make your truth claims last in this environment, I’m not sure where or how you ever will. The marketplace of ideas is as wide and varied as it’s ever been. And this is a good thing. This is pluralism at is best. Whether we inherently like it or not, pluralism has set the conditions for some extraordinary philosophical opportunities. Opportunities the anti-pluralists should wholeheartedly embrace.

What we shouldn’t embrace, what pluralism must never become, is a way of thinking and acting that doesn’t recognize and respect those that differ from them. That’s not pluralism – that’s absolutism. And absolutism is something none of us benefit from. It is something none of us should embrace. But with a society that seems to be rapidly moving toward a more absolutist culture, state, and way of thinking, I’m fearful of what lies ahead.

Which is all the more reason pluralism needs a renewed embrace by us all.