The first two decades of the 21st century saw a major rise in the number of people in the USA who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” which now stands at 26% of the American population, up nine points from 17% in 2009. And the 2018 General Social Survey of US attitudes, “no religion” became the single largest group, edging out evangelical Christians.
While the world struggled with the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people also had to cope with the usual plagues of extreme weather events in 2020, according to a report from the charity Christian Aid, which listed 10 events that saw thousands of lives lost and major insurance costs.
Floods in China and India caused damages of more than $40bn. In the US, record hurricanes and wildfires caused some $60bn in losses.
Christian Aid’s list of ten storms, floods and fires all cost at least $1.5bn – with nine of the 10 costing at least $5bn. Over a period of months, heavy flooding in India saw more than 2,000 deaths with millions of people displaced from their homes. The value of the insured losses is estimated at $10bn.
China suffered even greater financial damage from flooding, running to around $32bn between June and October this year. In Africa massive locust swarms ruined crops to the tune of $8.5bn.
The UN has linked these locust swarms to climate change, with unusually heavy rains in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa in recent years contributing to the locust outbreaks.
I believe that all these events will produce in the next two decades a major post COVID-19 religious revival as Prophet Amos predicted: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)
But the next religious revival will happen only if the leaders of today’s religions are open to the desire of young people for religions that are not homophobic; and advocate religious diversity by respecting other religions because they do not claim an exclusive ‘we have the only truth’ or ‘our religion is the only one approved by God’ theology.
According to a 2008 Pew survey, one in five Christians in America believe that non-Christian faiths cannot lead one to salvation. That number soared to 60 percent for white evangelical Protestants who attend church once a week.
This is especially important for America’s Islamic leaders because the Qur’an is a strong proponent of Religious Diversity: “Indeed, the believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good will have their reward with their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:62)
The Pew survey of over 35,000 Americans in 2008 found that most Americans agree with the statement: many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Among those affiliated with some religious tradition, seven-in-ten say many religions can lead to eternal life.
This view is shared by a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including 82% of Jews, 79% of Catholics, 57% of evangelical Protestants and 56% of Muslims.
Thus, in 21st century United States most Christians, Jews, and Muslims have rejected the ‘only one truth’ religious mind set and believe in the Qur’an’s pluralism teachings: “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had wanted, He could have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to do virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah (for judgement), so He will let you know [about] that in which you differed.” [Quran 5:48]
Only those who reject God by disbelief or by unrepentant evil activities will be the losers when Judgement Day comes. Although most ‘only one truth’ or ‘only one God approved’ religious mind set theologians will learn that they might not be as smart as they thought they were.
It is very important to understand that ‘religious pluralism is the will of God’ is different from religious, moral or cultural relativism. Relativism teaches that all values and standards are subjective, and therefore there is no higher spiritual authority available for setting ethical standards or making moral judgments. So, issues of justice, truth or human rights are, like beauty, just in the eye of the beholder.
Religious pluralism as the will of God is the opposite of cultural psychological or philosophical relativism.
The fundamental idea supporting religious pluralism is that religious people need to embrace humility in all areas of religion. All religions have always taught a traditional anti self-centered personal egoism type of humility.
Religious pluralism also opposes a religious, philosophical, and self righteous intellectual egoism that promotes a tendency to turn our legitimate love for our own prophet and Divine revelation into universal truths that we fully understand and know how to apply.
Religious pluralism teaches that finite humans, even the most intelligent and pious of them, can not fully understand everything the way the infinite One does.
This is true, for every human being, even for God’s messengers themselves. When prophet Moses, “who God spoke with face to face, as a person speaks with a friend” (Exodus 33:11) asks to see God face to face, he is told, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see My face and live.” (33:20)
Similarly, in the Qur’an prophet Jesus admits to God, “You know everything that is within myself, whereas I do not know what is within Yourself”. (Quran 7:116)
And when Prophet Jesus was asked, in private, by his disciples, “What will be the sign for your coming (back) and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus warns his disciples about upheavals and false Messiahs that will come. Then Jesus concluded by saying, “But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the son: only the Father”. (24:36)
A similar statement was made by Prophet Muhammad when he was asked, “Tell me about the Hour”. He said: “The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.” (Muslim book 1 Hadith 1&4)
God taught the general principle of epistemological humility through his Prophet who taught his followers “I am no novelty among the messengers. I do not know what will be done to me, or to you.” (Qur’an 46:9)
In truth, the only universal truth should be the humility to admit: “Only God knows.”
Or as Allah’s Apostle said, “Don’t give me superiority over Moses, for people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection. I will be the first to regain consciousness, and behold! Moses will be there holding the side of Allah’s Throne. I will not know whether Moses was among those people who became unconscious and then has regained consciousness before me, or was among those exempted by Allah from falling unconscious.” (Hadith: Volume 8, Book 76, #524)
As God declares through Prophet Zechariah: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.” (8:16-17)
Finally: “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” (Quran 2:177)