The term pluralism has many meanings, but in this context means the recognition and engagement of cultural and religious diversity in the context of creating a common society. Rather than excluding differences or erasing differences, pluralism seeks to engage differences in the project of society-building.

melting pot

The image of the "melting pot" has been used to describe the process through which the various ethnic, cultural , and religious groups that have come to the United States have mutually transformed one another, thereby creating one American people. At its most static, the melting pot has meant the melting away of the customs and ways of the "old country" to conform with the new. At its most dynamic, however, it is an image of the process of change that both immigrants and native-born Americans undergo as they encounter one another on American soil. Although the term has caught the imagination... Read more about melting pot


The term dialogue has come to common use among the world's religions today to refer to interaith or interreligious dialogue among Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Native peoples, etc. For people of different religious traditions involved in dialogue, this new form of relationship is understood to be premised on mutual desire for better understanding. Interfaith dialogue may address questions of faith or questions of civic or social concern. Indeed, some of the most productive dialogue takes the form of common projects inovolving people of different faiths.

World Conference on Religion and Peace

The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) was launched in 1968 by religious leaders in the United States, Japan, and India seeking to affirm together their religious commitments to peace, and to find ways of translating that commitment into shared practical action. Beginning with its first assembly in Kyoto, the WCRP has held six world assemblies and developed and impressive network of regional and local chapters in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. As a Non-Governmental Organization of the United Nations, WCRP has directed its efforts especially to peace and diarmament issues.... Read more about World Conference on Religion and Peace


Interfaith and interreligious are terms that have come to common use in the late 20th century to descirbe efforts at dialogue, understanding, and cooperation among people of different religious traditions--Muslims, Jews, Christians Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, for example. Interfaith and interreligious movements are presmised on respecting the distinctiveness and particularity of each faith tradition and are not attempts to create a new faith.

cultural pluralism

Cultural pluralism is a term first populairzed by the sociologist Horace Kallen to describe the interaction of diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious groups in the U.S. Rather than assmilate into a common "melting pot," Kallen firmly believed that the freedom of America includes the freedom to be oneself, not surrendering one's cultural particularity, but bringing these particularities forward in the creation of a common democratic society. He argued that America can have plural ethnic cultures, complementing one another, like the different parts of a symphony orchestra.

National Conference of Christians and Jews

(also: NCCJ) The National Conference of Christians and Jews was formed in 1927 to bring together Protestants, Catholics, and Jews to speak out against the anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and the anti-immigrant prejudice of the Ku Klux Klan and other "ativist" groups. Over seven decades later, the 61 reigional offices of the National Conference continue to sponsor progrms of interfaith education and dialogue, many of them now involving Muslims and other religious groups as well. Recently the NCCJ has expanded to address wider issues of stereotyping and prejudice, adopting the new name "The... Read more about National Conference of Christians and Jews


Ecumenical means "worldwide," from the Greek oikoumene, "the whole inhabited earth." The term is used most commonly to refer to the Christian ecumenical movement which, in the 20th century, has brought Christian churches together from across the lines of confession and denomination and from around the world to seek common fellowship and address common issues. As other religious traditions begin to explore their own intenal differences and commonalities, the term "ecumenical" is sometimes adopted, as in the efforts towrd pan-Buddhist ecumenical relations in the U.S.

World's Parliament of Religions

(also: 1893 World's Parliament of Religions) The World's Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago in 1893 as part of the World's Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the four-hundreth anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. At the Parliament, adherents of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian, Shinto, and Zoroastiran traditions all met together for the first time on American soil.

1993 Parliament of the World's Religions

(also: Parliamant of the World's Religions; Centennial of the 1893 Parliament) In 1993, one hundred years after the Chicago World's Parliament of Religions, a centennial event--the Parliament of the World's Religions--opened in the same city. Planned by fourteen host-committees in the Chicago area, the 1993 Parliament represented the changes in America's religious landscape with American Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, Muslim, Baha'i, Taoist, and Wiccan groups participating in great number, along with Christians, Jews, and Native Americans. Religious leaders and the Parliament... Read more about 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions

interfaith council

Interfaith or interreligious councils are relatively new structures in the American public square, usually including at least Christian, Jewish and Muslim participants and, increasingly, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha'is, Unitarians, and often may others.

New Age

New Age refers to a wide variety of late 20th century religious movements. Many of these movements are based on a holistic cosmology which does not see the world as the scene of dualistic conflict between good and evil, sin and salvation, but rather sees the cosmos as a harmonious whole which needs to be brought once again into balance. Thus, many New Age movements have a “holistic” approach to such dualities as mind-body and spirit-matter. Seeing them as integrally related, they emphasize forms of diet, exercise, meditation, and healing that seek to restore balance. The environmental... Read more about New Age


The term god with a lowercase “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities.


A person who believes that it is impossible to know whether or not a god exists. One can be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist and the term is often seen to be seen as a kind of “middle ground" between theism and atheism.


Saints are human beings whose lives have displayed extraordinary holiness and devotion. As such they become examples for others. Indeed some of the faithful may understand them to be intermediaries and seek their help in time of need. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians honor saints, as do some Muslims. Though in principle Islam recognizes no mediators between human beings and God, the veneration of saints (awliya’; singular wali) is a part of popular Muslim practice. Especially in the Sufi tradition, the tombs of Sufi masters have become centers of pilgrimage.