An ongoing research effort, the Pluralism Project studies and interprets religious diversity and interfaith relations in the United States

Professor Diana L. Eck Defines Pluralism

How do we all live together in this society of increasing diversity? That's a critical question of our time, especially in the United States where religious and cultural diversity are present as never before. Encountering that diversity is pluralism. Pluralism isn't just the fact of diversity, but how we respond to it. 

What is Pluralism?

Tie a Turban Day

First, pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity.

Diversity can and has meant the creation of religious ghettoes with little traffic between or among them. Today, religious diversity is a given, but pluralism is not a given; it is an achievement. Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.


Second, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference.

Tolerance is a necessary public virtue, but it does not require Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and ardent secularists to know anything about one another. Tolerance is too thin a foundation for a world of religious difference and proximity. It does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves in place the stereotypes, the half-truths, the fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly.

Buddhists in Church

Third, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments.

The new paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.

Women's Networks

Fourth, pluralism is based on dialogue.

The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the “table” will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table — with one’s commitments.

What is the Pluralism Project?

The Pluralism Project studies and interprets the changing religious landscape of the US. Since 1991, our field research on religious diversity and interfaith relations informs the development of key educational resources. 


We provide a range of resources for educators, students, civic leaders, and the interested public. Our work is primarily funded by foundations and individuals like you.

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The Pluralism Project is hosted by Harvard University. Our project-based work and operations are supported by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and private donations.

See our funders