Finding the Rights Questions about Religious Diversity

What Buddhists could Contribute to Discussions of Religious Diversity


  • Rita M. Gross University of Wisconsin



religious diversity, religious difference, truth, Dharma, clinging, spiritual discipline, religious belonging


This article argues that all current theologies of religion share the presupposition that differences among religions are a problem, even a mistake, and that unity or agreement would be preferable to difference and religious diversity. But theologians of religion need to start at the other end of the puzzle, conceding from the get-go that religious diversity is here to stay, is inevitable, normal, natural, and, therefore, not the major problem or issue. The important questions are not about them, the others who are different from us, but about us. Why do we dislike diversity so much? Why does it make us so uncomfortable? Why does difference so frequently elicit the response of ranking the different options hierarchically? And, most important of all, how can we cure our own discomfort with diversity? The article also suggests that we need to practice the spiritual disciplines that help us overcome our egocentric preferences for a world in which everyone else would be just like us and can, instead, live comfortable in a world that accommodates vast differences.

Author Biography

Rita M. Gross, University of Wisconsin

Rita M. Gross (1943-2015) was Professor Emerita of Comparative Studies of Religion at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. A past president of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, she participated in many forums for interreligious exchange. Gross was the author of many books and articles. Her major works include Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism (1993); Soaring and SettlingBuddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues (1998); Religious Feminism and the Future of the PlanetA Buddhist-Christian Conversation (with Rosemary Radford-Ruether; Continuum 2001): A Garland of Feminist Reflections (University of California Press, 2009);Religious Diversity What's the ProblemBuddhist Advice for Flourishing with Religious Diversity (Cascade Books 2014). With Terry Muck, she edited two books of articles from the journal Buddhist-Christian StudiesBuddhists Talk about Jesus, Christian Talk about the Buddha (Continuum 2000); Christians Talk about Buddhist Meditation, Buddhists talk about Christian Prayer (Continuum 2003). In addition to her academic work, she taught meditation and Buddhism at many Buddhist centres in North America.


Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans. 1995. The Middle Length Discourse of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom.

Chogyam Trungpa. 1998. Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. Boston: Shambhala.

Gross, Rita M. 2004. "Excuse Me but What's the Question? Isn't Religious Diversity Normal?" In The Myth of Religious Superiority, edited by Paul Knitter, 75-87. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.

Gross, Rita M. 2014. Religious Diversity, What's the Problem? Buddhist Advice for Flourishing with Religious Diversity. Eugene, OR: Cascade.

Khyentse, Dzongsar Jamyang. 2007. What Makes You Not a Buddhist? Boston: Shambhala.

Thrangu Rinpoche. 2002. Pointing Out the Dharmakaya. Crestone, CO: Namo Buddha Publications



How to Cite

Gross, R. M. (2020). Finding the Rights Questions about Religious Diversity: What Buddhists could Contribute to Discussions of Religious Diversity. Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology, 4(1), 76–87.