A Four-Module Online Course with Dr. Jeffery D. Long

Embracing Diversity

Exploring Worldview Pluralism


How does one respond to the great variety of views and ways of life that present themselves to us in the contemporary world?  Why does religious diversity provoke anxiety in so many people?  Is it necessary for us all to agree in order to avoid violent conflict?  In this course, we will explore various responses that have been given by philosophers and theologians in both Western and Indic traditions in response to the diversity of worldviews.  We will focus primarily on various versions of a position called religious pluralism, a view which sees the diversity of worldviews as a good thing, from which humanity can learn and grow. 

Your instructor, Dr. Jeffery Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College, has spent much of his career reflecting on these issues and working to develop an open-ended philosophy of religious pluralism that draws on elements of several traditions, including Vedanta, Jainism, Buddhism, and the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

About Your Teacher

Dr. Jeffery D. Long is Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College, where he has taught since receiving his PhD in the Philosophy of Religions from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago Divinity in the year 2000.  His doctoral dissertation, Plurality and Relativity: Whitehead, Jainism, and the Reconstruction of Religious Pluralism forms the basis for his subsequent work in seeking to advance the idea of religious pluralism.  In addition to this work, he has authored three books and more than fifty scholarly articles.  He also edits the Lexington Books series Explorations in Indic Traditions: Ethical, Philosophical, and Theological.  He is currently working on several projects, including textbooks on Indian Philosophy and Hinduism in America, as well as a monograph on Swami Vivekananda titled Arise! Awake! Swami Vivekananda Speaks to the Twenty-first Century.  In 2018, he received a Dharma Seva Award from the Hindu American Foundation for his advocacy for more accurate representation of Hinduism in children’s school textbooks.


4 Downloadable Video Lectures
4 Downloadable MP3 Files
Course Readings
Course Syllabus
10 Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
10 Embodied Philosophy Credits


MODULE #1: A Question and Many Answers: Responses to the Diversity of Worldviews

This modul will set up the question that our course is dedicated to answering: How ought one to respond to the diversity of worldviews?  This question could also be phrased as: What should we think about the fact that there are many religions and philosophies?  We will explore various kinds of response that have been suggested by philosophers and theologians of many traditions.  These will include agnosticism, atheism, exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism.  Each position will be shown to have strengths and disadvantages.

MODULE #2: Pluralism: The Indian Conversation

In this modul we will examine traditional responses to the diversity of worldviews in the Indian philosophical tradition.  Vedic, Vedantic, Buddhist, and Jain responses to this issue will be covered as well as responses from the modern period, with a major focus on the teachings of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.

MODULE #3: Pluralism: The Western Conversation

In this modul, we will examine the development of religious pluralism in the West, first in secular philosophies, and then among Christian theologians.  A major focus will be the progression from exclusivism to inclusivism to pluralism in contemporary Christian thought.

MODULE #4: Drawing the Indian and Western Conversations Together

In our final session, having examined various criticisms of pluralism that have emerged in Western philosophy and theology, we will explore an approach to this issue that draws together elements of both Indian and Western thought in an attempt to build upon the strengths of both and respond to the criticisms to which earlier models of pluralism have been subject.

You'll Learn About

Approaches to Pluralism
Ancient Texts
Alfred North Whitehead
Process Philosophy
Canonical Figures from the Indian Tradition
Various Spiritual Traditions

Join Dr. Jeffery D. Long as he explores the open-ended philosophy of worldview pluralism that draws on elements of several traditions, including Vedanta, Jainism, Buddhism, and the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

Students Who Take This Course Will Learn:

  • The perspectives of major texts and thinkers from the Indian tradition which address the issue of pluralism, from the Rig Veda, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Lotus Sutra, to the ideas of Nagarjuna, Haribhadra, Yashovijaya, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, and Gandhi.
  • The perspectives of the major thinkers involved in the debate over religious pluralism, in the West, including Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, John Hick, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Paul Knitter, Paul J. Griffiths, Mark Heim, Raimon Panikkar, and Alfred North Whitehead.
  • Important philosophical terms and concepts for engaging with religious and other forms of worldview diversity, including ontology, epistemology, soteriology, and hermeneutics.
  • The perspectives of recent thinkers seeking to draw together the currents of Indian and Western thought to address issues of religious pluralism, including Ayon Maharaj, Andrew Schwartz, and your instructor, Jeffery Long.
  • Ideally, a way of approaching worldview diversity that is both open-ended and internally consistent: a ‘middle way’ between absolutism and relativism.

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Embracing Diversity

Exploring Worldview Pluralism


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