February 8, 2010

The Confident Pluralist

Justin Katz

His specific topic is contemporary Judaism, but Ben Greenberg makes a worthwhile point related to pluralism more generally:

Orthodox Judaism was supposed to founder on rugged American individualism, but quite the opposite has happened: A Judaism assembled at a buffet of individual preferences has small interest for young adults seeking direction and meaning in their lives. Young Jews are likely either to abandon their religion altogether or to take it seriously. That is why there is a migration to Orthodoxy by young Jews raised in liberal or secular households. ...

Because the Modern Orthodox are profoundly secure in their religious observance, they can engage the modern world with self-confidence.

Real — substantial and healthy — pluralism isn't something that exists inside the individual, where it can only manifest as insecurity and confusion. One cannot respect and engage difference when one strives to be in some way identical to everybody as a first principle.

A society can only harness the dynamism of diversity when individuals experience it from strong positions of confidence in their own fundamental beliefs, with tolerance for those who disagree.