Religious exclusivism

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File:Backer Last Judgment.jpg
Last Judgment, a painting by Jacob de Backer, ca. 1580: Believers ascend into Heaven while sinners and those who reject the faith are doomed to Hell.

Religious exclusivism is the doctrine or belief that only one particular religion or belief system is true.[1]

Ancient Greece

Christian exclusivism

Islamic exclusivism

Muslims believe that Islam is the original and primordial faith, or fitrah, that was revealed by Muhammad.[2] Muslims maintain that previous messages and revelations have been partially changed or corrupted over time[3] and consider the Quran to be the unaltered and the final revelation from Allah. Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, which are basic concepts and obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from banking and welfare, to warfare and the environment.[4][5][6]

Islam began its history with an exclusivist attitude toward polytheist religions, but an inclusivist attitude toward Christians and Jews. As people "of the Book," believers in the oneness of God were given the status of dimmi, conferring on them certain rights, including the right to practice their religions openly and not to be pressured to accept Islam.

In practice, however, neither the inclusion of Jews and Christians nor militant exclusivism toward "pagans" was always practiced. Trinitarian Christians were accused of idolatry because of their veneration of icons and were also sometimes treated as polytheists because of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. As strict monotheists, Jews generally fared better than Christians under Islamic rule. Jews and Christians are viewed largely favorably as compared to any other religion.

The basic attitude of Islam toward other religions remains unchanged today, but it should be noted that certain Islamic nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, are more exclusivistic toward other religions than are others, such as Indonesia and Egypt.

Islam does accept sincere Jews, Christians, and Sabians as people "of the Book" along with Muslims.


Jews believe that the God of Abraham is the one true God. The Jews believe the God of Abraham entered into a covenant with the ancient Israelites, marking them as his Chosen People, giving them a mission to spread the concept of monotheism. Jews do not consider their chosenness to be a mark of superiority to other nations, but a responsibility to be an example of behavior for other nations to emulate.[7]

Other forms

Buddhist religious exclusivism may be seen in the implication that those who do not accept the teachings of the Buddha, such as the Eightfold Path, are destined to repeat the cycle of suffering through endless reincarnations; while those who practice the true way can reach enlightenment. Neo-Buddhist groups sometimes consider their tradition the true path to enlightenment and engage in strong evangelical efforts to influence those they consider to be in darkness. Several sects associated with[clarification needed] Nichiren Buddhism may be included in this category.

However, many followers of Eastern religions are not exclusivist. For example, there are millions of Buddhists who would also consider themselves to follow Confucianism or Taoism.[8]


  1. William J. Wainwright (2005). The Oxford handbook of philosophy of religion. Oxford University Press. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-19-513809-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. [Encyclopædia Britannica "Islam"] Accessed July 2013
  3. Accad (2003): According to Ibn Taymiya, although only some Muslims accept the textual veracity of the entire Bible, most Muslims will grant the veracity of most of it.
  4. Esposito (2002b), p.17
  5. Esposito (2002b), pp.111, 112, 118
  6. "Shari'ah". Encyclopædia Britannica Online.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "What Does It Mean For Jews to Be the Chosen People?" Pelaia, Ariela.
  8. Gerald R. McDermott (2005), Testing Stark's Thesis:Is Mormonism the First New World Religion since Islam?, BYU Studies<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>