PLURALISM IS NOT RELATIVISM (2): Bruno Latour’s religious mode of existence rejects fundamentalism as erroneous

It is important to note that the distinctions that Latour makes between the different modes of existence have nothing to do with “belief”, but are based on an empirical and conceptual analysis of the various material networks that sustain them. For Latour the people occupying a certain domain of practices may be totally mistaken not only in particular beliefs, but also globally in the type of existence that they attribute to the entities they deal with. Such is the case of the Christian fundamentalist. There is no question of ontological tolerance being extended to every worldview and to every belief, some are just plain wrong. This is the realist principle underlying Latour’s pluralist ontology.

Fundamentalist Christians, in Latour’s terms, are mistaken over many things, not just about their own religion: their preoccupation with belief as the defining feature of religion is wrong, their actual beliefs are false, their idea of reference to the world is wrong, and so Latour concludes that they get the world wrong.

The same can be said (and Latour says it often) about climate change denialists (they are wrong about science, they are wrong about climate change, the politics that they advocate would have disastrous consequences). Latour’s pluralism is no wishy-washy tolerant relativism, but a doctrine of combat.

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