[Austrian-British philosopher Karl] Popper had called it a “critical rationalism”: the belief that human knowledge was limited and fallible, and therefore any search for truth required the exercise of reason in an open-minded, collective effort without end. [Abdolkarim] Soroush noted that to believe the opposite – that there was such a thing as certain truth known to particular men – was to render some questions unanswerable, even unaskable. [ . . . ] Faith that came from open disputation and reason, Soroush believed, was far superior. Critical debate would make theology stronger and truer, while dogmatism would encourage demagoguery, opportunism, and greed.
Soroush believed that to be a critical rationalist was to be a pluralist, in matters of religion as well as philosophy. He argued that a true religion was one that pointed out the right path, but the same path was not right for every seeker; therefore, one religion might be true for one person, while a different religion was true for another. Soroush likened the prophets of the three monotheisms to trees in an orchard, each bearing different fruit.
For those who thrilled to his theories, Soroush liberated religion from the clergy, politics from religion, faith from prejudice, rational debate and criticism from theological dogmatism. If no one could claim to speak for God, there could be no religious grounds for silencing one another. [ . . . ] In Soroush’s pluralistic view, a self-confident culture was a dynamic and open one capable of recognizing the dazzling variety of its influences.
– from chapter five, “Expansion and Contraction,” in Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran by Laura Secor
*The excisions that were made here and are marked by a [ . . . ] are intended to cull portions that relate to some specifics of this very complex narrative, which would not have made sense out of context. For those who might be interested in those specifics, Secor’s book is quite a good one, and I recommend reading it.