The Protestant conception of religion as a private matter of conscience organized into voluntary associations informed early liberalism's conception of religion and of religious toleration, assumptions that are still present in contemporary liberalism. In many other religions, however, including Hinduism (the main though not only focus of this article), practice has a much larger role than conscience. Hinduism is not a voluntary association, and the structure of its practices, some of which are inegalitarian, makes exit very difficult. This (...) makes liberal religious toleration an awkward fit for Hinduism; granting religious toleration in India undermines equality and autonomy in severe ways. Yet Hinduism is not without its virtues, and has historically been what I call externally tolerant-it has been relatively tolerant of other religions. Liberal toleration, by contrast, is internally tolerant-it is tolerant of religions that fit the Protestant model, while its tolerance of others is considerably more qualified. I briefly speculate at the end of the article about how to combine these two models of toleration. (shrink)
_Hinduism, as an institution, offers very little to the poor and underprivileged within its fold. This is one of the prime reasons for voluntary conversion of Hindus from among its members. B.R. Ambedkar and A.R. Rahman provide poignant examples of how lack of education and health facilities for the underprivileged within its fold, respectively, led to their conversion. This can be countered by a movement to provide large-scale quality health [hospitals/PHCs] and educational [schools/colleges] facilities run by Hindu mission organisations spread (...) over the cities and districts of India. A four point-four phase programmme is presented here to outline how this can be achieved. Those who have the genuine interests of Hinduism at heart will have to set such an agenda before them rather than strident and violent affirmations of its glories. One can understand the reasons for such stridency, but it is time it got converted into constructive affirmative action to keep the flock._. (shrink)
Gandhi believed in judging people of other faiths from their stand point rather than his own. He welcomed contact of Hinduism with other religions, especially the Christian doctrines, for he did not want to be debarred from assimilating good anywhere else. He believed a respectful study of other's religion was a sacred duty and it did not reduce reverence for one's own. He was looking out for those universal principles which transcended religion as a dogma. He expected religion to (...) take account of practical life, he wanted it to appeal to reason and not be in conflict with morality. He believed it was his right and duty to point out the defects of his own religion, but to desist from doing so with other's faith. He refused to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds for he tried to see them from the other person's point of view. He believed Jesus expressed the will and spirit of God but could not accept Jesus as the only incarnate son of God. If Jesus was like God or God himself, then all men were like God or God Himself. But neither could he accept the Vedas as the inspired word of God, for if they were inspired why not also the Bible and the Koran? He believed all great religions were fundamentally equal and that there should be innate respect for them, not just mutual tolerance. He felt a person wanting to convert should try to be a good follower of his own faith rather than seek goodness in change of faith. His early impressions of Christianity were unfortunate which underwent a change when he discovered the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount, whose ideal of renunciation appealed to him greatly. He thought Parliament of Religions or International Fellowship of Religions could be based only on equality of status, a common platform. An attitude of patronising tolerance was false to the spirit of international fellowship. He believed that all religions were more or less true, but had errors because they came to us though imperfect human instrumentality. Religious symbols could not be made into a fetish to prove the superiority of one religion over another. In a multi-religious secular polity like that of India, Gandhi's ideas on religion and attitude toward other religions could serve as a secular blueprint to ponder over and implement. (shrink)
Whence comes suffering? If the divine reality is a reality of bliss, and all is derived from this divine reality, how can suffering arise? Does the reality of God contain suffering? Might suffering be understood as a mode of bliss? These are the questions I take up in this essay. I suggest that the various states of suffering may best be understood as fragments of bliss, resolved when fragmentation is overcome. Spiritual life is the movement toward the overcoming of fragmentation. (...) (shrink). (shrink)
In contrast to the period when the "Journal of Religious Ethics" began publishing, the study of religion in relation to war and connected issues has prospered in recent years. This article examines three collections of essays providing comparative perspectives on these topics, two recently authored studies of Buddhism and Islam in relation to war, and a compendious collection of texts on Western moral tradition concerning war, peace, and related issues from classical Greece and Rome to the present.
This paper explores definitions of death from the perspectives of several world and indigenous religions, with practical application for health care providers in relation to end of life decisions and organ and tissue donation after death. It provides background material on several traditions and explains how different religions derive their conclusions for end of life decisions from the ethical guidelines they proffer.
Taking its cue from François Bernier’s Voyages and focusing on the assumptions that stand in the background of Immanuel Kant’s view of the encounter between Christianity and Hinduism, this text endeavors to bring to light the theoretical framework that shaped the dialogue between the West and the East since the 18th century. The author’s contention is that the way that Western philosophy has tended to conceive of universal values has been one of the fundamental obstacles that has hindered (...) a genuine cross-cultural conversation in this sense. (shrink)
This article considers the influence of childhood corporal punishment, abandonment, and neglect on the development and reception of seminal New Testament teachings. Two related but distinct propositions are argued. First, that widespread patterns of painful childhood experience provided a thematic template that deeply shaped the New Testament during its formative period. Second, that this thematic shaping has contributed, on an individual level, to subjective experiences of faith and, on a cultural level, to the initial spread and subsequent persistence of (...) class='Hi'>Christianity. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on religious texts, historical evidence about the treatment of children, and several areas of psychology. The article ends with an exploratory excursus intended to stimulate thought about possible childhood influences in non-Christian religions and myths; the traditions considered are Judaism and Islam, the religious-philosophic system of karmic reincarnation that is foundational to Hinduism and Buddhism, and a Greek mythic text associated with the historically important Eleusinian mystery religion. (shrink)
A part of the “return to religion” now evident in European philosophy, this book represents the culmination of the career of a leading phenomenological thinker whose earlier works trace a trajectory from Marx through a genealogy of psychoanalysis that interprets Descartes’s “I think, I am” as “I feel myself thinking, I am.” In this book, Henry does not ask whether Christianity is “true” or “false.” Rather, what is in question here is what Christianity considers as truth, what kind (...) of truth it offers to people, what it endeavors to communicate to them, not as a theoretical and indifferent truth, but as the essential truth that by some mysterious affinity is suitable for them, to the point that it alone is capable of ensuring them salvation. In the process, Henry inevitably argues against the concept of truth that dominates modern thought and determines, in its multiple implications, the world in which we live. Henry argues that Christ undoes “the truth of the world,” that He is an access to the infinity of self-love, to a radical subjectivity that admits no outside, to the immanence of affective life found beyond the despair fatally attached to all objectifying thought. The Kingdom of God accomplishes itself in the here and now through the love of Christ in what Henry calls “the auto-affection of Life.” In this condition, he argues, all problems of lack, ambivalence, and false projection are resolved. (shrink)
In the ninth century BCE, the peoples of four distinct regions of the civilized world created the religious and philosophical traditions that have continued to nourish humanity to the present day: Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism in Israel, and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Later generations further developed these initial insights, but we have never grown beyond them. Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example, were all secondary flowerings of the original Israelite vision. (...) Now, in The Great Transformation , Karen Armstrong reveals how the sages of this pivotal “Axial Age” can speak clearly and helpfully to the violence and desperation that we experience in our own times. Armstrong traces the development of the Axial Age chronologically, examining the contributions of such figures as the Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the mystics of the Upanishads, Mencius, and Euripides. All of the Axial Age faiths began in principled and visceral recoil from the unprecedented violence of their time. Despite some differences of emphasis, there was a remarkable consensus in their call for an abandonment of selfishness and a spirituality of compassion. With regard to dealing with fear, despair, hatred, rage, and violence, the Axial sages gave their people and give us, Armstrong says, two important pieces of advice: first there must be personal responsibility and self-criticism, and it must be followed by practical, effective action. In her introduction and concluding chapter, Armstrong urges us to consider how these spiritualities challenge the way we are religious today. In our various institutions, we sometimes seem to be attempting to create exactly the kind of religion that Axial sages and prophets had hoped to eliminate. We often equate faith with doctrinal conformity, but the traditions of the Axial Age were not about dogma. All insisted on the primacy of compassion even in the midst of suffering. In each Axial Age case, a disciplined revulsion from violence and hatred proved to be the major catalyst of spiritual change. (shrink)
Some postcolonial theorists argue that the idea of a single system of belief known as "Hinduism" is a creation of nineteenth-century British imperialists. Andrew J. Nicholson introduces another perspective: although a unified Hindu identity is not as ancient as some Hindus claim, it has its roots in innovations within South Asian philosophy from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. During this time, thinkers treated the philosophies of Vedanta, Samkhya, and Yoga, along with the worshippers of Visnu, Siva, and Sakti, as (...) belonging to a single system of belief and practice. Instead of seeing such groups as separate and contradictory, they re-envisioned them as separate rivers leading to the ocean of Brahman, the ultimate reality. -/- Drawing on the writings of philosophers from late medieval and early modern traditions, including Vijnanabhiksu, Madhava, and Madhusudana Sarasvati, Nicholson shows how influential thinkers portrayed Vedanta philosophy as the ultimate unifier of diverse belief systems. This project paved the way for the work of later Hindu reformers, such as Vivekananda, Radhakrishnan, and Gandhi, whose teachings promoted the notion that all world religions belong to a single spiritual unity. In his study, Nicholson also critiques the way in which Eurocentric concepts—like monism and dualism, idealism and realism, theism and atheism, and orthodoxy and heterodoxy—have come to dominate modern discourses on Indian philosophy. (shrink)
Through an exchange that is both intimate and enlightening, Vattimo and Girard share their unparalleled insight into the relationships among religion, modernity, and the role of Christianity, especially as it exists in our multicultural ...
Over 700,000 copies of the original hardcover and paperback editions of this stunningly popular book have been sold. Karen Armstrong's superbly readable exploration of how the three dominant monotheistic religions of the world—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have shaped and altered the conception of God is a tour de force. One of Britain's foremost commentators on religious affairs, Armstrong traces the history of how men and women have perceived and experienced God, from the time of Abraham to the present. From classical (...) philosophy and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the modern age of skepticism, Armstrong performs the near miracle of distilling the intellectual history of monotheism into one compelling volume. (shrink)
First published in 1968, Ninian Smart’s The Yogi and the Devotee: The Interplay Between the Upanishads and Catholic Theology is based on lectures given in Delhi and explores in a novel way the relation between Hinduism and Christianity. The author puts forward a general theory of the relationship between religious experience and doctrines, a theory he had developed in earlier works. He argues that a new form of ‘natural theology’ should be presented, which would show the relevance of (...) religious experience and ritual to what is given in revelation. Smart believes this could be the key to a new understanding between Christianity and Indian religions, and also examines what Christians can learn from other faiths. During a career as a Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Ninian Smart was hugely influential in the way Religious Studies was taught, not only in Britain but around the world. (shrink)
Kierkegaard struck out against all forms of established order–including the established church–that work to make men complacent with themselves and thereby obscure their personal responsibility to encounter God. He considered Training in Christianity his most important book. It represented his effort to replace what he believed had become "an amiable, sentimental paganism" with authentic Christianity. Kierkegaard's challenge to live out the implications of Christianity in the most personal decisions of life will greatly appeal to readers today who (...) are trying to develop their personal integrity in accordance with the truths of revealed religion. (shrink)
Josiah Royce’s late masterpiece, ’The Problem of Christianity’, is based on a series of lectures he delivered at Manchester College, Oxford, in 1913. It presents his philosophical interpretation of Christianity’s fundamental ideas--community, sin, atonement, and saving grace; shows their relevance to the current confluence of world religions; and grounds his position upon a personal transformation into genuine loyalty toward the community of the entire human family. (publisher, edited).
Ray Billington explores the spirituality of Eastern thought and its differences from and relationships with the Western religious tradition by presenting the main principles of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism and Confucianism. Billington discusses the central themes of religious philosophy, comparing Eastern and Western views of belief of God, the soul, moral decision-making, nature, faith and authority. He then challenges theism, particularly Christianity, with its belief in a personal God bestowing a certain version of "truth". He concludes that the (...) universal mysticism characteristic of Eastern thought provides a more realistic and rewarding path. (shrink)
Despite the recent ferocious public debate about belief, the concept most central to the discussion—God—frequently remains vaguely and obscurely described. Are those engaged in these arguments even talking about the same thing? In a wide-ranging response to this confusion, esteemed scholar David Bentley Hart pursues a clarification of how the word “God” functions in the world’s great theistic faiths. Ranging broadly across Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, Hart explores how these great intellectual traditions (...) treat humanity’s knowledge of the divine mysteries. Constructing his argument around three principal metaphysical “moments”—being, consciousness, and bliss—the author demonstrates an essential continuity between our fundamental experience of reality and the ultimate reality to which that experience inevitably points. Thoroughly dismissing such blatant misconceptions as the deists' concept of God, as well as the fundamentalist view of the Bible as an objective historical record, Hart provides a welcome antidote to simplistic manifestoes. In doing so, he plumbs the depths of humanity’s experience of the world as powerful evidence for the reality of God and captures the beauty and poetry of traditional reflection upon the divine. (shrink)
Much good work has been done on the evolution of human morality by focusing on how “selfish genes‘ can give rise to altruistic human beings. A richer research program is needed, however, to take into account the ambivalence of naturally evolved biopsychological motivators and the historical pluralism of human morality in religious systems. Such a program is described here. A first step is to distinguish the ultimate cause of natural selection from proximate causes that are the results of natural selection. (...) Next, some proximate causes are suggested as possible conditions of biological and emotional valuing as well as of customary social morality and individual rational ethical thought. Finally, different moral perspectives of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity are briefly presented in order to illustrate how one might inquire about the selection of a variety of biopsychological and cultural proximate causes that enable the evolution of a plurality of religious moral systems. (shrink)
Most Western scholars define Sufism as the spirituality of Islam or the mystical version of Islam. It is thought to be the inward approach to Islam that emerged and flourished in the non-Arab parts of the Islamic world. Most scholars like William Stoddart think that Sufism is to Islam what Yoga is to Hinduism, Zen to Buddhism, and mysticism to Christianity.1 In this essay, I will shed light on the major lines and elements in the philosophy of Sufism. (...) I will try to give a concrete account of Sufism by introducing its major features within the relevant Islamic tradition and history. (shrink)
During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams addressed the relations between Christianity and science at some length. While many contemporary theologians have explored the natural sciences in detail and have deployed scientific ideas and concepts in their theological work, Williams's writings suggest that theology has little need for natural scientific knowledge. For Williams, the created order's relationship to God renders the content of scientific theories about how finite causes are materially constituted and interact of little theological importance. (...) At the same time, Williams is convinced that theological and scientific work must each remain within their proper bounds, a position that can best succeed in practice when participants in each discipline are aware of how both disciplines approach their subject matter. Although Williams's view challenges those who would insist that theology requires anything more than minimal engagement with the sciences, the ability to clearly demarcate and preserve the boundaries between scientific and theological work nevertheless requires of the theologian the kind of understanding of scientific methods and theories that Williams himself demonstrates. (shrink)