The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

American activists and academics collaborating in the decimation of local culture and religious practices in India

A concept dead on arrival at the Vatican or in Mecca

The 'clash of civilizations' is mostly about the adumbration of religious ideas and the practice of religion. This clash is acted out by Muslim fundamentalists who cut the throats of hapless journalists, engineers, and other Christians, born-again or not, lost in the alleys of Karachi or Karbala or Kirkuk. Fellow Christian religionists then drop 3,000-pound bombs from 30,000 feet up in retaliation. Meanwhile both seek to poke the eyes of Hindus, who demand from the two some promise of a 'Sarva dharma samabhava' (All religions are equal) which by all accounts is a concept dead on arrival at the Vatican or in Mecca.

What is left for the predatory religions

Roman, Greek, Mesopotamian and other pagan cultures are 'dead and buried', and the tribal cultures and religions of Africa, Australia, and South America have been decimated. What is left for the predatory religions are one another and the pesky Hindus who keep pushing wrongly, I believe, the idea of 'Sarva dharma samabhava'.

The divide between peoples of the 'book', and peoples 'without books' as well as those who have too many books

In a recent conference that I attended, one of the speakers told the Hindu-American audience that if they are confronted with the question – 'So, what is your Bible?' – to tell the questioner that Hindus don't have a single book but a library. This 'sound bite' made us all happy but we were still left with the queasy feeling that the reality on the ground was much harsher and more invidious.The Hindus are marked as neither having a religion nor expounding any philosophy, then much of what is contained in their scriptures is proclaimed 'myth'. Throughout the world the two aggressive monotheistic religions are considered 'great religions', while other religions/ religious traditions are relegated to 'myth' and 'false religions' status. Then there is also a group of scholars, led by S. N. Balagangadhara of the University of Ghent, who have been arguing that 'religion' in the Western sense is scientifically false, and that Hinduism is not a religion in the Western/ Semitic sense.

Christianity recognizes itself as a religion

Christianity recognizes itself as a religion. The terms under which Christianity recognizes itself as a religion are also the terms under which Islam and Judaism recognize themselves as religion. Christianity singled out both the Roman and the Indian traditions as rival religions. Judaism and Islam also singled out these same traditions as their religious rivals. Both the Roman and the Indian traditions did not recognize themselves in the descriptions Christianity, Islam, and Judaism gave of them: they did not conceive of themselves as rivals to these three.

India is still a battleground and a marketplace for buying and trading souls

Hinduism is not 'dead' like Roman and Greek and Pagan 'religions'. There are one billion Hindus in the world, and they have survived despite the best efforts of proselytizers and marauders to convert them or to erase their religious/ spiritual/ cultural identities. India is still a battleground and a marketplace for buying and trading souls, as most of the rest of the world is. How will the deliberate exclusion of Semitic faiths from World Mythology courses affect students who then may continue to believe that indeed there is merit to the unverifiable claims of aggressive monotheistic traditions?

American activists and academics collaborating in the decimation of local culture and religious practices in India

One always has to take into consideration matters of 'academic freedom', and what rights teachers have in bringing in different kinds of material to the classroom, and who has what kinds of rights in critically evaluating such practices. I was one among a group of eight Indian-American representatives that met with Emory University officials this past February regarding the idiosyncratic interpretation of Ganesha by Emory University professor Paul Courtright in his book, 'Ganesha – Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings'. I have also written about University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger who was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer calling the Bhagavad Gita 'a dishonest book' that 'justifies war.'.

Some Indian-Americans don't see much merit in complaining about these matters or correcting what is egregiously wrong in American school textbooks or classroom practices. For them, Hinduism is a 'mish mash' of cultural practices accrued over millennia. Most of these beliefs and practices is plain obscurantist nonsense, they proclaim. By conflating the obscurantist aspects of Hinduism with the world of Hindu knowledge and culture, they ignore the explicit practice of religious supremacy and academic discrimination in their own neighborhood. By labeling these concerns as merely that of the 'Hindu Right' or of the 'RSS' Indian-American activists and academics are collaborating in the decimation of local culture and religious practices in India.

(Excerpted from “The World of Myth”, by Ramesh N. Rao,, February 7, 200


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